Around 100 interested people from seven countries attended the digital kick-off on October 9, 2020 to learn more about the current status of the KTUR project and the activities planned for the next two years. Among the participants were numerous representatives from industry, stakeholders from the transfer sector, founders and project participants. The project team consisting of 12 university partners from Germany, France and Switzerland used the online conference to present KTUR for the first time to a broad audience and to exchange ideas with its target group. In small groups, the leaders of the work packages provided information about planned measures and gathered feedback from the participants.
The event was opened by Prof. Dr. Thomas Hirth, Vice President for Innovation and International Affairs at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). In his welcoming address, he emphasized the importance of KTUR for the trinational Upper Rhine region, especially concerning current challenges such as the Corona Pandemic, climate change, and the increasing digitalization of all business processes. By promoting (digital) exchange, cooperation and transfer, the KTUR project makes it possible to strengthen the economic power of the Upper Rhine region, to create new jobs and thus increase the region’s competitiveness.
A personal network as the key to successful cooperation
In the second point of the agenda, Dr.-Ing. Jens Fahrenberg, Head of service unit Innovation and Relations Management at KIT, and Dagmar Vössing, head of Technology Transfer at KIT, gave insights into the project results achieved so far and explained what is planned within the KTUR project for the next two years. First, some preliminary work is needed to set the course for more systematic and professional cooperation in the transfer area across the three national borders.
According to Vössing, a key to this lies in the personal interaction of the innovation actors with each other. After all, the better the transfer actors know the approach in the transfer area within the other countries, the easier it is to identify synergy potentials, to develop new transfer formats and to initiate joint projects. For this reason, the first year of the project was dedicated to getting to know each other, analysis and benchmarking. The project team identified both similarities and differences. The latter result mainly from different legal frameworks affecting the transfer sector in Germany, France and Switzerland. During a series of interviews with companies, the team learned, for example, that complicated application procedures are often an obstacle to cross-border cooperation.
One of KTUR’s main goals is to establish a sustainable network that includes all transfer actors – from research and science to intermediaries, start-ups and companies. Fahrenberg and Vössing emphasized that the close and trusting cooperation between the twelve university partners is a core element of this, and is supposed to become the basis for long-term collaboration. Right from the start, all participants agreed to continue working together to promote knowledge and technology transfer in the region even after the end of the project.
Five fields of action for a strong knowledge and technology transfer at the Upper Rhine
The second part of the event focused on the five KTUR fields of action and the activities planned for the future within these fields. The project team presented pilot measures in different virtual rooms. These measures are intended to create the basis for strengthening and improving the transfer of knowledge and technology in a sustainable and long-term manner.
In the first virtual room, the participants focused on the cooperation of the transfer points. In the future, for example, there will be several meetings of the transfer actors of the partner institutions. This will allow them the opportunity to learn more from and about each other and to experience how knowledge and technology transfer works in other institutions and countries.
Advancing cooperation projects digitally
In the second room, people discussed the potential and challenges of setting up a digital information and exchange platform. Universities, industry partners and intermediaries, such as the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, agreed that in particular the Corona pandemic once again demonstrated the importance of making information digitally accessible quickly and easily and of using virtual communication channels. In addition to the content design of the platform, the discussion also focused on how to ensure long-term visibility of the platform and on how already existing platforms could get connected. Furthermore, the question came up how the platform could tackle the language barrier.
Transnational continuing education ensures the transfer into society
The challenge of the different national languages also concerned the visitors of the breakout room “scientific continuing education”. There was a lively exchange regarding the general conditions of cross-border continuing education programs. Furthermore, the necessity was emphasized that offers in the field of continuing education developed within the KTUR project should not only be addressed to companies but also private persons. From the end of 2021 on, a trinational continuing education program will be implemented to transfer the latest research results via education to industry.
Ensuring trinational visibility of start-ups
In the work package “starting a business”, the team elaborates on how start-ups and young entrepreneurs can increasingly learn from each other, network with each other and look beyond national borders. In the exchange with the participants of the event, it turned out that a trinational visibility for start-ups from the region is perceived as a great added value. The potential of trinational start-up teams for the region was also emphasized. Over the next 24 months, there will be events and training offers especially for founders in the regions. In addition, the project partners plan to develop a guideline for founding a company in the Upper Rhine region.
Connecting industry and science at trinational events
In the last room, the participants discussed the topic of innovation events and how companies can get engaged. In addition to a digital platform, which is intended to provide easy access to knowledge and technologies, innovation events provide the opportunity to network and to initiate transfer projects. Over the next two years, there will be smaller transfer events with different thematic focuses that address industry representatives and intermediaries. At the end of the project period, a trinational innovation day with all partners and guests from Germany, France and Switzerland will close the project. But also beyond the project, the partners want to cooperate and continue the initiated activities.
Prof. Dr. Hirth concluded the kick-off event with a short outlook and thanked all project members and participants of the event.