Quickly translating research findings into applications and thereby using them for social and commercial benefit is the aim of the Helmholtz Enterprise funding programme. Three new spin-offs from Helmholtz Centres have recently been approved for funding.
The entrepreneurs receive seed capital of up to €260,000. Half of this comes from the Helmholtz Association’s Initiative and Networking Fund, while the other half is contributed by the centre involved. Since 2005, Helmholtz has funded 89 spin-off projects proposed by researchers. In particular, Helmholtz Enterprise provides these new businesses with security during the critical start-up phase.
“Taking good ideas for innovative products or services and developing a workable business model from them is always a major challenge,” says Rolf Zettl, Managing Director of the Helmholtz Association. He points out that the start-up phase is particularly difficult, because the necessary funding and staffing are often not in place.
“To enable the transfer from the laboratory to commercial application to succeed, we help scientists at our centres find their feet as entrepreneurs.” Helmholtz Enterprise funding is designed to bridge the gap that so often occurs in the first phase and to give founders the breathing space they need to further develop their business plans, Zettl explains. To boost the projects’ chances of success even more, Helmholtz also assists founders by providing advice from experienced experts.
The new projects being funded are:
1.) dermaSight – innovative imaging technique for dermatological and endoscopic applications
Commercial development of a new imaging tool for dermatological and endoscopic investigations is the subject of the planned dermaSight spin-off from Helmholtz Zentrum München. Using a new ultra-broadband optoacoustic mesoscopy technique it is possible to produce high-resolution 3D images that measure molecular and physiological parameters in real time. The major benefit for future users lies in fast and reliable diagnosis – which means, for example, that skin cancer can be detected earlier. The technique can also be used for purposes such as detecting bowel cancer and supporting surgical procedures. The dermaSight technology is particularly useful when used in conjunction with multi-spectral optoacoustic tomography: this has been made possible through cooperation with a business that had already successfully spun off from the Helmholtz Centre.
Contact: Prof. Vasilis Ntziachristos, Alexander Dima
Tel.: +49 (0)89 3187 3852
Helmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental Health (HMGU)
2.) tacterion – tactile sensor systems for robotics and medical technology
Entrepreneurs at the German Aerospace Center are working on a polymer-based sensory surface that can be used as an “artificial skin”, for example for robot systems. Like its biological counterpart, artificial skin is able to detect contact forces and their spatial distribution. Its elastic and stretchable sensory surface combines seemingly incompatible properties – it is both highly sensitive and overload-proof. In addition, on account of its elasticity the artificial skin can be used on pliable and multiply curved surfaces. This enables, for example, the entire surface of parts of modern robotic arms to be fitted with a tactile sensor system. In future, this will make entirely new human/machine interfaces possible.
tacterion wants to help make the direct physical interaction between human and robot safe and intuitive by distinguishing between intended interactions and unintended collisions and ensuring that the robot system responds appropriately. The technology can also be used in medicine and in automobile manufacturing. Innovative manufacturing processes permit the size, spatial resolution and measuring range to be scaled to suit the customer’s needs and the artificial skin to be modified to meet the requirements of the specific application.
Contact: Dr Michael Strohmayr
Tel.: +49 (0)8153 283 359
German Aerospace Center
3.) TRIDEC Cloud – web-based platform for reliable assessment of hazard potential
The new platform designed by the start-up team at Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) aggregates scientific data and models, e.g. for weather or disaster forecasts, with the data and algorithms of customers primarily in the insurance sector. The cloud-based service can be tailored to specific customer needs and serves three different market segments. The first segment involves (re-)insurers and their clients. Here, the platform is used for risk assessment, vulnerability assessment and disaster analysis in relation to natural hazards. This enables insurance companies to improve the assessment of risk, offer preventive measures, and assist their clients with emergency preparedness and risk reduction. The second segment targets mainly scientists but is also aimed at customers in other areas who access the scientific algorithms and data and hence need to perform individual computations, e.g. for tsunami and earthquake research. The third branch involves early warning and disaster management of natural hazards. In the past, early warning systems have been based on isolated, individually developed software programs that are not interlinked and are frequently outdated. The new web-based platform is designed to consolidate the individual solutions into a uniform system, thereby improving disaster management at national and international level throughout the entire early warning chain.
Contact: Prof. Joachim Wächter
Tel.: +49 (0)331 288 1680
Helmholtz Centre Potsdam GFZ ‒ German Research Centre for Geosciences
The Helmholtz Association contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science and the economy with top scientific achievements in six research fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Structure of Matter, Aeronautics, Space and Transport. With 37.000 employees in 18 research centres and an annual budget of approximately 3.99 billion euros, the Helmholtz Association is Germany’s largest scientific organisation. Its work follows in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821-1894).
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