Innovations often arise at the interface between different perspectives and disciplines. A new project by the Fraunhofer IAO called the “knowledge triangle” 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.
Technology start-ups play an important role in promoting all facets of new technologies and the transfer of research to society more generally. Spin-offs from research organisations 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 interface between technology, market and design.
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, and within a six month period. 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.