VIP+ Innovation Conference 2019
On March 26, 2019, the 3rd VIP+ Innovation Conference took place at the Kalkscheune in Berlin. The aim of the conference was to stimulate the idea of transfer in the scientific institutions and to inform and discuss about chances and hurdles of exploitation channels. The Innovation Conference is at the same time an important platform to stimulate exchange between the funded projects and to present the measure to a broader public.
More than 200 participants from universities, non-university research institutions and companies accepted the invitation and exchanged views on the topics of validation and exploitation of research results and the VIP+ funding measure. The conference was opened by the Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Dr. Michael Meister. In his speech, Dr. Meister emphasized that the transfer of results from our excellent basic research into application and exploitation is an essential step in exploiting the innovation potential in Germany to an even greater extent. “Today more than ever, the transfer of ideas, knowledge and technologies from research to application and utilization is a political, social and economic necessity. Only with a well-functioning transfer of ideas, knowledge and technology can prosperity and competitiveness be secured in Germany in the long term.” VIP+ is a key element of transfer funding. He appealed once again to all participants of the conference to continue the noticeable cultural change in science, towards more transfer awareness and also more openness in dealing with knowledge.
VIP+ VALIDATION AWARD
Three already completed VIP projects, which succeeded particularly well in the transfer of excellent basic research and whose utilization was particularly convincing, were awarded the VIP+ Validation Prize by Dr. Meister.
1st place – ARES
First place went to the “ARES” project of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, the University of Bonn and the University of Rostock, in which it was shown that the worldwide consumption of marine fuel can be greatly reduced in the future with the help of a natural phenomenon. The project partners used the so-called “salvinia effect” – the ability of a floating fern to permanently maintain a layer of air under water. Ship hulls can be covered with an air envelope that reduces surface friction between the hull and the water. Emissions from shipping can thus be reduced by over 10 percent. The project was able to contribute its results to the EU AIRCOAT project, in which the new surface material is now being tested in practice in cooperation with shipping companies.
2nd place – NAMPAR
The 2nd place went to the project “NAMPAR” of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin – Klinik für Anästhesiologie. The project successfully validated a new mechanism of action for pain therapy. It is said not to cause side effects such as dependence, fatigue and nausea – unlike the mechanisms of action of conventional painkillers. This could revolutionize pain therapy in the future. The parties involved in the project are currently negotiating the corresponding licenses.
3rd place – EXTassay
Third place went to the “EXTassay” project of the Max Planck Institute for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen for the successful validation of an innovative method that can be used to determine substances on a large number of targets in parallel in a single measurement. This will enable drugs to be developed much faster and much more cost-effectively in the future compared to existing processes. The results from VIP+ have led to the foundation of Systasy Bioscience GmbH via the EXIST start-up program. Today the company has 10 employees.
The validation projects “ARES”, “NAMPAR” and “EXTassay” were awarded the 2019 Validation Award by State Secretary Dr. Michael Meister.© VDI/VDE-IT
Exchange of words
Dr. Michael Meister met with Prof. Dr. Birgitta Wolff, President of Goethe University Frankfurt am Main and member of the High-Tech Forum on the German government’s High-Tech Strategy 2025, and Dr. Thomas Koenen, Head of the Digitalization and Innovation Department at the Federation of German Industries (BDI), in an “exchange of words” on the topic of “Effective utilization and application – is there anything missing?
In the discussion, all participants were in favor of supporting and intensifying the cultural change toward more transfer awareness and openness. The testing of new forms of cooperation and exchange, the opening up of classic partnership models and structures, and the development of competencies in transfer is a guiding principle of the BMBF for research and education alike, Meister said. Meister said universities are called upon to make contributions to the development of the social, cultural and economic environment and thus assume responsibility for regional development. According to Wolff, transfer has a different status today, even at universities. The so-called Third Mission has already made great inroads in the institutes, he said. Nevertheless, it has not yet been possible to establish mechanisms that direct attention to exploitation potential as early as the start of research. Dr. Koenen particularly urged that SMEs be given an even stronger focus in the transfer process and that networking at the regional level be further promoted. In particular, their innovative capacity would be of crucial importance for Germany.
The #VIP+UP! exhibition presented 12 ongoing and completed validation projects. The exhibition underscored the thematic openness of the measure and showed the extraordinary range of recycling potentials. Mr. Meister was able to get a direct impression of the practicality of the projects.
In addition to the three award-winning projects “ARES”, “NAMPAR ” and “EXTassay”, other exciting validation projects that have already been successfully exploited were presented here. For example, the completed VIP project “Biolas.exe” with its bionic approach impressively demonstrated how the surface of lizards can be used for technical applications. The bionic surfaces can be used on bearings, shafts or sealing rings, for example, to better distribute fluids such as oils, lubricants or coolants and reduce wear on pumps and motors.
