The seeds of the IFK have been sown by Prof. Rudolf Quack who was appointed to the chair of "Kolbenmaschinen und Dampfkessel" (Piston Engines and Steam Boilers), as it was called then, of the former Technische Hochschule Stuttgart, the "Technical University of Stuttgart". The institute founded by him was given the name of "Institut für Verfahrenstechnik und Dampfkesselwesen" (IVD), or Institute of Process Engineering and Power Plant Technology – the name which has been valid up until 2009. Through the initiative of Prof. Quack, the combined heat and power station (CHP station) of the University of Stuttgart was built in 1958/59 and extended several times later on to serve the power supply needs of the university campus at Stuttgart-Vaihingen. The CHP station has since then offered the institute experimental facilities unique in Germany by making use of the infrastructure of the power station.
In 1978, Prof. Richard Doležal was offered the chair. During his period of office, the CHP station was enlarged a second time and renovated adding two gas turbines and a heat recovery boiler. Both had become necessary due to environmental protection reasons and the university's increased energy demand. Under Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus R.G. Hein, who was the director of the institute and the CHP station from 1992 to 2004, additional experimental and pilot-scale facilities for the investigation of combustion-engineering problems were constructed and used for research projects on emissions and pollution reduction in power plants fired with solid fuels. At the end of Prof. Hein's period of office, the institute could move into the new institute building, urgently needed due to the increasing space required for the steadily growing staff.
Prof. Dr. techn. Günter Scheffknecht has been the head of the institute since October 2004. The consistent continuation of the research activities and their expansion to comprise the pertinent technologies of CO2 separation such as the oxyfuel, pre- and post-combustion capture processes, and also the creation of the course of studies of Renewable Energies, are the means to build a stable basis for the future. By changing the name of the institute to Institute of Combustion and Power Plant Technology (IFK) in 2009, its orientation is rendered more precisely which, at the same time, has been brought into line with the technological and university-specific framework.
In the fall of 2016, Hendrik Lens was appointed as Professor of Power Plant and Grid Systems. In this function, he took over research and teaching on the dynamics and control of such systems. This area has a long standing tradition at the institute IFK. Prof. Dr.-Ing. initiated it in 1969 and was active in this area as a professor from 1980 until 2003.