As two years of construction draw to a close, the Innovation Centre for Energy Technologies (RIZ Energie) in Offenburg is now open for business. Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Science, Theresia Bauer, ceremonially handed over the new lab centre to Offenburg University at the end of August. The centre is dedicated to energy research and bridging the gap between research and industry. It will play an active role in Germany's energy transition. Specialist hygiene company Meiko made a six-figure investment in the project and already works extensively with the university.
RIZ Energie provides Offenburg University with a new research centre containing a large production lab which is designed to be zero energy and grid supportive. The centre is part of the development concept for the competition region Southern Upper Rhine. Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Science, Theresia Bauer, ceremonially commissioned the development and handed it over to the university in late August. Construction was financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund), a sponsor network, Offenburg University and the State of Baden-Württemberg.
Meiko, too, was part of financing this €10 million project as a member of the sponsor network. The Offenburg based specialist hygiene company provided a six-figure sum to support the research centre. Energy efficiency has always been a key factor in product development at Meiko. Dr Stefan Scheringer, Meiko Group CEO, highlights this commitment, ‘RIZ Energie reinforces Offenburg's position as a research centre. It brings together academic research and stakeholders in industry and, in that capacity, it will play an important role in developing energy-efficient technologies. We hope to fulfil our social responsibility as a company; all the more so when it comes to such a multi-faceted project as this one.’
After years of planning, ground was finally broken on lab and office construction in May 2018. Research will focus on technologies at the intersection of energy and environment. That means that the spectrum of future research fields is both broad and promising, including: resource efficiency in product development, structural physics, energy system management, thermal and electrical storage systems, regenerative power systems, hydrogen technology, energy efficient drive designs and much more. ‘Going forward, we must value energy efficiency more highly in both education and industry. Practical examples of products and systems in a lab environment are therefore of equal interest to both industry and the university as we partner together. RIZ Energie is a completely unique kind of technology centre for our region,’ concludes Dr Thomas Peukert, Meiko Group CTO.
A 900 m² production lab measuring almost 10 m in height is at the heart of this zero-energy centre. Further workshops provide space for simulated real-world energy research which will incorporate projects from the region's businesses. This will grow the university's research and development capacity, as well as driving forward businesses' energy efficiency in the product development stage. Research, teaching, real-world industry and sustainability will be working together, hand in hand. RIZ Energie also serves as an example of everything it stands for: designed and equipped for energy efficiency. The development features solar energy, year-round temperature regulation using ground water, energy and heat storage, heat recovery in the ventilation system and much more. The zero-energy lab centre at RIZ Energie demonstrates the cutting-edge possibilities for future energy efficiency.
As well as sponsoring the lab building, Meiko also actively partners with the university in many ways, including co-funding an endowed professorship in ‘Cobotics and sociotechnological systems’ with an endowment of €1.2 million. The professorship is endowed by the 13 members of the Wirtschaftsverband Industrieller Unternehmen Baden (wvib Schwarzwald AG) which is a foundation run by local businesses. The professorship is endowed for five years and is integrated into the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, although the professor will work interdisciplinarily with all departments at the university.