New technology-oriented businesses that are based on knowledge constitute a particularly valuable channel for knowledge and technology transfer.
Employees at Helmholtz Centers often form new businesses on the basis of their know-how and license agreements. These spin-offs often sign user agreements that enable them to make use of the Centers' large-scale infrastructure to work on further product development. Sometimes the respective Helmholtz Centers get involved in the new companies. This enables spin-offs to save money on licenses and the use of equipment and lets the Centre participate in the company’s growth and commercial success.
Osteolabs is the first spin-off from GEOMAR and is already an award-winner. A successful example of cooperation between industry and science. Osteolabs, funded by the Validation Fund and Helmholtz Enterprise, is the first radiation-free early detection method for osteoporosis. The OsteoTest is carried out by the doctor or simply from home and sent to the laboratory. The reliability of the procedure has been medically and scientifically confirmed.
The OsteoTest has already received several awards. In 2020 even twice by the EARTO Innovation Awards and the Prof. Dr. Werner-Petersen-Foundation.
The fight against label fraud
Forschungszentrum Jülich spin-off provides hard facts about where food comes from
In a world of international commodity flows, it is important to have a reliable way of tracking where our food comes from. A scientific method for establishing this was discovered in the 1980s by Hilmar Förstel at what is now Forschungszentrum Jülich. Using wine as the basis for his research, he found that the grapes contained different variations, known as isotopes, of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon in different concentrations, depending on the composition of the soil, water and air. This distribution of isotopes can act like a fingerprint and can give the food characteristics typical of where it comes from. The result of Förstel’s research was a database containing the isotope distributions of a variety of wine cultivating regions. The technique that worked so well with wine was easily transferrable to other food products and so in 2002 the company Agroisolab was founded. It quickly established itself as many sectors were keen to know the origins of their products for example, of beef during the BSE crisis or of rare tropical woods for the protection of the rainforest. In 2008, Agroisolab was awarded the Innovation Prize for the Aachen region for its strong growth. In early 2009, TÜV Rhineland took a majority stake in Agroisolab and opened one of the biggest laboratory centers of its kind in Jülich.
Starting up a spin-off: A fictional example from KIT
Many successful spin-offs by Helmholtz scientists have shown how technologies can be brought onto the market. Bringing research findings into the commercial sphere requires careful planning, and the technology transfer points and Helmholtz Enterprise can provide invaluable support in this. This animation produced by KIT illustrates how to start up a spin-off, taking a fictitious researcher at the institute as an example. (In German)
Gründen am KIT - WissenschaflerInnen
Prizes and contests
It is essential for spin-offs to participate in start-up competitions to build credibility. Every year, spin-offs of the Helmholtz Association are among the winners of important and well-known competitions.