The non-profit foundation "Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research Baden-Württemberg" (ZSW), based in Stuttgart and in Ulm, was founded on the 16th of March, 1988. The foundation's purpose is to transfer already existing knowledge from fundamental research in the fields of renewable energy and rational energy conversion to market-ready, application-based technology to be used by industries located in the state.
The name of Professor Dr. Werner H. Bloss is inextricably linked to the foundation and the initial years of the ZSW. In the late 1950's and through the 1960's he was already active in research on unconventional energy transformation as a professor and head of what came to be the Institute for Physical Electronics (IPE) at the University of Stuttgart. His vision was to efficiently convert solar energy into useful energy and also to enable its storage and transportation as a secondary energy carrier. Prof. Bloss felt that the main long-term goal was to successively transfer research results to practical applications, primarily for use by local industries. His work soon focussed on photovoltaics in general and thin-film solar cells in particular. As a result, the thin-film solar cell based on cadmium sulphide was developed at the IPE and already transferred to a pilot production line in the 1970's. Afterwards, the IPE concentrated on thin-film solar cells based on chalcogenides (CuInxGa1-xSe2, CIS for short), which were soon to become one of the most successful thin-film technologies.
Research Networks are Created
Starting in 1980, productive cooperation networks in Stuttgart began revolving around the fields of solar energy utilisation and hydrogen technology already established at the university and the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), including networks like the DFG special research project "Hydrogen as an Energy Carrier" at the University of Stuttgart and the German-Saudi Arabian research project "HYSOLAR". This development gave the impulse to create a non-university, interdisciplinary research institution.
A Research Institute is Established
At about the same time, an expert committee on energy technology, headed by Prof. Dr. Hans Albrecht (Research Director at Daimler Benz), was formulating recommendations on behalf of the state government regarding the expansion of new innovative research topics at the university campus in Ulm. Electrochemical energy conversion and storage, as well as the development of the corresponding processing technologies, were identified as the most promising topics. They recommended intensifying these subjects in the curriculum and research in Ulm and to establish a non-university research institute which would cooperate closely with industry and the university. The subjects ideally complemented those to be pursued by the non-university institute for solar and hydrogen technology already conceived by the University of Stuttgart and the DLR.
A New Foundation is Born
Guided by the State of Baden-Württemberg, the research subjects in Stuttgart and Ulm were brought together to establish the ZSW. The foundation benefactors included both universities, the DLR, the state ministries for economy and for science, and seven more companies and associations in Baden-Württemberg. The honorary senator Dipl.-Ing. Peter Schnell (former executive manager at the utility Energieversorgung Schwaben) was the first head of the board of trustees. The first management and scientific directors were Prof. Bloss (University of Stuttgart), Prof. C.-J. Winter (Board of Directors DLR), and Prof. W. Witschel (University of Ulm). In 1991, a charter amendment created the position of a full-time executive member of the managing board, in order to efficiently organise the rapidly growing institute. In January 1992, Prof. Dr.-Ing. Hans Albrecht was appointed to this newly created position, which he handed over to Dr. Thomas Schott in June 1999. After eight very successfull years Prof. Dr. Frithjof Staiß took over the ZSW on 1st July 2007.
A Leading Energy Research Institute in Europe
During those turbulent years of growth, the Baden-Württemberg research institute ZSW has developed world-wide respect and thereby fulfilled its foundation mandate. The most recent successes in technology transfer and industrial cooperation confirm the selection and combination of the research topics and the overall interdisciplinary concept.
Thus, the statement of former Minister-President of Baden-Württemberg, Günther H. Oettinger, at the 20th Jubilee Celebrations at ZSW in 2008, was well-founded:
"You would have to invent ZSW today, had it not existed for two decades already."