Central online information portal creates transparency in government funding policy for energy research


In 2016, the German government spent some €867 million on energy research, a new record. A successful energy transition is one of the most important tasks for a sustainable Germany. Yet the funding landscape is becoming increasingly complicated: What is being funded, where, how, and by whom?


A recurring problem in preparing the German federal government's energy report is retrieving complete information from the databases of ongoing and completed projects. To address this challenge, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) funded a four-year joint project called »EnArgus« aimed at developing a central information system with semantic search. The goal is to provide users in the sponsoring agencies, as well as policy makers (ministries and members of parliament), and to a lesser extent, the interested public, with uniform central access to information on energy research in the Federal Republic of Germany. A consortium of ten institutions under the leadership of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT was commissioned to carry out the project. The Fraunhofer FKIE's scope of work included the creation of the ontology which serves as the basis for the semantic search.

© Screenshot www.enargus.de
Fraunhofer FKIE's specialized ontology developed for the "EnArgus" portal enables a more accurate search for research projects, since it automatically considers synonyms of the search term.

The »EnArgus« information portal draws on existing data for more than 22,000 funded projects. The specialized ontology created by the Fraunhofer FKIE and integrated into the system – a formally represented knowledge base for energy research – enables a »semantic« search of this data. The knowledge represented is based on 2,000 wiki texts on energy research newly created under the leadership of the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research ISI.

The FKIE research group leader in charge, Professor Dr. Ulrich Schade says, »The semantic search itself makes it possible to find information even if the search term entered, such as »wind turbine« does not appear in the text of relevant projects because a term with a similar meaning, such as »wind power converter« is used instead. Beyond the semantic search, the »EnArgus« portal offers the option of sorting projects by duration, funding volume, state borders and sponsoring agency. Search results can also be converted into diagrams or interactive maps. This lets users make a quick check, for instance, of which federal states or regions are or were home to a particularly large volume of research on a specific energy topic. In addition to public access, "EnArgus" also provides an internal area for ministries and project sponsors where more complex queries are possible, but which for reasons of data protection is subject to controlled access.

Brigitte Zypries, the Federal Minister of Economics and Energy, took advantage of the official presentation of the »Federal Report on Energy Research 2017« in mid-April, to announce the information portal for the first time, stating that "EnArgus" would make all figures on publicly funded research projects easily accessible and comprehensible. This new offering was then presented to the public during the Berlin Energy Days from 3 to 5 May, 2017.

The core functions of the "EnArgus" information system are, in addition to the specialist ontology, the energy research wiki, specialist ontology-based searches in databases of energy research projects, and improved collaboration support for energy research stakeholders. The extensive expert knowledge from the wiki texts was transferred into a printed lexicon, a more than 1,000-page »energy compendium«.

In addition to the constant maintenance and consolidation of existing energy topics, the »EnArgus« wiki is constantly being updated by energy researchers and made available to the public. The specialist ontology developed by the Fraunhofer FKIE is generated in a semiautomated process from the wiki articles, literature searches and patent analyses. It is used to tap the contents of databases from energy research projects and to enable an efficient and cross-source search for thematically similar projects. Specialist ontology allows search queries to be interpreted intelligently, thereby significantly improving the quality of the search results.

To support collaboration between all its stakeholders »EnArgus« will be extended to include collaboration tools that facilitate the joint maintenance of the »EnArgus« wiki. Effective methods of analysis are designed for the early detection of trends in the research landscape and interdisciplinary topics. The information system which has been developed is also expected to be used for databases of projects seeking funding outside the field of energy research and to be further developed for research projects within the European framework.

  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Kommunikation, Informationsverarbeitung und Ergonomie FKIE
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für System- und Innovationsforschung ISI
  • Fraunhofer-Institut für Umwelt-, Sicherheits- und Energietechnik UMSICHT
  • OrbiTeam Software GmbH & Co. KG
  • Lehrstuhl Energiesysteme und Energiewirtschaft (LEE) der Ruhr-Universität Bochum
  • Institut für Wasserversorgung und Grundwasserschutz, Abwassertechnik, Abfalltechnik, Industrielle Stoffkreisläufe, Raum- und Infrastrukturplanung (IWAR) der Technischen Universität Darmstadt
  • Materialprüfungsanstalt Universität Stuttgart (MPA Stuttgart, Otto-Graf-Institut FMPA)
  • ZEDO Zentrum für Beratungssysteme in der Technik an der Technischen Universität Dortmund
  • Institut für Energie- und Klimaforschung – Systemforschung und Technologische Entwicklung des Forschungszentrums Jülich
  • [bense.com] GmbH