Last year, the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE) established a team for knowledge transfer. Why does the CfE see it as important to address this issue and what are some of the projects you are pursuing?
We have developed an extensive network with businesses over the years to be able to provide our start-ups with the best possible conditions for setting up a business. Many of the businesses we have contact to are interested in innovation. Medium-sized businesses in particular often ask us about cooperative projects in the area of research. This gave birth to the idea of setting up a transfer team to explore other avenues (in addition to startups) for transferring the latest research findings to business and industry. This process is supported by Professor Dr. Christine Ahrend, vice president for research, appointment strategy, knowledge & technology transfer.
We see ourselves as providing a service for Technische Universität Berlin. So we began by finding out about the requirements of the various academic chairs. This enabled us to develop a range of different service formats. These include a very close form of support with a member of the team working with an academic chair over a longer period of time to ascertain which projects are relevant for knowledge transfer. We also look to see which projects might be suitable for a start-up. Another option we pursue is to offer workshops to look at how to commercially exploit specific projects and which businesses might be interested.
Can you give us examples of some projects?
Last year we conducted a pilot project in the life sciences and developed a training program for knowledge transfer. We looked at the topic of spin-offs and the options for knowledge transfer, using our own experts as well as external consultants. We will also be offering this concept for other disciplines. Additionally we plan to explore the area of “ideation” – in other words, the creation of ideas – and offer a range of conferences dedicated to different topics. Last year we ran an event looking at water and in March 2020 we will be offering a conference on process digitalization with business associations from the Berlin-Brandenburg region. Conferences are a chance for medium-sized businesses, start-ups and the various academic chairs at TU Berlin to discuss the different topics and explore options for working together. Our job is to keep up-to-date with these topics and to increase awareness of them.
Tell us something about collaborative work with other Berlin universities in the area of start-up support.
We have been working together intermittently on joint projects for some time now. As part of the Berlin University Alliance, we would now like to strengthen our work and provide start-up services jointly with FU and HU, such as by developing a joint qualification program. The entrepreneurship scene in Berlin is very diverse and there are a great many people involved. Doing something special within the Alliance by placing our focus on scientific start-ups is a great opportunity to gain attention for our work at international level. We want to attract people from abroad for our international scientific start-ups as well; from China for example, a market which we cannot ignore today. Start-ups tend to be very cautious regarding China. We want to work with our China Center to offer a qualification and possibly send start-ups to China in cooperation with Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, which already has close business cooperations with China.
Which challenges do you foresee for the CfE in the coming years?
In the future, we are going to have to widen our areas of focus. Examples of this include the planned Chemical Invention Factory (CIF) for spin-offs in chemistry and the Berlin Institute for the Foundations of Learning and Data (BIFOLD) for leading research in the area of AI, which was established at TU Berlin. Transfer and entrepreneurship also have a role to play in these areas. So we are going to have to organize our program to more precisely address the specific needs of start-ups from a wide range of branches.
Physicist Karin Kricheldorff has been head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin since 2019 and has been involved in the project from the outset. Today the CfE employs some 20 members of staff. In 2007, Kricheldorff started working at TU Berlin as advisor for technology-based start-ups. She can look back on 20 years´ experience in science-based entrepreneurship. Before coming to TU Berlin, she worked as advisor at the Leibniz Association and as research associate at the Charité. During the 1990s, Kricheldorff founded her own business and was managing director of Mantik Bioinformatik for a number of years.