Technology Transfer Managers support companies in their search for partners
SMEs, already exposed to increasing levels of global competition, are under immense pressure to innovate. One way to help companies boost innovation is to find effective ways to transfer technology. But turning innovative concepts into reality is not as easy as it sounds. This is where it helps to have professional partners at your side. Such help has been available in Baden-Wuerttemberg since 2011 in the form of Technology Transfer Managers, whose role is to support companies in their search for funding and project partners, some of whom could be experts from the Steinbeis Network. TRANSFER magazine talked to Stefanie Rau, a Technology Transfer Manager at the Stuttgart Region Chamber of Commerce and Industry, about this service.
Hello Ms. Rau. What exactly are the Baden-Wuerttemberg Technology Transfer Managers?
Stefanie Rau: They’re financed by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing through funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). They give neutral and confidential support to companies in their search for collaboration partners. With close ties to regional universities, institutes, research-related institutions, business organizations, and associations – as well as craft and commercial enterprises – there’s always a suitable partner out there for them.
What exactly happens next, once a company’s found a suitable partner?
The Technology Transfer Managers help line up initial meetings and identify funding for any research and development projects that come up, or they provide advice on intellectual property rights for any products that are developed.
Can you give us an example of such a partnership project in practice?
There are lots of examples, but I’ll describe just one of them. It’s common for companies to give up on innovative ideas, either because they don’t have the right know-how or because there’s simply not enough time to follow up on an idea. That was also the case with Alexander Weng from ESR Systemtechnik GmbH, an automation engineering specialist from Fellbach. It was difficult for him to put time aside to realize his idea on top of day-to-day business. So he approached Ramon Rank, a Technology Transfer Manager and a colleague of mine, to move his idea to the next level and see if he could load his data onto some machines via OPC-UA, an open data exchange standard. Rank did some research into suitable partners and got in touch with Professor Karl-Heinz Kayser at Transfer Platform Industry 4.0, a Steinbeis Innovation Center at Esslingen University of Applied Sciences. He also helped him apply to the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg for an innovation voucher (Level A) for a joint project – and everything was ready to go. His first project showed that the transmission concept met all the requirements for sharing control configuration data, so this allowed the project partners to finally get on with developing a prototype with the backing of the next innovation voucher, Level B. His prototype is now in use at ESR and is undergoing further development.
Suppose a company needs supports with an idea right now. Where can it find the contact details of the Technology Transfer Managers?
The Technology Transfer Managers are based at 14 different sponsoring organizations, but they’ve had a joint website since 2020: www.ttm-bw.de. The website makes it easy for any company to work out who to get in touch with. If you’d like to receive regular bulletins, you’ll also find the Technology Transfer Managers on Twitter at @technologie_bw, or on LinkedIn and XING in a group called Kooperationen für Innovationen, which is open to anyone who’s interested.
Aside from contact brokering and researching funding options, are there any other areas the Technology Transfer Managers can help with?
The new website has an area where the Technology Transfer Managers provide information on current technology topics, funding programs, and events. For example, there are events for companies to find out more about the specialist know-how and infrastructures at research facilities working on certain application scenarios, or you can find out about current developments in a variety of fields of technology, or new production techniques and manufacturing technology. In addition, the Technology Transfer Managers also oversee a large number of networks used by companies to exchange information and provide each other with support. The website has a news section which is updated regularly with information on the latest research findings.