Almost 1,000 invited guests celebrated the official opening of the ZAL TechCenter, the world's most up-to-date civilian aviation research facility, in the Hamburg borough of Finkenwerder on 7 March. Amongst them were Hamburg's Governing Mayor, Olaf Scholz; Germany's Federal Parliamentary State Secretary for Aerospace Policy, Brigitte Zypries; the Chairman of the Executive Board of Airbus in Germany, Dr. Klaus Richter; and the Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Technik, Dr. Johannes Bussmann.  In the future, up to 600 people will be researching in the approx. 26,000-square-meter ZAL facility. Fields of research include fuel cells, cabin technology, 3D printing, "Industry 4.0" / "Internet of Things", acoustics, and virtual reality. The research center, with a total investment of almost 100 million euros, is a joint project of the City of Hamburg, Airbus, Lufthansa Technik, the German Aerospace Center (DLR), four universities, and twelve other partners.  

Major corporations such as Airbus, suppliers like Diehl, universities, and institutions like DLR will be working together at a single site for the first time in the TechCenter, making innovations market-ready more quickly. ZAL offers absolute world-class research infrastructure and will concentrate on six thematic focal areas, known as "Technical Domains": fuel cells, cabins, air conditioning systems, aircraft manufacturing, acoustics, and virtual reality.

Hamburg's Governing Mayor, Olaf Scholz: "The ZAL TechCenter is a boost to Hamburg's international research and development profile, well beyond the boundaries of the aviation industry. ZAL is more than an aeronautical research center. It is a pioneering example of a sustainable and successful concept for cooperation between the commercial and academic sectors."

Brigitte Zypries, the German Federal Government's Aerospace Coordinator and Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy: "The ZAL TechCenter is an exemplary investment in the future. It is equally beneficial to the Metropolitan Region of Hamburg and to the whole of Germany as an aviation location. I am especially pleased by the solidarity between various players in the industry that has made the ZAL TechCenter possible; major corporations, SMEs, and the academic and research sector have gathered under one roof to work on the future of aviation."

Roland Gerhards, CEO of the ZAL Center of Applied Aeronautical Research: "The ZAL TechCenter provides the umbrella, under which the commercial and academic sectors will work together on the future of aviation. Our modern research and test infrastructure provides the ideal environment, and the first application-oriented products will be entering into service in just a few years."

Dr. Klaus Richter, Chief Procurement Officer for the Airbus Group and Chairman of the Executive Board of Airbus in Germany: "The ZAL TechCenter's modern infrastructure makes the technology center one of the most innovative research platforms worldwide. Research and development are optimally tuned to one another, so that innovations can reach the market more quickly."

Dr. Johannes Bussmann, Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa Technik AG: "What makes the ZAL TechCenter so special is the fact that the partners are all equal and work together without hierarchical issues - universities, research institutions, and SMEs along with suppliers and major industrial players. Creative potential has free rein here."

Aeronautical research at ZAL is concentrated on six focal points known as "Technical Domains" (TD), which reflect the core competencies of Hamburg's aviation sector.

TD1 incorporates the Fuel Cell Lab, a research facility crossing industrial boundaries, focussed on secure civilian applications for hydrogen, both in aviation and in other transport segments such as local public transport and the automotive industry.

TD2, Cabin Innovation & Technology, looks at research related to aircraft cabins. The core component is the 20-meter wide, 11-meter high ZAL Cabin & Cargo Test Rig, in which fuselage cross sections of all of the world's most common aircraft can be installed in order, for example, to test new arrangements of cabin elements.

TD3, Air & Power Systems, deals with the enhancement of electricity supply and air conditioning systems in the cabin.

Industrial focus is on TD4, Aerospace Production & Fuselage Engineering. The bulky name is the gateway to research programs addressing future manufacturing methods, e.g. the ALM (Additive Layer Manufacturing) process, commonly known as "3D printing", and the new automation processes often summed up with the catchphrases "Internet of Things" and "Industry 4.0".

At the heart of TD5, Testing & Safety, is the ZAL Acoustics Lab. A complete fuselage section from an Airbus A320 can fit within this acoustic test chamber, one of the largest in Europe. The Acoustics Lab will mean that, in the future, research on noise and vibration can be performed on the ground, instead of having to be carried out airborne as has been the case to date.

Within the ZAL TechCenter, TD6, General Processes & Support Topics, will focus on matters of virtual reality. The largest VR-capable screen in the northern half of Germany, a massive 6 x 3.5 meters in size, will be installed in the building for the purpose, in a room with capacity for around 30 people.

Hamburg's 100-million-euro ZAL TechCenter numbers amongst the world's largest aeronautical research facilities. Fully tenanted, the 26,000-square-meter facility will be populated by up to 600 researchers. ZAL is leading to the creation of numerous new highly-qualified aviation jobs in Hamburg. Diehl, for example, Hamburg's third-largest employer in the aviation industry, is establishing a completely new research and development team in the ZAL TechCenter. Companies such as Airbus and Lufthansa Technik are completely relocating some of their innovation departments to the new center. The research facility will also serve as an event location; as well as a 200-seat auditorium, there are 12 conference rooms, an open innovation marketplace, and a large in-house restaurant.