The FIR is the leading institute in industry-oriented research in the fields of service management, information management, production management and business transformation. The Executive Committee is made up of 18 representatives from industry, politics, administration and research, as well as from the IHK (Chamber of Industry and Commerce), and its task is comparable to that of a supervisory board. It represents the interests of the 150 or so members of the registered association FIR e.V. and, in this role, approves, for example, the research framework programme of the institute. As one of the first members, Ingo Kufferath has been on the FIR’s Research Advisory Board since 1999. The decisive impulse for bringing him on board was the successful reorganisation of the family-owned company GKD, which he runs together with his brother Dr. Stephan Kufferath. This internationally leading technical mill for industrial and architectural meshes, having gone through a complete business reengineering process at the beginning of the 1990s, has in the meantime advanced with unparalleled success to the status of a “hidden champion” and global leading innovator in technically challenging niche markets. The business reorganisation in the ’90s, which was unusually far-reaching for an SME in those days, exemplified best practice in terms of the research approaches espoused by the FIR. Today, GKD still collaborates with several of the innovation labs on the RWTH Aachen University campus. The company, which has seven production facilities and four branch offices as well as worldwide representatives in all relevant markets for its three business units, is an untiring driver for change.
This proximity to applied research also led last year to Ingo Kufferath being elected to the newly-established senate of the nationally active Federation of Industrial Cooperative Research Associations “Otto von Guericke” e.V. (AiF) as the representative of German SMEs. The AiF is the leading national organisation for the promotion of applied research and development in Germany’s small and medium-sized enterprises. With the Collaborative Industrial Research Programme (IGF) and the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM), it provides access to the most important funding instruments for innovation-based SMEs. Accordingly, the FIR is also funded by the AiF.
As the owner-manager of an SME himself, Ingo Kufferath is determined, also in his new role as Chairman of the FIR Executive Committee, to actively promote the interests of the German “0Mittelstand” and to further develop the bridge between applied research and business practice. His main focus will be on even more transparency for FIR members in upcoming decisions, and on regular communication with the Institute’s management regarding current challenges. These are, in addition to the integration of the newly-founded Johannes Rau Research Council, the continued promotion of excellence in such complex topic areas as Industry 4.0 and Smart Services as well as the full development of the RWTH Aachen University campus and its clusters. To quote Ingo Kufferath: “My objective is to shape the dialogue between research and industry from the perspective of research-driven SMEs, to contribute ideas and suggestions, and to share experience.”