Published: | By: Sebastian Händschke and Eleonore Roderfeld, translation by Ira Winkler
The Digital Innovation Hub Photonics (DIHP) aims to promote innovative research projects in Thuringia. The successful project at the Beutenberg Campus in Jena has now been expanded to include four new partners. Beginning on May 23rd, the new consortium will include the Abbe Center of Photonics and invites idea teams, startups and SMEs to present their innovative projects. Research budgets can be won for applications of optics and photonics, e.g. in biophotonics. The deadline for registration is May 15th.
Germany and Thuringia can only maintain their role in the region and their technological leadership through convincing innovations and new ideas. Crucial to this is the transformation of excellent research into usable applications. This transformation takes place in particular through (spin-off) start-ups from research – so-called high-tech start-ups.
Relative to the number of inhabitants, the Free State of Thuringia is already the leader in high-tech start-ups in Germany. The start-up companies SPACEOPTIX GmbH, Quantum Optics Jena GmbH and Robust AO GmbH are good examples of this. They are all successful on the market, originate from the "Optical Valley" Jena and have won numerous prizes, including the Innovation Award Thuringia, the Founder's Award Thuringia, and the technological support of getstarted2gether. In recent years, these companies have regularly made it into the list of TOP50 startups published by the F.A.Z. Group. They have also been able to acquire several million euros in funding for their entrepreneurial activities from private lenders and banks.
The three companies have one other significant characteristic in common: They all had their entrepreneurial beginnings at the Digital DIHP idea pitches, where they won attractive budgets to fund the first steps of their ideas.
Idea pitches 2022: Research budgets as idea catalysts
In order to support even more idea generators and people interested in founding their own company, DIHP is once again inviting people to its traditional idea pitch on May 23rd. The format is particularly aimed at all those ideas in which photonic technologies form the core of possible product development. All interested parties are cordially invited to submit their ideas!
The most interesting ideas submitted can be further developed in five excellent research institutes in Jena: the Leibniz Institute for Photonic Technologies (Leibniz-IPHT), the Leibniz Institute for Natural Product Research and Infection Biology - Hans Knöll Institute (Leibniz-HKI), the Helmholtz Institute Jena (HI-J), the Abbe Center of Photonics (ACP) of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (Fraunhofer IOF).
"The DIHP and the form of the pitches are unique in Germany," explains the initiator and head of the consortium project, Dr. Sebastian Händschke. Talking about the possibilities of the pitches, he continues, "we thus make it easier for external idea teams to work together with university and non-university institutions. The rate of subsequent company start-ups is also gratifyingly high, with the pitches being an initial test for the teams. Participants from previous years benefited greatly from the feedback, the jury was pleased to receive very interesting projects for review, and even for applicants who were unsuccessful, we provided exciting contacts at Jena's Beutenberg Campus and beyond. The close exchange is helpful for all sides - people interested in founding a company, institutes and other partners. The supra-regional applications, including from Berlin, Switzerland and Italy, show the reach we have with DIHP and Thuringia as a location." In 2021, Spectō Srl, a Milan-based startup, took first place. Teams from Thuringia followed in second and third place.
DIHP - a consortium for transfer support unique in Germany
With the DIHP Idea Pitches 2022, the new consortium consisting of the above-mentioned research institutions will become operational. Interested idea teams can apply for the current round of calls, which will run until mid-May, regardless of whether they are students, doctoral candidates, researchers or employees of a commercial enterprise. The offer is aimed at anyone who needs support in the conceptual and technological implementation of a project or business idea in the field of photonics. Due to the close integration of DIHP into the Photonics Performance Center, participants benefit significantly from the technological competencies of the participating institutions as well as from the comprehensive knowledge of markets, supply and value chains and the existing network in the photonics industries.
To ensure that the evaluation of the projects is as differentiated as possible, the jury will be made up of representatives of various institutions from business and science, including companies such as Carl ZEISS Meditec AG, JENOPTIK AG, etc. In addition, partners from the national and regional start-up ecosystem will be involved, including bm-t beteiligungsmanagement thüringen gmbh, the Fraunhofer Technology Transfer Fund (FTTF) and transfer experts from the participating institutions.
About the DIHP
The Digital Innovation Hub Photonics (DIHP) is a project of the Free State of Thuringia funded by the Ministry of Economy, Science and Digital Society (TMWWDG). It is intended to support start-ups and spin-offs in the fields of optics and photonics at Jena's Beutenberg Campus. The project began in early 2019 and is based at the Photonics Performance Center of the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering (IOF) and at the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP) of the Friedrich Schiller University Jena. Currently, eight teams are supervised at DIHP in these institutes, six of which have already established a company. The DIHP works closely with other partners in Central Germany such as the Stiftung für Technologie, Innovation und Forschung Thüringen (STIFT) and Optonet e.V.. In the current phase, the TMWWDG is providing funding of around 1.2 million euros for the DIHP project until the end of 2023.