Research for transdisciplinary start-up teams

Research for transdisciplinary start-up teams
Foto: © Fraunhofer CeRRi


“Knowledge triangle” project integrates technology, market and design know-how

Innovations generally arise at the interfaces between different perspectives and disciplines. In the “knowledge triangle” project, Fraunhofer IAO is working with teams behind high-tech start-ups to test how combining the three disciplines of science and technology, business, and design can aid the development of viable and sustainable business models.

High-tech start-ups play an important role in promoting all facets of new technologies and the transfer of research to society. Spin-offs from research organizations often lack innovative business models and market knowledge. Positioning new technologies in the market requires economically viable and technologically feasible products and services, which in turn calls for competencies at the interfaces between technology, market and design.

Translating ideas to business plans

As part of the “knowledge triangle” research project, Fraunhofer IAO has developed and tested an innovative process model that can help assemble a transdisciplinary start-up team and evolve technology-driven start-up ideas into business plans – all within six months. This provides a way for high-tech start-ups to tap the potential of transdisciplinary collaboration.

The approach was tested on a pilot basis with 30 participants from the disciplines of science and technology, business, and design. First, the participants applied a predefined method to develop nine technology-driven business ideas and formed start-up teams, within which they continued to refine their ideas. The prerequisite was that each team had to pool expertise from all three disciplines. Then came a four-month conception phase in which the teams fleshed out viable business and technology concepts for their ideas. They were supported by experienced business coaches and technology experts from the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. Following a final pitch, the two most successful start-up teams won through and are now being assisted in the development of technological prototypes.

Alternative ideas to antibiotic treatments and plastic products

The “lumibact” start-up team is developing a new method to treat superficial infections with blue light. The goal is to offer a gentle alternative to antibiotic treatments and thereby reduce the formation of multi-resistant germs. The first field of application is the treatment of vaginal infections.

The “Mycovation” start-up team is developing a biodegradable material made out of plant-based raw materials and fungus mycelium. The material – which is flame retardant, ultralight and has insulating properties – can replace various polystyrene and plastic products. In a first step, it is being launched as a modular acoustic element with a modern look for interior design. Both the winning teams are currently participating in the Fraunhofer FDays® development program run by Fraunhofer Venture.

The “knowledge triangle” project approach can also be applied to established companies looking for new business models and innovative products.