The ongoing VIP+ project “T-Paper” presented their innovative speakers made of paper to the visitors of the exhibition. In the future, these are not only to be used for the so-called T-Book – a picture book that adds sounds and speech to the images when the pages are turned – but are also to be integrated into cars, as the innovative technology is very thin, flexible, light as a feather and thus easy to integrate.
The VIP project “Cleansight” also impressed visitors with their innovative screening platform for identifying effective agents for the treatment of retinal diseases. Currently, the VIP+ project is still in the validation phase, but the results give hope for a very successful exploitation in the form of out-licensing of the drug candidates.
The VIP+ project “NASIKA” presented an innovative night vision camera for automotive applications in the exhibition, which in contrast to conventional camera systems can also provide high-resolution images at night. In the future, this should significantly improve driving comfort and help to increase road safety in critical driving situations.
The scientists around the ongoing VIP+ project “AngioAccel” demonstrated their “heart pants” to the auditorium. With the help of ECG-controlled leg cuffs, they impressively demonstrated how blood flow to the legs can be increased, thus counteracting circulatory disorders. The scientists’ goal for the future is to improve the quality of life of patients with pathological circulatory disorders and thus also reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Since the fall of 2018, there is a new definition of the kilogram, which has as its basis an invariant natural constant – the so-called Planck’s quantum of action h. Based on this redefinition of the kilogram, the scientists of the ongoing VIP+ project “Planck Balance” presented a novel balance that directly relates to the new world standard.
In the already completed VIP+ project “Polyrotaxane Paint,” researchers have developed a self-healing automotive paint made from corn starch that is capable of self-repairing small scratches through heat. The scientists presented the innovative automotive paint at the exhibition and are currently planning larger-scale production in cooperation with interested companies.
Scientists are currently validating an “app store for the Internet of Things” in the VIP+ project “RAPstore”. The goal is to network objects (e.g., household appliances or means of transportation) with the Internet. At the VIP+ Innovation Conference, visitors to the exhibition were able to obtain a great deal of interesting information on this exciting subject area and take a closer look at the “RAPstore” project in a short film presentation.
The VIP+ project “ArgumenText” presented their “Joint-Modeling-Method” for the automatic analysis of texts in English at the innovation conference. “journalism” and “purchasing decisions” is tested for the German language. The text mining software resulting from the project is capable of extracting pro and con arguments from text sources in real time and thus making them available to users as a basis for decision-making.
Funding advice and sessions
Parallel to the conference and the exhibition, consultative one-on-one meetings were held with the project sponsor VDI/VDE-IT on the VIP+ measure. The Federal Government’s Research and Innovation Funding Advisory Service was also on site and the point of contact for all questions about other federal and state funding opportunities.
Session 1: “The importance of standardization for knowledge transfer and exploitation”.
What role do norms and standards play in the successful transfer of knowledge and technology? To this end, five presentations were offered to provide practical insights.
Dr. Axel Mangelsdorf from the VDI/VDE IT project management organization introduced the topic by first presenting the standards system and outlining the economic functions of standards and norms and the various processes involved in their creation. The subsequent keynote speech by Dr. Stephan Gauch, who works on social science issues in standardization research at the Humboldt University in Berlin, made it clear that standards are not only a channel for the transfer of knowledge from research to application, but also play an important role in the transition from basic research. Similarly, standardization bodies are places where science and application come together and collaborations find their start. Using the mp3 standard as an example, Dr. Gauch showed how research results from applied research gain worldwide significance through standardization.
In the presentation by Petra Weiler from the project sponsor VDI/VDE IT, the session participants were shown the differences between standardization and standardization, as well as the benefits of participation in standardization and the advantages of using standards. Using examples from validation funding, it shows the possibilities for promoting standardization activities within the framework of the funding measures and how further promotion of standardization activities through the WIPANO funding program “Knowledge and Technology Transfer through Patents and Standards” could look.
The importance of standardization for the transfer of knowledge in completed and ongoing VIP/VIP+ projects was then presented in two presentations. In the completed project Geruchsradar – Validation of a Measurement System for Localization and Quantification of Diffuse Sources of Odors – project leader Dr. Helko Borsdorf from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research showed in which standardization committees the project participants are currently active. It also became clear what specific role VIP+ innovation mentors can play here. Dr. Christian Rothleitner from the Physikalisch Technische Bundesanstalt Braunschweig presented the ongoing VIP+ project Planck scale – Self-calibrating precision scales for industrial use. In his presentation, Dr. Rothleitner made it clear that the redefinition of the kilogram by international standardization is a decisive basis for the development of the Planck balance.
Session 2: “Exploitation in the Life Sciences: When and with what funding?”
