Research meets industry: Helmholtz funds new Innovation Labs

“The Helmholtz Innovation Labs open up our infrastructure to partners from business,” says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of the Helmholtz Association. “The mutual exchange of information and joint development of on-site projects greatly promote the transfer of research results to application. I am pleased that we have been able to select nine promising projects covering a wide range of topics that are of interest to science and business.”

At the Helmholtz Innovation Labs, Helmholtz scientists conduct joint projects with colleagues from industry – from corporations to mid-sized companies to start-ups. Because the labs are embedded in a long-term strategy, their approach goes well beyond contract research. The Helmholtz Centers also make their special infrastructures available to their project partners.

The labs that have now been selected in the second call for applications for this funding instrument will initially be financed for three years by the President’s Initiative and Networking Fund and funds provided by the Helmholtz Centers and participating companies. If they receive a successful interim evaluation, the funding can be extended by two years. “The laboratories are then to support themselves from sources such as third-party funds, contributions from spin-offs, or the business partners,” says Wiestler. “This long-term strategy is aimed at moving the Helmholtz Innovation Labs beyond previous forms of transfer and providing new stimuli.”

Seven projects were selected for funding from the first call for applications in 2016. The nine current projects, which will receive total funding of 17.3 million euros, are the following:

BaoBab (Brain antibody-omics and B-cell Lab) at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) is developing a platform for manufacturing and characterizing monoclonal autoantibodies from spinal fluid. These autoantibodies are to serve as research tools and help in the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.
Further information and contact details: Dr. Harald Prüß,

ZAIT (Center for Aerogels in Industry and Technology) at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) refines aerogels and aerogel composite materials. ZAIT offers industrial companies opportunities to develop solutions through joint research and development projects dealing with application-relevant questions in the areas of temperature insulation, fire protection, energy storage, and selective gas adsorption.
Further information and contact details: Prof. Dr. Barbara Milow,

OPTSAL (Optical Technologies for Situational Awareness) at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) works with security agencies and partners from science and industry to apply a number of optical aerospace technologies.

The lab’s goal is to establish a competence and development center for situational assessment in the context of safety and security applications. It offers a unique development and testing environment for trying out, refining, and applying technologies and procedures under real-world conditions.
Further information and contact details: Ralf Berger,

SuFIDA (surface-based fluorescence immuno digital assay) at the Forschungszentrum Jülich can count individual marker molecules for more precise diagnosis of hard-to-diagnose disorders. It is digital and more sensitive than the so-called ELISA method used in research and medicine. The lab’s goal is to work with strong partners from industry and academia to replace conventional methods.
Further information and contact details: Prof. Dr. Dieter Willbold,

3D-US Lab (3D underground seismic lab) at the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences pools, standardizes, and modularizes the tunnel and drilled hole seismology that has been developed so far at the GFZ for 3D seismic assessment of underground construction. In the long term, the lab intends to establish 3D underground seismology as a key technology for effectively and safely constructing and using underground structures.
Further information and contact details: Dr. Ruediger Giese,

FERN.Lab (Remote sensing for sustainable resource use) at the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam – GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences is intended to become a technology platform for developing and operationalizing practical transdisciplinary methods of using remote sensing data. The lab focuses on collecting geoinformation, especially from satellite data, to meet the specific requirements of companies, agencies, and NGOs.
Further information and contact details: Dr. Daniel Spengler,

Ultratherm (Ultra-short thermal treatment of materials with flash lamp and laser annealing) at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) collaborates with partners from industry to optimize and develop procedures for flash lamp annealing. This process technology for ultra-short irradiation of thermosensitive surfaces has great industrial potential in various fields of application (including battery technology and printed electronics). Ultratherm offers its cooperation partners access to a laboratory with several flash lamp and laser systems and, in cooperation with the HZDR, to many other material handling and material analysis methods.
Further information and contact details: Dr. Lars Rebohle,

CLEWATEC (Clean Water Technology Lab) at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) researches new, sustainable technologies for flexible, resource-friendly wastewater treatment. The focus is on such issues as recovering valuable resources from wastewater, developing advanced measurement and analysis techniques, and using available energy efficiently.
Further information and contact details: Dr. Sebastian Reinecke,

FlexiSens (Smart sensors) at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) will develop and market new magnetic field sensors on ultra-thin, flexible substrates in cooperation with its partners. These sensors have a very wide range of uses, including applications in electromobility and mechanical engineering. In addition to the existing partners from industry and research, further partners have also been invited to collaborate on working with these new magnetic field sensors.
Further information and contact details: Dr. Denys Makarov,

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