Health research

The Fraunhofer 4D concept

Health research is currently one of the most diverse scientific fields and will play a key role in developing innovative and intelligent solutions in healthcare over the coming decades. The development of innovative, interdisciplinary ideas is a prerequisite for success in this regard; however, this requires the harmonious convergence of the individual interfaces. New opportunities for translating novel and efficient treatment methods into concrete applications can be leveraged in the future if, for example, the various disciplines collaborate together in new ways.


Health research at Fraunhofer addresses the four key areas of medical science — »drugs«, »diagnostics«, »devices« and »data«, or 4D for short. Many innovations emerge at the interface between medical science, natural science, computer science and engineering. With its emphasis on transdisciplinary research, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft offers the perfect environment for close collaboration on health research and the development of cost-intelligent precision medicine for the benefit of patients.

One of the greatest economic challenges facing us in the decades to come will be the steadily rising costs of healthcare, which are already clearly visible thanks to demographic developments. Healthcare expenditure must be effectively limited and this requires not only a better medical understanding of the root causes of diseases but also — and above all — technology-driven innovations for effective prevention, diagnostics, treatment and care. Developing processes in healthcare that are both modern and cost-intelligent largely relies on innovations created at the interfaces of scientific disciplines.

Using new forms of collaboration, suitable platforms for translating new ideas into applications can be created, where industry and science work together across organizations and disciplines. The Fraunhofer 4D model thereby connects the expertise portfolio of different Fraunhofer institutes in a transdisciplinary approach in order to deal with the major fields of research in the healthcare sector.

The Fraunhofer 4D concept


The »Drugs« biomedical research area deals with drug discovery — researching, developing and testing new drugs. This process is carried out in accordance with the strictest requirements and with the utmost care: Teams of specialists work together with treating physicians to bring research to the patient’s bedside. Research in the field of drugs finally ends with the clinical trial in which diagnostics plays a decisive role.


The Fraunhofer institutes involved in the »Diagnostics« field of research work to provide new methods for analyzing diseases, for example detecting cancer and subsequently classifying the severity of the disease. This is achieved using state-of-the-art concepts that are specifically developed and optimized by the researchers at the institutes. The findings from this field of research enable the efficacy of new drugs to be more precisely monitored in clinical trials and thus better understood. One example of this is the use of high-tech implants that combine treatment with diagnostics.


Researchers in the  »Devices« biomedical research area work on complex medical systems that must be able to withstand the most demanding conditions and meet the highest quality standards, particularly in the case of invasive therapies such as implants. To do so, new approaches must be adopted — for example, intelligent prostheses that are functional and that can also monitor and report important values such as the patient’s blood pressure or even the device’s fit are being developed. This modern diagnostics device records much more detailed information on a molecular and microphysiological level, thereby enabling high-precision diagnosis.




The fourth D,  »Data« is playing an ever greater role in all areas of healthcare. Data is an important tool for practical clinical applications and the optimization of treatment methods. In this regard, a wide variety of information is linked together to create new approaches for different disciplines, in particular in diagnostics. This reduces the staff workload, thereby improving the working conditions of hospital staff in a holistic manner and increasing the chances of therapeutic success.