The Research Campuses – 5 Years In

Five Years into the Research Campus Funding Initiative: The “Innovation Hub: Research Campus” Conference

The expert conference hosted by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research at the Kalkscheune venue in the heart of Berlin on 20 September 2018 gathered representatives from the nine funded research campuses, industry, politics, and society to engage in an interactive exchange of ideas.

After five years of joint research activities involving science and industry under a single roof, the nine research campuses celebrated their successful work, discussed the key challenges and shared their visions for the future.

Parliamentary State Secretary Dr. Michael Meister opened the 2018 conference "Innovation Hub: Research Campus"

Parliamentary State Secretary Dr. Michael Meister
Source: Project Management Juelich

“Five successful years under the Research Campus funding initiative: The open innovation culture is a living part of the research campuses and a shining example of application-oriented cooperation between research and industry in Germany. This should spur on all stakeholders to continue to enhance the “Research Campus” brand and strive for high quality standards.”

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Discussing what Makes an Open Innovation Culture

Session moderators wrapped up the results.
(Source: Project Management Juelich)

In three parallel sessions, conference participants shared examples of best practices to address individual aspects of strategic partnerships, the regional impact of the research campuses and the importance of science communication in engaging with a wider public. The session moderators wrapped up the results of their workshops during the afternoon plenary.

Dr. Ralf Ehricht, InfectoGnostics Research Campus (Alere Technologies GmbH/Abbott)

Title: Research and Product Development under the Umbrella of the InfectoGnostics Public-private Partnership Using the Example of Diagnostics for Antibiotic-resistant Bacteria.

The dramatic spread of and increase in antimicrobial resistance in pathogenic microorganisms is one of the biggest challenges we are faced with in today’s increasingly globalized world. The roots of this problem include: growth, industrial agriculture, factory farming, food production, pets, transport, international travel, trade, ageing societies and modern medicine, the inappropriate use of antiobiotics, lack of hygiene, insufficient epidemiological monitoring, low staffing ratios in care, rehabilitation and hospitals, and late diagnosis in combination with the economization of health care processes. A global and trans-sectoral approach is required to halt this dramatic development as it threatens some of the central achievements of modern medicine (unpredictable risks with regard to many surgical procedures and organ or stem cell transplants and related infection prevention). Decentralized diagnostics that inform adequate and targeted treatment are an important part of this approach. It has been known for quite some time that there is a yawning gap in the translation of research results into economically viable, realistic and practical products. Routine diagnostics in different parts of the world show that everyday-life clinical diagnostics continue to be a mere customer of the diagnostics industry and use standards and methods that are mostly based on economic factors instead of facts. The effective translation of research findings into practical clinical products is a challenge that requires, among other things, an understanding of the constraints of the development and approval of industrial products. Public-private partnerships are one example for how we can address these challenges. The InfectoGnostics Research Campus presents specific examples from the field of diagnostics for antibiotic-resistant bacteria that successfully demonstrate this approach.

Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Jens-Jürgen Härtel, Open Hybrid LabFactory Research Campus (VW AG)

Title: Innovation through Strategic Partnerships Exemplified by the Open Hybrid LabFactory (OHLF).

We generally speak of a strategic partnership when two companies work together in structured cooperation to jointly benefit from a given market or be able to respond to customer demands more effectively than they could on their own. Strategic partnerships exist both within and between the public and private sector. A strategic partnership enables not only the sharing of information, know-how and resources but also risk sharing among partners.
Taken together, the partners from science and industry that are involved in the OHLF have all the technological and market competence that is required along the entire development and process chain. They have joined forces to set up this research infrastructure for doing research and development together. An entirely new organizational structure had to be developed to ensure “cooperation on an equal footing” and work on the project in different constellations (publicly funded, private sector-based, bilateral, multilateral). In this vein, the OHLF is a strategic partnership per se – as is the basic idea behind the research campuses.
In addition to this principle of partnership inherent in its structure, the OHLF has forged further strategic partnerships at the national and international level in past years in order to pool additional skills and develop markets. The following are two examples of a national and an international collaboration respectively:

The LENI collaborative project for lightweight construction research in Lower Saxony follows the motto “Car meets plane” and brings together different products, markets and technologies. This leads to the creation of synergies and the minimization of redundancies. The consortium involves some of the major research institutions in Northern Germany that jointly drafted and signed a cooperation agreement and developed some first approaches to a joint structure and collaborative projects.

Our collaboration with the Singapore Institute for Manufacturing Technology (SimTech) of the “Agency of Science, Technology and Research, A*STAR”, the Institute for Frontier Materials and the Carbon Nexus research facility at Deakin University, the University of New South Wales in Australia, and Tongji University in Shanghai had been established during the first main funding phase or had existed even before then. We signed contracts with greater binding force to consolidate this collaboration and lay the foundation for close long-term cooperation during the planning phase of the OHLF-AsiaPacific (OHLF-AP) project within the framework of the Federal Research Ministry’s funding initiative entitled “InterSpiN: Internationalisation of German Leading-Edge Clusters, Forward-Looking Projects, and Comparable Networks”.

