Press release

Bridge to the Digital World: Bundesdruckerei Wins Industry Award for Concept for the Banknote of the Future


  • IGNIS sample banknote wins IACA Excellence Currency Awards 2024 in the “Best House Note” category  

  • Presentation of ExNihilo concept banknote series at Banknote Conference in Fort Worth, USA  

  • Joint development with SIRALab partners 

  • Heuberger-Lewerenz responsible for the concept: “With IGNIS, we literally had to print light” 


Fort Worth, USA / Berlin, 21 May 2024 – Bundesdruckerei GmbH showcased its concept for the banknote of the future at the Banknote Conference in Fort Worth, USA. The IGNIS from the ExNihilo model banknote series, developed with national and international partners in the SIRALab innovation network, won the IACA Excellence in Currency Award 2024 in the “Best House Note” category. This first-ever banknote printed on black banknote paper bridges the gap between the analogue and digital worlds. 

Despite the growing popularity of cashless payments, experts agree that cash remains critical for a thriving economy and financial inclusion. The ExNihilo series is Bundesdruckerei’s response to the increasing detachment of money from physical form. “Many central banks are currently evaluating the introduction of digital currencies. However, there's been little discussion on the redesign of future banknotes. IGNIS addresses this issue,” said Dr Adrian Heuberger-Lewerenz, Senior Expert Currency Developer at Bundesdruckerei GmbH. 

The SIRALab initiative, currently comprising eleven industrial partners, champions the ExNihilo series – Latin for “out of nothing”. The deep black colour makes these sample banknotes particularly counterfeit-proof. Commercial printers and copiers produce a comparatively grey black and applying motifs and security features to the black substrate requires special expertise and complex processes. “We virtually took the light away from the IGNIS sample banknote and now had to put it back”, remarked Heuberger-Lewerenz. This involved using special pigments that reflect light instead of absorbing it.

The black ExNihilo banknotes also offer sustainability benefits. Their dark color eliminates the need for bleached cotton fibers, allowing production from old and recycled banknotes. This could significantly impact the annual production of 160 billion banknotes worldwide. 

The IGNIS sample banknote introduces another innovative feature: a highly secure and ultra-thin chip is embedded in the paper. This can act as an additional security attribute by authenticating the note to a smartphone app or bank reader. These technological features could make the ExNihilo series a bridge to central bank digital currency (CBDC). 

“Our ExNihilo concept could introduce traditional banknote advantages to a central bank digital currency,” explained Dr Dieter Sauter, Head of Security Printing at Bundesdruckerei GmbH. “The privacy and anonymity of cash can be maintained in CBDC transactions using other Bundesdruckerei Group solutions.” The embedded chip could serve as a digital wallet for everyone. “Financial inclusion wouldn't require a smartphone or potentially even a bank account,” said Sauter. This type of banknote could make a CBDC accessible and secure for both online and offline use. 

Sauter confirmed that the SIRALab initiative will continue developing progressive concepts for banknotes to ensure their future attractiveness. Furthermore, three additional sample banknotes from the ExNihilo series will be presented at future industry events. 

About Bundesdruckerei GmbH

Bundesdruckerei GmbH including her subsidiary Maurer Electronics GmbH drives technological developments in the fields of identity and authorization management, administrative digitization, data analysis and artificial intelligence as well as state means of payment and value transfer systems. In doing so, it creates the basis for a modern and resilient society.

As a company of the Bundesdruckerei Group and with over 250 years of experience, the company is paving the way to a secure digital future. Bundesdruckerei GmbH currently employs around 3,000 people and achieved sales of 789.5 million euros in 2022. Further information at

Porträtfoto von Pressesprecher Marc Thylmann
Press spokesman of the Bundesdruckerei GmbH
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