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Collaboration extended by a further two years
European Space Agency and Merck Expand Cooperation



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Merck, a science and technology company, and the European Space Agency (ESA) signed a Letter of Intent to extend by a further two years their cooperation agreement from 2016. The two partners will continue to cooperate intensively in the fields of innovation, digitalization and materials research. With respect to innovation, the focus will be on the fields of Biosensing and Biointerfaces, Clean Meat and Liquid Biopsy technologies.

“It is our goal to continue and intensify the exchange between ESA and Merck in a targeted manner. Scientific progress is the key to improving the lives of millions of people. Partnerships, such as this one with ESA, help to accelerate this progress and thus to achieve objectives faster.”

Kai Beckmann, CEO Performance Materials and member of the Executive Board of Merck

“The profile and strategic interests of both organizations complement each other superbly,” said Rolf Densing, Director of Operations and Head of the European Space Operations Center (ESOC) at ESA. “This allows both partners to openly share and make use of synergies in terms of competences, methods and tools.”

Merck and ESA began cooperating in 2011 and had most recently extended their partnership in 2016. The focus of the agreement signed today is on the following topics:

Innovation: Future projects will be derived from the three strategic innovation fields of the Merck Innovation Center (Biosensing and Biointerfaces, Clean Meat and Liquid Biopsy technologies). The aim is to make contributions that will further the development of human space exploration.

Moreover, both partners will further share their experience and competence in the area of innovation processes, for instance, in stimulating innovation in both organizations in the context of the Merck Innovation Center or via the newly established managerial position of Innovation Officer on the ESA side.

The topic of Biosensing and Biointerfaces focuses mainly on the interface between biology and digitalization. By applying data analysis tools, faster and more precise (remote) monitoring and treatment will be enabled  in numerous disease areas. The focus of Clean Meat is on the biotechnology required to produce genuine meat grown in vitro. The third innovation field targets technological solutions to overcome unresolved challenges in the liquid biopsy workflow to detect diseases sooner and more readily.

Digitalization: Digitalization offers significant potential for ESA and Merck. Both organizations therefore aim to continue the exchange between their scientists and engineers on new and innovative technologies such as automation and autonomy concepts, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, simulation, and Big Data, and virtual reality methods for laboratory and exploration activities on both sides.

Materials Research: The development of new, high-performance materials is a core activity of ESA and Merck. Potential collaboration fields include liquid crystal technologies, coatings, and semiconductors.

Beyond the specific development of innovations, an intensive dialogue on future topics is also part of the collaboration. For example, in recent years, a series of events and activities have taken place. These include a co-hosted hackathon as well as a presentation by German ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter for selected scientists at Merck in Darmstadt. At the Innovation and Leadership in Aerospace Conference in 2018 in Berlin, Kai Beckmann and Rolf Densing were members of a panel discussion entitled “Space meets Non-Space”. As the only non-space industry partner, Merck participated for the second time in a cross-industry challenge at ESA’s second Space Exploration Masters last year. The topic of the winning team was use of bioreactors in space to solve the problem of having an autonomous food and oxygen supply at a lunar base.

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Virtual Annual General Meeting planned for June



Due to the spread of the coronavirus (Sars-Cov-2), Bilfinger is planning to conduct its regular Annual General Meeting on June 24, 2020 as a virtual general meeting without the physical presence of shareholders. The protection of the health of employees, shareholders and service providers is given the highest priority.

The framework for holding a virtual Annual General Meeting is provided for by the regulations created by the German legislator for the year 2020 to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Annual General Meeting shall only be accessible to shareholders who have registered in due time via the company’s website. By using a previously established online portal, these shareholders shall be able to observe the entire Annual General Meeting and to exercise their voting rights electronically (postal vote) or by granting a proxy. The online portal will in addition enable them to submit questions on agenda items up to two days prior to the Annual General Meeting.

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Konica Minolta and Merck
Oled Patents for Display Applications



Merck Acquires OLED Patents for Display Applications from Konica Minolta
Picture: Merck

Merck, a science and technology company, announced that it acquired the Oled patent portfolio for display applications from Konica Minolta Inc., a global technology company that provides innovative solutions to businesses and society. The acquired portfolio comprises over 700 patent families.

“Adding Konica Minolta’s patents to our already strong portfolio will further boost our Oled development pipeline”, said Kai Beckmann, Member of the Executive Board of Merck and CEO Performance Materials. “With this step we will further strengthen our power to drive innovations in the fast-growing market of Oled displays.”

For more than 15 years, Merck has conducted research and development in the Oled technology field, and, as a result, became one of the leading Oled material suppliers.

The acquisition of Konica Minolta’s Oled patents for display applications is effective immediately. Financial terms were not disclosed.

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Artificial Intelligence
Bilfinger to become a DFKI shareholder



Industrial plants consist of many elements. PIDGraph recognizes these from the plant plans and transfers them to the digital world. (Picture: Bilfinger)
Industrial plants consist of many elements. PIDGraph recognizes these from the plant plans and transfers them to the digital world. (Picture: Bilfinger)

Bilfinger, through its subsidiary Bilfinger Digital Next, is joining the group of shareholders of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). The DFKI is an industry-focused research institute in the field of innovative software technologies incorporating artificial intelligence (AI) and is considered one of the most important “Centers of Excellence” in the international scientific community. The purpose of the stake is to develop innovative solutions based on AI for the process industry. Bilfinger is the first industrial services provider in the DFKI shareholder group, which also includes companies like Google, Microsoft and SAP. Franz Braun, CEO of Bilfinger Digital Next: “Artificial intelligence technologies give companies in the process industry groundbreaking new opportunities to manage and maintain their plants with a greater degree of efficiency and effectiveness. Plant operators can generate substantial competitive advantages using AI. We want to demonstrate these possibilities to our customers and support them with future-oriented solutions based on the broad range of advantages delivered by artificial intelligence”.

Prof. Dr. Antonio Krüger, CEO and Chairman of the DFKI Management Board: “We are pleased to be taking the next step towards a lasting partnership on the basis of the success we have enjoyed in our joint project work to date. Bilfinger’s commitment attests to our cooperation and underscores the industrial relevance of the work DFKI researchers are doing. DFKI’s circle of shareholders will be strengthened by the addition of an ambitious industrial services provider, with whom we plan to continue implementing the results of AI research into products and solutions for the process industry”.

Bilfinger has been collaborating successfully with the DFKI for some time on the development of digital solutions for the process industry. Joint developments that have been launched on the market include PIDGraph, a software for the digitalization of plant documentation. Through the application of AI methods, the software is able to digitalize piping and instrument flow diagrams (P&I diagrams) that are only available in paper or PDF formats. The symbols, texts and lines of the diagrams are converted into a digital format with the help of neural networks trained to recognize patterns. The software records the corrections made by the user and thus continuously improves itself. The digital formats created by PIDGraph can be processed by any modern engineering and asset management system, thereby forming the basis for creating “digital twins” of industrial plants, for example. The digitalization of P&I diagrams is not only significantly cheaper with PIDGraph, but also much faster than conventional methods.

“The AI algorithms recognize the complex elements in the plant diagrams, analyze them, assign them semantically, making them readable for the computer. PIDGraph shows how mature AI methods can comprehend complex corporate knowledge and make it available for digital use,” says Prof. Dr. Andreas Dengel, who started the cooperation with Bilfinger and leads the research area Smart Data & Knowledge Services at the DFKI.

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