Prof. Dr. Reinhard Poprawe, Digital Photonic Production Research Campus (Fraunhofer ILT)

Title: The Digital Photonic Production Research Campus in Aachen as an Example of Stimulating Innovation.

The Digital Photonic Production (DPP) Research Campus aims to create a closed loop to generate sustainable technological innovations in production engineering, Germany’s largest economic sector accounting for 27% of GNP. In the area of photonics, systematic cooperation involving central stakeholders from fundamental and application-oriented research, teaching, vocational education and training, and industry is aimed at condensing innovation processes and increasing their efficiency. Some tangible examples include: additive manufacturing, 3D printing of metal components using laser powder bed fusion (LPBF), and high-precision ablation using ultra-short pulse laser. The buildings that were constructed to host this research were partly privately funded. They accommodate over 20 companies as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT) and representatives of 15 chairs from six faculties of RWTH Aachen University. Their cooperation is based on technology road maps.

Moderator: Andreas Lange

Dr. Klaus Puchta, STIMULATE  Research Campus (Head of Science at the Office of the Lord Mayor of the regional capital of Magdeburg)

Title: STIMULATE  Research Campus – Innovative Medical Technology from Magdeburg.

As the regional capital of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg is a central research hub with a particular focus on engineering. The STIMULATE Research Campus pools research activities in the area of medical technology which is a key field of regional development policy, a priority of the Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg and a driver of development for the city of Magdeburg as well as the surrounding region.
The STIMULATE Research Campus is one of the largest collaborative research facilities in Saxony-Anhalt, bringing together more than 25 national and international SMEs, big companies and research institutions. The projects on minimally invasive surgical procedures involve more than 100 staff from academia and industry. This collaboration paved the way for the establishment of two companies in the region and one new company start-up. STIMULATE also successfully established a Bachelor’s degree course in medical technology, thereby strengthening Magdeburg’s position in this field and the promotion of young talent. Recently concluded cooperation agreements with Harvard Medical School in Boston, United States, and the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel, are evidence of the international interest in this development.
Developing the former city harbour on the river Elbe into a research hub is an important strategy of the capital region of Magdeburg. The STIMULATE Research Campus is helping to breathe life into this long touted idea. A new building to accommodate the STIMULATE facilities and further buildings for industry will lay the foundation for a high-tech campus where research and industry work side by side.

Dipl.-Ing. Peter Froeschle, ARENA2036 Research Campus (ARENA2036 e.V.)

Title: The STARTUPAUTOBAHN Accelerator.

The ARENA2036 Research Campus brings together excellent researchers from academia and industry under a single roof to do research on the future of manufacturing, transport and work, against the backdrop of digital change. The unique culture at the research campus that has developed over the first five years is, for example, characterized by the fact that all stakeholders continuously learn from one another and develop the research campus further. On the one hand, industry can learn from the unbiased approach taken by fundamental researchers and thus take a fresh approach to research outside of the established processes. On the other hand, researchers can benefit from the goal-driven approach and process expertise of industry. The STARTUPAUTOBAHN accelerator complements this interplay. Young business starters learn from researchers and industry, while adding their progressive enthusiasm, undistorted perspective and ability to find alternative solutions. Thanks to these close links between science, industry and start-ups under the umbrella of ARENA2036, novel ideas are developed and implemented locally as well as translated into research and application scenarios.

Peter Froeschle talks about how the collaboration works, presents the STARTUPAUTOBAHN accelerator and illustrates the impact of the network on the entire region.

 Stefan Baur, M2OLIE Research Campus (QIT Systeme GmbH & Co. KG)

Title: Being an SME: Experiences as a Start-up Business within the Research Campus.

What does it mean for a start-up to be neighbours with or even part of a research campus? What does it take to join and stay involved and what are the benefits (or downsides)?
The short presentation illustrates the major motives, outcomes and surprise moments in this interplay between local businesses and research institutions, based on the entirely subjective and limited perspective and interests of our business, while sharing first-hand, hopefully informative experiences.

Moderator: Dr. Nora Vogt (Federal Ministry of Education and Research)

Prof. Dr. Tim Conrad, MODAL Research Campus (ZIB)

Title: Trust your Mathematician! Everyday-life Digital Medicine.

The MedLab at the MODAL Research Campus is all about how digital technology is transforming medicine. We are developing, for example, diagnostic tools that use mathematical methods from the field of artificial intelligence to assist physicians in their daily work.
This presentation will provide insights into what we do. It is specifically about how mathematical methods are being increasingly used in modern medicine, bringing about fundamental changes and the digital transformation of medical care. However, many innovative research findings in this field and their commercial applications tend to unsettle not only the traditional relationship between doctors and their patients but also the self-conception of those involved. This inevitably leads to tension at the societal level – an issue which needs to become part of the public debate as early as possible. I will conclude my presentation with an overview of the opportunities offered by mathematics and the unique structure of the research campus with regard to this process.

Dr. Birgit Böhm, Mobility2Grid Research Campus (TU Berlin)

Title: Approaches to Participation and Knowledge Transfer within the Mobility2Grid Research Campus.

