The main objective of the Josef Ressel Center (JRC) is the improvement of thermal NDE in terms of detection and identification of defects in composites during the manufacturing and in-service applications. The heterogeneous microstructure of composites is a major challenge for the model-based reconstruction of defects and damage. The combination of mega-pixel infrared cameras, spatially- and temporary modulated laser stimulation and multi-dimensional reconstruction techniques should extend the fields of applications, especially in the aerospace and automotive industry. Basic requirements for the identification of defects with thermal NDE are mathematical models which describe the heat transfer in the composite at different length scales and the design of optimum experiments for the estimation of unknown material- and defect parameters. The future direction is to use these thermal NDE techniques for material state condition assessments and for a prognosis of a structures remaining life.