Stepping stone for brilliant business ideas: Helmholtz to fund three innovative start-ups

Helmholtz supports start-ups in the field of science in bringing new technologies and findings that benefit society to the market faster. One of its funding instruments is the Helmholtz Enterprise program. Over the course of twelve months, the founders receive up to 200,000 euros in funding to turn their business ideas into reality. They also participate in support programs. Since 2005, 182 spin-offs have emerged from the Helmholtz Centers, approximately half of which have been funded by Helmholtz Enterprise. New, promising spin-offs are now ready to launch. Three spin-off projects have been included in the program during the current round of calls.

“Many of our scientists have interesting business ideas,” says Otmar D. Wiestler, President of Helmholtz. “Sometimes they just need a little extra tailwind to develop products or processes that will benefit many people. Among other things, we aim to utilize the Helmholtz Enterprise program to close this gap.” Not only do the young companies then put years of excellent research into practice, they also often create highly qualified jobs and contribute to the welfare of our society. “I am delighted that we can once again support three brilliant ideas and wish the founders every success,” Wiestler continued.
Half of the Helmholtz Enterprise funding comes from the Helmholtz President’s Initiative and Networking Fund, the other half is provided by the Helmholtz Center where the basic technology for the business idea was developed.

The three projects currently being funded are:

1. Accelerating drug development (Axxelera)
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

It currently takes an average of ten years to bring a new drug to market. Only one in every ten candidate active substances that reach the clinical phases is later approved as a drug. Plus the screening technologies that are currently available are no longer up to date. This means that scientists have to limit their investigation of autoimmune diseases, numerous infectious diseases, and cancers to the study of a few hundred or thousand peptides. This produces uncertain and above all incomplete results, since they cannot investigate on the scale necessary to map the complexity of a biological system. Axxelera will be the first to offer 200,000 individual peptides on a single chip. By using these arrays, scientists can eliminate problematic candidate active substances in the earlier stages of development and accelerate drug development.


Clemens von Bojnicic-Kninski

2. More affordable manufacturing of plastic lenses with 3D printing (NPS – Nano Polymer Solutions)
Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

Production of plastic parts is currently made economical primarily by forming processes such as embossing techniques and injection molding. The disadvantage: Component shapes are very limited. Alternatives such as 3D printing offer much greater freedom in shaping but cannot be produced economically in large batches. Nano Polymer Solutions will solve this dilemma by using a combination of shape memory polymers and a modified forming process for production in the new manufacturing process. This will be of particular interest for the production of endoscope lenses. Until now, endoscope lenses have mainly been made of glass and are manually inserted into the objective. NPS can replace this complex procedure. Moreover, it can also be used for many other products.


Dr. Norbert Schneider

3. Precision measurements of electrical resistance (tensor meter)
Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR)

The development of new high-tech materials for microelectronics requires ever more precise measuring methods. While in the past it was enough to just know the resistance of a conductor material as a quantity in ohms, it will become increasingly important to also determine the tensor of the resistance. The resistance tensor consists of several components which form the tensor and describe the preferred direction of conductivity, among other things. At the moment, such measurements are still extremely complex and prone to error. Dr. Tobias Kosub and his team of entrepreneurs have developed the tensor meter, a precision measuring device that is the first of its kind to determine the tensor of electrical resistance with high precision in addition to the electric current and voltage. This is achieved by means of a patented measuring method that uses a switching matrix in the measuring device. The changing internal circuits of the device then lead to the individual components of the resistance tensor being calculated separately, thus compensating for individual measurement errors.


Dr. Tobias Kosub

Helmholtz contributes to solving major challenges facing society, science, and the economy through top-level scientific achievements in six Research Fields: Energy, Earth and Environment, Health, Key Technologies, Matter, and Aeronautics, Space, and Transport. With more than 39,000 employees at 18 Research Centers and an annual budget of around 4.5 billion euros, Helmholtz is the largest scientific organization in Germany. Its work is rooted in the tradition of the great natural scientist Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894).

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