The Mobility2Grid Research Campus develops and realizes sustainable and affordable electricity, heat and transport solutions from renewable energy sources. Our research focuses on using electric vehicles in decentralized energy grids and thereby linking renewable energy with e-mobility, that is to say, linking the transformation of the energy system with the transformation of the transport system. Interconnecting these two sectors requires sound technological solutions as well as a process of societal transformation. The Mobility2Grid Research Campus uses different methods of participation and knowledge transfer to involve various target groups in its interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary work. These methods such as citizen reports, focal groups, symposiums, e-schools, further training modules and Master’s programmes are aimed at sharing knowledge and drawing on the experiences and expectations of those involved to increase information and strengthen the acceptance of innovative approaches to interlinking the transformation of the energy sector and the decarbonization of the transport sector. The presentation presents experiences with different formats and highlights successful approaches and challenges.

Prof. Dr. Eva-Maria Jakobs, Flexible Electrical Networks Research Campus (RWTH Aachen)

Title: Achieving Transparency through Communication: What the Public Wants to know about Large-scale Research Projects.

Large-scale research projects do not take place in a vacuum but – predominantly – in an urban environment. More and more, researchers are using this urban context as a living lab or to gain access to target groups and their perspectives on the development and nature of technological solutions. In return, citizens expect researchers to inform the public about their work and give them the opportunity to take part in current research projects.
On the Flexible Electrical Networks (FEN) Research Campus, we have been investigating whether this is actually the case, what exactly the target groups would like to know about relevant projects, when and how they would like to be informed, and what quality criteria are important to them. The results of the survey give a highly differentiated picture. The interest in and understanding of the topic of energy research varies greatly, depending on the target group, project phase, content and context. However, there is a clear consensus on one aspect: Highly complex research needs to be honest and reliable, well-structured and comprehensible, and it should enable transparency. A true representation of the advantages and disadvantages of technological solutions is considered the most important criterion – for various reasons such as a general lack of trust in politics or the desire to make informed decisions.
In a nutshell: Everybody is talking about energy and the transformation of the energy system, and it is placing high demands on people who are doing communications work in the energy sector.

Moderation: Dr. Dieter Labruier (Project Management Jülich)

1. Research Campus Science Slam

1. Science Slam
(Source: Project Management Juelich)

The expert conference provided the right framework for the final round of the first science slam in the history of the Research Campus funding initiative. Of the fourteen young science slammers who gave an original presentation of their research question on the eve of the final, three made it to the shortlist. These finalists each made a convincing appearance in one of the three categories: “medicine”, “manufacturing” and “energy and mathematical models”.

Ms Insina Lüschen moderated both the preliminary and the final rounds.

Mr Kai Hoppmann (MODAL Research Campus) won the contest with his analogy of the relegation rules in football to explain his research on mathematical formulae, which earned him the highest marks from the expert audience. Ms Johanna Kleinen (ARENA2036 Research Campus) and Dr. Matthias Magdowski (STIMULATE Research Campus) demonstrated humour in likening their work to live-action role play and microwave technology.

The objective of the science slam was to promote networking among young researchers from the various research campuses, increase their visibility among their research community at the conference and kindle public interest in the broad spectrum of topics addressed by the research campuses.

A best-of selection and the individual videos are available on YouTube.

Panel Discussion: “The Research Campus Model – Blueprint for an Open Innovation Culture?”

Panel discussion
(Source: Project Management Juelich)

Panellists representing politics, research and industry discussed whether the research campuses – with their unique asset of successfully uniting science and industry under a single roof and with a solid resource base – could be a model for innovation that gives rise to a new culture of innovation. The panellists were: Mr. Engelbert Beyer (Director for Policy Issues; Innovation at the BMBF), Prof. Dr. Ellen Enkel (Zeppelin University, Friedrichshafen), Prof. Dr. Reinhart Poprawe (DPP Research Campus, Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology), Dr. Stefan Sauer (Managing Director of SICP, Paderborn University), and Dr. Stefan Röll (STIMULATE Research Campus, Neoscan Solutions GmbH). The discussion was moderated by science journalist Andreas Lange.

The panellists agreed that the research campuses’ close and trusting cooperation and wealth of resources could help achieve an open innovation culture, while at the same time being associated with relatively low economic risks. They provide large and small businesses as well as young talents with a platform to establish bilateral and multilateral collaborations aimed at answering holistic research questions – ranging from high-quality fundamental research to applied research – following a transdisciplinary and efficient approach. Moreover, they discussed the issue of transparency in the context of the research campuses and the possibility of conflicts of interest on the part of the companies involved. In this context, joint product development requires clear IP rules – as currently implemented by the research campuses. However, there was also a general consensus on the fact that when we are talking about gradual openness, we have to walk the talk.

The panel concluded that five years after the start of funding, the impact of the research campuses on regional structures continues to grow since the research campuses offer an environment that offers advantages to start-ups and established businesses alike. They also said that the initiative was not only fostering new forms of collaboration but also promoting a new quality of innovation culture.