New Chemistry Lab for Start-ups
Inauguration of the Inkulab at the TU Berlin’s Charlottenburg Campus
On 25 January 2017 the Inkulab – a laboratory container system, fully equipped with a ventilation system, and laboratory and safety facilities – was inaugurated at the TU Berlin’s Charlottenburg Campus. It provides tailor-made infrastructure for start-ups working in the natural sciences.
The Inkulab was founded by the Innovation-Center Berlin Management GmbH (IZBM, now part of WISTA-MANAGEMENT GMBH), the Center for Entrepreneurship of the TU Berlin, the Cluster of Excellence, UniCat, and DexLeChem GmbH – a UniCat start-up brought to life through the Charlottenburg Innovation-Center (CHIC). The contract to build Inkulab, a specially designed laboratory container system meeting laboratory requirements was awarded to THIEMT GmbH.
Inkulab supports the start towards entrepreneurial independence. It offers free lab workplaces and an accompanying incubation program for start-ups with an innovative business idea in life sciences, green chemistry, and nanotechnology. It is aimed at university graduates, who have achieved economically viable research results at Berlin universities, that want to found a company, and need appropriate laboratory capacity.
GelTouch Technologies, Nano-Join GmbH, and Smarterials Technology GmbH are the first three research teams that will use the Inkulab. They are working on the development of a smart programmable interface for the creation of tactile buttons for touch screens (GelTouch Technologies), pressureless nano sintered pastes for assembly and connection technology (Nano-Join GmbH) and safety-optimized gloves for the operating room (Smarterials Technology GmbH).
Gap closed in the infrastructure for Berlin’s entrepreneurs
The Inkulab closes a gap in the technology transfer between research and development of market-ready products and services in the early start-up phase of companies. "In contrast to start-ups from the IT industry, companies that are founded in natural sciences often need a complex infrastructure," explains UniCat Professor Dr. Reinhard Schomäcker from the Institute of Chemistry of the TU Berlin, who has decisively advanced the project idea.
However, the research infrastructure of the universities is well-utilized. Thus, potential start-ups often don’t get off the ground. Once they have established a company, they are no longer eligible to use the university laboratories. This is where the idea behind Inkulab comes in. It does not rely on existing infrastructure, rather it had a laboratory built. This lab is adapted to the needs of entrepreneurs.
Berlin’s business sector was so impressed by the Inkulab plan that it supported the project within the scope of the IHK-education projects with approximately one million euros. Dr. Constantin Terton, from Berlin Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK Berlin) said: "For the Berlin economy, the project is a very good and important building block in the funding spectrum for even more attractive university start-ups. We are impressed primarily by the link to the Cluster of Excellence UniCat, but also by the fact that this practically closes an existing gap in Berlin’s infrastructure for entrepreneurs. The Inkulab is a win for the German start-up capital, Berlin, and its economy."
The Inkulab project not only provides the start-ups with laboratory workplaces, but also provides a professional advisor for their start-up phase. A dozen interested parties have already registered. "We have evaluated whether they fit into the concept, both in regards to the technical requirements and the commercial aspirations. We are delighted that the three selected start-up teams can now begin work in the Inkulab," explained project manager Ralph Langanke from WISTA-MANAGEMENT GMBH. "The demand confirms our concept."
"The support of start-ups is a very important concern for the TU Berlin, not least because company start-ups from universities are an important economic factor. This is borne out by the recently released results from a round of surveys around start-ups conducted in nine universities in the Berlin metropolitan area. According to this, Berlin university start-ups created 22,000 jobs and generated 3 billion euros in 2015. I am delighted that through the Inkulab our location is now providing particular support for start-ups in the fields of chemistry and life sciences,” emphasized Prof. Christian Thomsen, President of TU Berlin.