Press Release

Bernd Valeske appointed executive director of Fraunhofer IZFP and professor of cognitive sensor systems at Saarland University

Saarbrücken, June 27, 2022

© Miriam Gabriel / Saarländisches Ministerium der Finanzen und für Wissenschaft
Appointment of Prof. Bernd Valeske

In a joint appointment process between the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft and Saarland University, Bernd Valeske was selected for a dual role: After his recent appointment as the executive director of Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken, he has now also been awarded the professorship for cognitive sensor systems at the university. Both measures are intended to strengthen collaboration between both institutions and to advance joint projects in engineering sciences.

Beyond providing measurement data, Bernd Valeske seeks to develop sensor systems to be able to think independently and to decide on their own what to do based on measurement results. Consequently, his research focuses on cognitive sensor systems, whose technical applications are widely spread. ”In the case of a bridge, for example, sensors can measure the load caused by heavy trucks or strong winds. As soon as the load exceeds a specified threshold due to too much stress – thus forcing the structure into an 'unhealthy operating state' - they independently activate alarm devices,” the professor explains. “This works similarly to smart sensors for personal health care or to fitness monitoring”, he continues. "Smart sensors on the human body analyze heart rates and gather information of suspicious health conditions. At the same time, they can adjust medication in case of pathological or at least critical deviations in clinical care. Or one step earlier, they send warnings via smartwatches in everyday life to prevent and counteract disease at an early stage,” Valeske cites as another example.

The new professorship is part of the university's ”Systems Engineering” department. In addition to sensor technology, the department zeroes in on the production processes controlled with it and on the comprehensive process optimization that goes beyond this for a sustainable circular economy. Resource conservation and cognitive sensor and data systems that can be used to optimize processes in digitized closed-loop and value stream chains are the joint core of research at Fraunhofer IZFP and at the university's new Chair of cognitive sensors. ”With innovative technologies, they are shaping the foundation for a livable future based on the all-important 'Circular Economy', which is becoming significant for all of us. Today, ‘circular economy’ is thought of as much more far-reaching than the previously known ‘Kreislaufwirtschaft’. This research field benefits from the synergies of the internationally best positioned engineering disciplines of materials science as well as systems engineering at Saarland University in combination with digital information processing,” the engineer continues.

One of the goals of Bernd Valeske is to closely accompany the entire life cycle of materials. ”Analogous to a digital patient record, we can use sensor systems to follow the entire material and product life cycle, i.e. from the raw material through the various processing steps to the finished product and then further during use. In the past, it was easy to see when the body of a car had rusted through. Today, you need more precise analysis methods for composite materials to recognize when they have aged to a dangerous extent,” Valeske explains.

Moreover, material monitoring should not end when the product is taken out of circulation. ”In terms of the 'circular economy,' we have - right from the start of production - to think about how the materials can be recycled at the end,” the scientist emphasizes. Cognitive sensor systems provide the necessary information on the condition of materials and products at every stage of their life. Only with the sensor data can this condition be optimized and adequate measures be taken in the material and product life. ”This allows the material cycle to be closed. Materials become recyclables which, in the end and with fully material recycling, become recycled raw materials. The life cycle starts all over again,” the professor states.

These research topics enable many intersections not only with university research, but also with the other non-university research institutes on Saarbrücken campus and with the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering IBMT in St. Ingbert. Both Fraunhofer Institutes recently founded the ”Fraunhofer Center for Intelligent Sensor Systems”. This center will have its own building on the university campus so that several research groups can work together interdisciplinarily.

“In this context, the short distances in the Saarland are helpful”, Valeske says, adding that “many scientists already know each other personally and have ideas for joint projects. Students and doctoral candidates should also benefit from this cooperation. We want the exchange between the university and the non-university research institutes to become even more permeable and, in addition to internships and research assistant jobs, also offer joint bachelor and master theses as well as doctorates. Graduates can then continue working in research or pursue a career in industry.”

For Manfred Schmitt, president of the Saarland University, the linking of the Fraunhofer IZFP institute management and a university professorship within the Faculty of Science and Technology provides a lot of potential for engineering in Saarland. ”In the field of cognitive sensor systems, there will not only be substantial synergies with the engineering disciplines of systems engineering and materials science and materials engineering, but furthermore with the excellent computer science at the university and the non-university research institutes on site. Nowadays, intelligent sensor systems generate huge amounts of data that can only be analyzed with the help of the latest methods of artificial intelligence and machine learning; as is well known, there is a lot of expertise in both here on campus,” Manfred Schmitt emphasizes.

The Saarland Minister of Science, Jakob von Weizsäcker, identifies the new dual role of Professor Bernd Valeske as an excellent basis for further intensifying the collaboration between Saarland University and the Fraunhofer institutes in Saarland. ”It is particularly gratifying that so many innovative key fields of Saarland's university and scientific landscape will be linked even more strongly in an interdisciplinary way through this appointment, from materials science to computer science, intelligent manufacturing processes and the car construction of the future to life science,” emphasizes Minister von Weizsäcker.


Further questions:
Prof. Dr. Bernd Valeske
Professorship for Cognitive Sensor Systems at the Saarland University
Executive Director of the
Fraunhofer Institute for Nondestructive Testing IZFP
P: 0681 9302-3800

Friederike Meyer zu Tittingdorf
Saarland University
Press and Public Relations
P: 0681 302-3610


Further information:


More about Fraunhofer IZFP:

Fraunhofer IZFP is an internationally renowned research and development institute for applied, industry-oriented research with headquarters in Saarbrücken. The institute's activities focus on the development of intelligent sensor and data systems for safety, sustainability and efficiency. The results of its work are used in business and industry. The scientific andtechnological solutions support science and industry as well as contribute to shaping our society and our future.

In addition to customized sensor systems, sensor data management, data analysis and data value creation with AI and machine learning techniques, the R&D portfolio also includes extensive consulting activities in the field of standardization, among others.

The understanding of technical testing and sensor physics is also complemented by technologies and concepts from AI research.

The decades-long understanding of applications and processes for materials and the products made from them continues to form a solid basis and provides the impetus for Fraunhofer IZFP's future expanded research mission: The expansion to include aspects of digital signal and information processing aspects, applications in domains such as critical infrastructure, the food industry, the sustainable circular economy and resource conservation are possible for the first time.