Press Release

Spin-off NexWafe wins Fraunhofer Founder Award 2020

March 23, 2021

NexWafe GmbH wins the Fraunhofer Founder Award 2020 endowed with 5000 euros. The start-up convinced the high-caliber panel from Fraunhofer Venture and High-Tech-Gründerfonds with a revolutionary new approach for the photovoltaic industry.

© Fraunhofer
The Fraunhofer Founders Award 2020 was presented as part of the digital Fraunhofer Symposium "Netzwert".

The Fraunhofer spin-off NexWafe GmbH, based in Freiburg, wins the renowned Fraunhofer Founder Award 2020 with an innovative process for the low-cost and resource-efficient manufacture of silicon wafers for photovoltaic plants. In the EpiWafer process developed by NexWafe, a crystalline silicon layer is deposited directly onto a kerfless wafer and then detached. This innovative technology can be used to produce any desired wafer thickness for a fraction of the energy, material and capital costs required so far.

Disruptive potential for renewable energy production

Compared to the conventional crystal growth method, the innovative new process is reducing the costs involved in manufacturing photovoltaic wafers by 50 percent and cutting the CO2 emissions generated during manufacture by 70 percent. The significant cost benefits that the NexWafe technology is able to achieve are opening up a new future perspective in solar cell production, especially for the technology-oriented companies in Germany.

NexWafe GmbH is supplying solar cell manufacturers with high-quality monocrystalline silicon wafers that are fully compatible with the standard processes used in cell and module production. The company is currently commissioning a 5MW pilot line in Freiburg and plans to supply customers for qualification purposes in the first half of 2021.

NexWafe was founded in 2015 by Stefan Reber, Head of the Crystalline Silicon Materials Department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, and Frank Siebke, an experienced expert and entrepreneur in the solar energy sector. Davor Sutija, a renowned habitual business founder in the international energy and technology sector, joined the NexWafe management team as CEO in September 2020.

The costly early phase of the next wafer production generation was financed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE and Fraunhofer as seed investors Further funding from Germany, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia secured the company’s continued development and growth course.

 

Cutting edge technology as a location advantage

In the panel’s deliberations, Thomas Doppelberger, Director of Fraunhofer Venture, highlighted the fact that the NexWafe process is resolving a structural problem in the photovoltaic sector by means of a Fraunhofer technology and opening up new perspectives for an entire industry: »The kerfless wafer process developed by NexWafe has the potential to shift the competition in the photovoltaic industry all over the world, from low manufacturing costs to the innovative technologies involved. NexWafe shows that the technological advantage gained through research can be a crucial factor for the future of Germany as a location and is therefore a role model for spin-offs from the scientific world.«

Dr. Andreas Olmes, Principal at High-Tech Gründerfonds, adds: »It’s awesome that the Fraunhofer success story with NexWafe is still being written. I am grateful that we, as HTGF, are able to lend a helping hand. I consider NexWafe to be an outstanding example of how German deep tech can be successfully and sustainably commercialized from a research environment.«

 

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