Dr. Anne Hartwig ist wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin im innoFSPEC-Transferlabor. © Kevin Ryl | ZIM Universität Potsdam 2023

3 questions with the innoFSPEC transfer lab: »Cutting-edge research does not find its way into practice naturally. Its transfer has to be fostered.«

The innoFSPEC transfer lab is dedicated to transferring knowledge from science to industry. At the lab, researchers and innovation departments of industrial companies meet to jointly test and further develop the application of latest research results, as well as to bring new products and technologies to market maturity. In our interview, research associate Dr. Anne Hartwig explains why the lab is so important, what transfer achievements it has been able to tackle since its foundation in 2022 and why the Potsdam Science Park is exactly the right location for it.

Dr. Hartwig, unlike research and service laboratories or joint labs, the innoFSPEC transfer lab is primarily dedicated to translation, i.e. the transfer of the latest scientific findings from the University of Potsdam to practical applications. Why is such a laboratory so important?

Cutting-edge research does not find its way into practice naturally. Its transfer has to be fostered. Not all researchers are born founders, just as entrepreneurs don’t necessarily have to understand their own product down to the last technical detail. There is a hurdle between academics and business, and that’s fine. But it also means that we need to get involved in order to connect both sides productively.

With its establishment of the professorship for Transfer of Knowledge and Technology in 2022, the University of Potsdam is the first in Germany to institutionalize the matter of transfer at the academic level. With the innoFSPEC transfer lab, we are furthering this initiative. Our services are primarily aimed at researchers from the faculty of science at the University of Potsdam. We also seek contact with other academic institutions and start-ups. With us, they can test the results of their work, develop them further and bring new products and technologies to market maturity. To this end, we offer them our laboratory capacities, as well as our knowledge and our network of relevant companies.

In this way, we make a very individual contribution to realizing and expanding the transfer of knowledge and technology in Potsdam. With our approach, we also distinguish ourselves from pure accelerators, for example, which primarily support start-ups with consulting services and contacts to potential investors, but generally do not run their own laboratories.

What research areas and sectors does your work focus on? What translations is the lab currently initiating?

We are currently supporting researchers from the fields of physical chemistry at the University of Potsdam and the Leibniz Institute for Astrophysics Potsdam in translating their research into practice. Together, we are looking for new applications for a special form of Raman spectroscopy, a method used in physics. It makes it possible to break down radiation according to certain properties such as its wavelength or energy and to analyze its interaction with solids or molecules. To date, this type of spectroscopy has been used almost exclusively in astronomy. Physicists use it to determine the properties of distant celestial bodies, such as their chemical composition or temperature. Our work in the transfer lab shows that this spectroscopy method can also be useful in completely different areas – for example in medicine, where it can help to detect skin cancer more successfully.

In another project, we are enabling the production of a new type of water filter that will be able to capture very small residues of antibiotics that have not yet been filtered out even in modern sewage treatment plants.
With our work, we are thus also helping to discover completely new applications for some tried and tested technologies. The fact that we can help to improve people’s lives in this way is very encouraging.

The innoFSPEC transfer lab is located in the Potsdam Science Park. What advantages does the location offer you for your work?

Due to our close connection with the University’s faculty of science, the Potsdam Science Park was an obvious choice for us, as the faculty is located directly opposite on the other side of the railroad. In addition, the location supports our daily work. Knowledge and technology transfer do not happen and work in isolation, but only withing strong, pre-existing networks. The proximity to the Fraunhofer and Max Planck Institutes, the connection to the local start-up community and the events by the location management, such as the annual PSP Conference, continuously help us to make new connections. The opportunities available to us here as a transfer lab are huge.

Dr Hartwig, thank you for the interview.

This blog and the projects carried out by Standortmanagement Golm GmbH at Potsdam Science Park are funded by the European Union and the Federal State of Brandenburg.