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The cabin in the air taxi of the future, © Fraunhofer IAO
The cabin in the air taxi of the future,
© Fraunhofer IAO

The Fraunhofer network excels at adding value to its research work by tapping into the creative sectors. The Designer in Lab 2021 is a competition for ideas held by the Fraunhofer “Science, Art and Design” network and, for the first time, it has produced four winning projects. With a grant of EUR 10,000 each, the designers can realise their ideas in cooperation with researchers at the institutions in the Fraunhofer network. The ideas attracting funding include an air taxi cabin that responds to passengers’ personal needs, suggestions for using public bodies of water, a chair that can be shaped individually and innovative bio-based footwear.

Drones are currently being developed across the world for urban applications, by start-ups as well as established companies. Simultaneously, governments are creating a regulatory framework for their use and new business models are emerging. Whatever these aerial vehicles look like, there is still one question that remains largely unanswered: what response should there be to the extreme emotions – positive as well as negative – that people experience when they take to the skies and surrender completely to the control of a machine? What some might perceive as exhilarating and the perfect way to shake up everyday life can also be sheer terror for others. “Air time”, the winning project, seeks to build on this and investigate “how a personalised, confidence-building relationship between people and machines can be created and stimulated proactively”. This air taxi cabin is intended to adapt flexibly and automatically to the personal needs of passengers and to various usage cases and scenarios.

The runner-up project, “Grünes Wasser” (Green Water), sees “floating utopias for a natural, sustainable and liveable city of the future” surface from the former arteries of the port city of Hamburg. Five floating, vegetated “islands in the shipping canals” are going to make use of public bodies of water in an unconventional way, starting in September 2021. “inBETWEEN”, which took third place, involves a chair design which encourages innovation through interdisciplinary exchange. The goal is to develop an item of furniture that can be constructed and upholstered at the same step of the process. “biobased footwear”, occupying fourth place, seeks to study the use of bio-based materials in shoes from design, aesthetic and technological perspectives and make them practicable for industrial application.

Another activity that the Fraunhofer network organises is the Lignin Club. People in art, design, research and industry who are interested in the topic meet once per month to exchange their experiences and develop new project ideas for climate-friendly chemical products that are based on plant remains. (Registration for the club can be done here: blackliquor@kh-berlin.de)

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