It is named after Joseph von Fraunhofer who, as a scientist, an engineer, and an entrepreneur, is said to have superbly exemplified the goals of the society.
The organisation has six centers in the United States, under the name 'Fraunhofer USA', and three in Asia.
The official name of the Fraunhofer Society is Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e. V. (German for "Fraunhofer Society for the advancement of applied research").
Some notable projects
Thus the size of the society's budget depends largely on its success in maximizing revenue from commissions. This funding model applies not just to the central society itself but also to the individual institutes. This serves both to drive the realisation of the Fraunhofer Society's strategic direction of becoming a leader in applied research as well as encouraging a flexible, autonomous and entrepreneurial approach to the society's research priorities.
In 1952, The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs declared the Fraunhofer Society to be the third part of the non-university German research landscape (alongside the German research councils (DFG) and the Max Planck Institutes). Whether the Fraunhofer Society should support applied research through its own facilities was however the subject of a long-running dispute.
From 1954, the Society's first institutes developed. By 1956 it was developing research facilities in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense. In 1959 the Fraunhofer Society comprised nine institutes with 135 co-workers and a budget of 3.6 million Deutsche marks.
In 1965, the Fraunhofer Society was identified as a sponsor organization for applied research.
In 1968, the Fraunhofer Society became the target of public criticism for its role in military research.
By 1969, Fraunhofer had more than 1,200 employees in 19 institutes. The budget stood at 33 million Deutsche marks. At this time a "commission for the promotion of the development of the Fraunhofer Society" planned the further development of the Fraunhofer Society (FhG). The commission developed a financing model that would make the Society dependent on its commercial success. This would later come to be known as the Fraunhofer Model.
The Model was agreed to by the Federal Cabinet and the Bund-Länder-Commission in 1973. In the same year the executive committee and central administration moved into joint accommodation at Leonrodstraße 54 in Munich.
The Fraunhofer program for the promotion of the consulting research for SMEs was established and gained ever more significance in subsequent years .
In 1977, the political ownership of the society was shared by the Ministries of Defense and Research.
By 1988, defense research represented only about 10% of the entire expenditure of the Fraunhofer Society.
In 1991 through the reunification of Germany, the Fraunhofer Society faced the challenge of integrating numerous research establishments of the former East Germany as branch offices of institutes already existing into the Fraunhofer Society.
In 1993 the Fraunhofer Society's total budget exceeded 1 billion Deutsche marks.
Its mission statement of 2000 commits the Fraunhofer Society to being a market and customer-oriented, national and internationally active sponsor organization for institutes of the applied research.
Between 2000 and 2001 the institutes and IT research centers of the GMD (Gesellschaft für Mathematik und Datenverarbeitung -- Society for Mathematics and Information technology) were integrated into the Fraunhofer Society at the initiative of the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.
The year 2000 marked a noteworthy success at Fraunhofer-Institut for Integrated Circuits (IIS): MP3, which they developed, is the most widely adopted method for encoding and decoding digital audio.
In 2002, ownership of the Heinrich-Hertz-Institut for Communications technology Berlin GmbH (HHI) which belonged to the Gottfried William Leibniz Society e. V. (GWL) was transferred to the Fraunhofer Society. With this integration the Fraunhofer Society budget exceeded €1 billion for the first time.
In 2003 the Fraunhofer Society headquarters moves to its own multistoried building in Munich.
The Fraunhofer Society develops and formulates a firm specific mission statement. The fundamental targets are summarized, and the desired "values and guidelines" of the society's "culture" are codified. Amongst these, the society committed itself to improving the opportunities for female employees and coworkers to identify themselves with the enterprise and to develop their own creative potential.
In 2004 the former "Fraunhofer Working Group for Electronic Media Technology" at the Fraunhofer-Institut for Integrated Circuits (IIS) gains the status of an independent institute. It becomes Fraunhofer-Institut for Digital Media Technology IDMT.
New alliances and topic groups help to strengthen the market operational readiness level of the institutes for Fraunhofer in certain jurisdictions.
In 2005 the new institutes, the Leipzig Fraunhofer-Institut for Cell Therapy and Immunology (IZI) and the Fraunhofer Center for Nano-electronic technologies CNT in Dresden, were founded.
In 2006 the Fraunhofer Institute for Intelligent Analysis and Information Systems (IAIS) was founded as a merger between the Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems (AIS) and the Institute for Media Communication (IMK)