In the session “Utilization in the life sciences: When and with which funding?”, Dr. Stefanie Possekel, Director of Technology Management at Ascenion GmbH, first gave the auditorium valuable hints and tips for a successful path to exploitation on the topic of “Stirrups for the exploitation of translational projects”. She emphasized that it is especially important not to go this often very rocky road alone and that it is essential to seek support. This support can be provided, for example, by expert networks, by start-up coaches or by making use of various offers from regulatory authorities. In addition, Dr. Possekel made it very clear how important it is, especially in the life sciences, to seek funding opportunities early on and not to rely on your project being so great and everything running all by itself. The ensuing discussion then focused primarily on the question of the optimal time to file patents. It is often important in the field of life sciences that the patent application is not filed too early, as the development time for new medications is usually lengthy and the protection of a patent (with exceptions) is only 20 years from the filing date. Therefore, it often happens that a new innovative medication has been fully developed, but pharmaceutical companies show little interest because the corresponding patent is no longer valid for long or the patent claim has already expired. In the following presentation, Dr. Chris Rehse used the example of the spin-off of Magdeburger Neotiv GmbH to explain the procedure for a spin-off. The Neotiv GmbH team, which consists of scientists, software developers and physicians, is currently developing a mobile app for smartphones and tablets that enables long-term monitoring of memory with regular tests. Dr. Rehse emphasized how important it is to build up a large network and to think about financing possibilities in good time.
In the subsequent “matchmaking”, the participants from the life sciences had the opportunity to meet specifically with representatives of other VIP+ projects and other guests of the conference and to exchange views and talk about their respective experiences in interesting discussions on the topics of utilization and transfer. The talks had been organized in advance by the project sponsor so that all participants in the on-site matchmaking could then meet their interlocutors at the set times. The format was very positively received by the participants overall. Several attendees at the meeting reported that the matchmaking provided them with very helpful, new contacts.
Session 3: “The innovation mentor and the innovation mentor -a special species?”
In this session, a panel discussion was held to jointly discuss what actually makes a good innovation mentor, what experience this person should bring to the table, and why the innovation mentor function is so important in a VIP+ project. To this end, Dr. Oliver Pieper from the BMBF first gave a brief introduction on what the role of the innovation mentor should be from the perspective of the unit responsible for the VIP+ funding measure. In this context, Dr. Pieper emphasized that the search for mentors should involve people who, on the one hand, have knowledge of the industry and the market, but at the same time act neutrally and without any economic self-interest. This often poses a particular challenge in the search for candidates. In addition, the innovation mentor for the VIP+ project should work on a voluntary basis (in some cases with compensation for expenses) and not come from the close environment of the research team. The experience that innovation mentors have already had with validation projects was explained to the participants by Mr. Holger Meinel as innovation mentor in the VIP+ project Radarglass and Dr. Claas Junghans from the Albipharm project. Meinel clearly explained the influence of the mentor to achieve the technical project goals and milestones. In particular, aspects of cost and risk assessment, feasibility to product, and securing IP and exploitation strategies are critical points of a project where the mentor has a central role to play in making the project a success. Dr. Claas Junghans, as a patent attorney, explained to the auditorium pictorially that the role of the innovation mentor is a bit like “driving a Carrera track”, i.e. the innovation mentor has to step on the gas in the right places, but also brake in the right places.
Session 4: Session IV From start to finish – what to consider with VIP+?
In Session IV, the participants had the opportunity to inform themselves about all essential points concerning the VIP+ funding measure. From general information and explanations of the term “validation” to concrete advice on the application process and project support to special features for those interested in funding and projects from the humanities, cultural sciences and social sciences (GSK), the participants were given a comprehensive impression of the measure and how it fits into the technology transfer process.
Dr. Heinze from the project management organization VDI/VDE-IT once again emphasized in the introductory presentation that the focus of validation funding is on the possible later usability of the targeted innovation, which is why particular importance should be attached to the development of a good and plausible exploitation concept. Miriam Kreibich from the project management organization once again pointed out the great challenge of GSK projects to develop a concrete exploitation idea and also to outline the validation project in such a way that application potentials are presented in an understandable and comprehensible way for the VIP+ expert group. The handout for GSK projects, which can be found on the Validation Funding website, should provide some guidance here.
There was also great interest in the presentations on the topic of “Commercial-administrative project requirements”, the content of which was divided into two sub-presentations on “Tips for submitting applications” and “Good practices during project implementation through to project completion”. In the first presentation by Mr. Michael Bretschneider from the project management organization, practical advice was given on how to submit the application (see slides) as well as explanations on what should be considered when calculating the individual items in the application and which documents and confirmations should be submitted in writing as a supplement to the application. The second part of the presentation by Stephanie Lenz from VDI/VDE-IT focused on clarifying and answering questions that often arise during the project. Best practice examples were also presented here (see slides). The subsequent round of questions showed that commercial and administrative requirements in particular are often a hurdle for the project participants, as there is little available knowledge in the facilities to fall back on. Concrete examples of good practice were therefore felt to be particularly helpful.
The next VIP+ Innovation Conference is planned for spring 2021.