How knowledge and new technologies find their way into business and society

On the Golm Campus of the University of Potsdam in the Potsdam Science Park, research and development is carried out and innovative ideas are developed. Transferring the resulting knowledge and new technologies into the economy and society at large is the task of the team from Potsdam Transfer, the center for startups, innovation, knowledge and technology transfer at the University of Potsdam. Sascha Thormann is the Managing Director of the institution and reports in an interview about his experiences with Potsdam Transfer and impressive startup ideas.

Mr. Thormann, how did you come to Potsdam Transfer?

I studied biosystems engineering and bioinformatics, then worked for three years as a project manager in the field of process engineering and finally came to Potsdam Transfer through the advanced training program of the University of Potsdam. I started as a Technology Scout and then became Head of the Transfer Service of Potsdam Transfer. During this time, I was able to build up a large network within the university, with other science partners and in the economy as well as with innovation supporters, a network I continuously expand in my current position as Managing Director of Potsdam Transfer.

What do you like most about your work?

Quite simply: the diversity. I work with students, scientists, professors and the business community. I also enjoy being able to achieve great things by initiating new projects and supporting innovative ideas.

What was the moment that excited you the most personally so far?

The best moment as an employee for Potsdam Transfer was the development of our transfer strategy. It was the first time that the potential of transfer – from the university to the economy and society – became visible. For me personally, it was a very special experience to work together with all stakeholders and in many workshops on this major project . What we have developed together is groundbreaking for the transfer of knowledge and technology as well as for new transfer projects.

What exactly does the term knowledge and technology transfer mean?

At the University of Potsdam, research results with application potential are to be transferred to the economy and society. For example, newly developed materials and techniques are integrated into existing products on the market or newly researched knowledge is transferred to education and society. A research result can also develop into a business idea. In this way, scientists become founders and a startup is created.

Is there a particular founder story that you still remember fondly today?

First of all, I have to say that really all startup stories are exciting and impressive. One example that I remember with pleasure is the founding of visionYOU. The creative agency would like to redesign the topic of education and, for example, introduce students to virtual trade professions. Increasing the attractiveness of these professions has great social relevance. An absolutely great founding project, which was created here in Potsdam-Golm and which I find very worthy of support.

Why does it need its own institution?

So much is researched, developed and taught at the University of Potsdam from which the whole of society can benefit. However, the path to practical application is complex. Potsdam Transfer covers all areas of transfer and accompanies the scientists and founders in every single part of this process. We regularly ask for the latest scientific results and provide information on funding and intellectual property rights. We help with the preparation of applications and provide qualified support to founders with our ownaccelerator program. As already mentioned, Potsdam Transfer has a valuable network and partners with whom we guarantee a comprehensive transfer value creation process.

What kind of support do you provide at the University of Potsdam?

We offer scientists and founders a holistic approach based on four pillars. The first pillar is the Transfer Service, which includes the identification of applicable knowledge and technologies. The Transfer Service also takes care of appearances at trade fairs, invention disclosures and intellectual property rights and also initiates transfer projects. The second pillar is the Start-up Service, which helps to implement promising startup ideas and supports founders with extensive coaching services, information on financing possibilities, infrastructure and networks. The third pillar, the Innovative Hochschule Potsdam, is intended to promote the university’s climate of innovation and initially focuses primarily on teacher training, the natural sciences and opening the university to the public. The fourth pillar consists of educational opportunities with further education measures, such as our MBA programs. In summary, one could say that we are a kind of motor for the economy: By promoting transfer and startups, we strengthen the business community and support society with knowledge that might otherwise be forgotten in the drawers of scientists.

And how relevant is the Potsdam Science Park as a location for your daily work?

First of all: The distances are short, both literally and figuratively. Business and science are so close together here that a bridge can be quickly built between research results and their application. The exchange of ideas is possible on a personal level, and the synergy effects of joint projects are high. People from the most diverse disciplines come together and develop a piece of the future together. In addition, the Potsdam Science Park has great potential due to the available free space: even with the construction projects already planned, there is still plenty of capacity for further startups. In Potsdam-Golm, a lively location has thus been created that can grow with its findings. That’s something special – and only about 30 minutes from Berlin.

Many thanks for the interview, Mr. Thormann

Photo: Sascha Thormann

This blog is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the State of Brandenburg.


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