Lack of orders, lack of network, a shortage of money: There are many reasons why startups go bankrupt. To prevent this, the Technology and Innovation Center Giessen (TIG) offers young companies support programs, internal networking and affordable commercial space – and all of this in the economic stronghold of Central Hessen.
Hospitals with environmentally-friendly self-cleaning surfaces? Dr. Klaus Schepers is pursuing exactly this mission with a start-up he founded. His company has brought a special coating onto the market that has a permanent antimicrobial effect: Bacteria, viruses and fungi die in just a few minutes. And this painted coating can be applied to any surface, including wood, metal and plastic. Schepers is Managing Director of Munditia Technologies GmbH (nickname: Munditech). The company produces hygienic coatings for the healthcare sector, such as sterile light switches used in sanitary facilities. “We want to set new standards in hygiene with environmentally-friendly solutions. Our goal is to protect people’s health by using natural resources,” Schepers says.
However, it took several years for their paint to reach market maturity and become established. During this development period, Schepers rented rooms in the Technology and Innovation Center Giessen (TIG) and initially worked as a management consultant in technology.
“The Giessen Technology and Innovation Center was a great help to us, especially in the early days,” he says. Standard rental fees for office and laboratory space initially had put a strain on the start-up when orders were still pending. In the TIG, Schepers benefited not just from the free seminar rooms, low rent and an internal network; Together with the Giessen Business Development Agency, the “TIG Academy” regularly offers further training and seminars. Above all, scientific advice provided by subject-matter experts brought Schepers closer to success, step by step. Merck KGaA also supported his product until it reached market maturity. Next, the Giessen Business Development Agency supported Munditech alongside the development team at “Ab Idee ok!” (Johannes Huebner GmbH Giessen), all of whom were convinced by Scheper’s business idea, all of whom invested in the still young company (read more here). With increasing demand, Munditech’s production requirements increased, and eventually a larger development area had to be built. The company, therefore, was ready to leave the TIG, and it continued to grow. Today, Munditia Technologies GmbH is a globally active company.
The TIG Giessen: room for ideas
While today the company has an international presence, Schepers enjoys discussing his time at the TIG. “The experiences with the on-site start-up network showed me that financial means are not the primary resource to successfully establish a start-up. What’s much more important is a strong network – which is exactly what the TIG offers.” Currently the TIG is bringing together 80 companies from a range of sectors, including healthcare. “People get to know each other, network and easily start conversations with other entrepreneurs in the same industry. This is a great way to go into business,” says Schepers.
Start-ups also benefit from the TIG’s central location in the heart of Germany, good infrastructure and the region’s research and economic strength. Overall, a number of industrial companies, three universities and a university hospital make Central Hessen a hotspot for the healthcare sector. Education, research and industry work hand-in-hand and bring many ground-breaking innovations to the market that achieve global success. This extraordinary interlocking of cooperating institutions is unique, and therefore very promising, for young startups in the industry.
“We have supported around 370 start-ups since the mid-1990s, and we are very proud of this,” reports Antje Bienert, Managing Director of the TIG for almost ten years. “With us, it’s possible to rent a budget-friendly office, laboratory and storage space, even for small units,” she continues. “We will find a suitable solution for everyone.” Schepers also needed a research room for his work at the beginning. In his case, the TIG converted an old shower room into a laboratory. Overall, the TIG is happy to support young entrepreneurs and working with these dynamic, creative minds every day. “Seeing how small start-ups like Munditech become economically successful companies – that’s what we like to see, that’s what drives us,” adds the TIG’s Antje Bienert.
Together with the Mittelhessen University of Technology, the young Giessen-based creative agency ‘flux – impulse’ and other regional partners, the TIG has opened a creative incubator with a linked coworking area in the center of Giessen (www.makerspace-giessen.de), thus launching an open workshop for digital production. In this creative incubator all possibilities for the production of functional prototypes are offered, from 3D printing with robotics and microelectronics through artificial intelligence. In addition, there will be a varied programme covering all aspects of business start-ups, sustainability, technology ethics, didactics, art, virtual reality and medical technology. “We want to continue to promote innovative ideas and support them in making start-up dreams come true,” says Bienert.
Eyes are the mirror to the soul – and to health
Eyes can tell a lot about people: What they think, what they feel – and even whether they suffer from a neurodegenerative disease such as Parkinson’s. This diagnostic breakthrough is the work of Giessen-based Thomas RECORDING, which has a long history of successful start-up partnerships in the TIG. Until recently, doctors made a Parkinson’s diagnosis based on their recognition of certain physical symptoms in patients (slower movements, stiff muscles that tremble at rest and lack of stability in upright posture) and excluding other possible causes.
However, this method means it is then too late to treat Parkinson’s effectively. Together with researchers from the Philipps University Marburg, Thomas RECORDING GmbH is working on the development of a novel neuromedical diagnostic system in the DIADEM project, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). With the help of eye-tracking, many brain-based diseases like Parkinson’s can be detected at a very early stage – they can partly be recognized before the first symptoms appear. In the Thomas RECORDING process, tablet computers measure eye movements. The resulting data supports physicians in their diagnosis.
Technologie- und Innovationszentrum Gießen GmbH
The Giessen Technology and Innovation Center (TIG) was founded in 1999 with the aim of supporting young and regional companies. TIG emerged from the Start-up Center, Giessen, (Gründerzentrum Gießen), which was founded in 1996. Since TIG’s launch, TIG has been a stellar success: 350 start-ups and young companies have already successfully used TIG’s consulting services as well as office and laboratory space. Headquartered in the Giessen Eurpean Quarter, TIG currently has 90 innovators spaced across 6,000 square meters.