Those who conduct research at the frontiers of knowledge often end up in realms for which no suitable methods, equipment, or testing and analysis procedures have yet been established. Necessity being the mother of invention, researchers often end up taking unconventional paths. In doing so, they discover novel materials and substances with surprising properties, or they stumble upon promising therapeutic agents, or develop computation algorithms that open up unimagined possibilities, also in the field of medicine. Many of these ideas and innovations are decidedly marketable, but getting them there is often a very long and arduous process. For example, it took some 50 years before the findings of Max Planck's and Albert Einstein's initial work on quantum physics were actually implemented in semiconductor and laser technology – key technologies that have changed our lives.
However, even if many findings are not put into practical application until decades later, basic research is and remains the foundation of economic innovation. In order to accelerate the transfer of promising findings to potential applications, the ties between basic and applied research must be strengthened. To this end, the Max Planck Society has recently begun expanding its cooperation projects with the Fraunhofer Society in certain fields, such as computer science, materials science, nano- and biotechnology, and regenerative energies, and explicitly promotes projects at the interface between applied and basic research.
Through its subsidiary Max Planck Innovation GmbH, the Max Planck Society ensures that scientific breakthroughs are converted to economic success. Max Planck Innovation brings patents and technologies to the market and assists founders in setting up new companies based on the research results of the Max Planck Society. Since 1979, the technology transfer company has assisted with more than 3,000 inventions and closed over 1,700 license deals. In the past 20 years, it has advised 86 spin-offs and generated revenues of around EUR 200 million for inventors, institutes and the Max Planck Society.