The first meeting of the “Knowledge Transfer Upper Rhine Circle” will take place in December 2020. This measure is part of a work package aimed at structuring the cooperation between the numerous transfer offices in the Upper Rhine region. The aim of the mainly face-to-face meetings will be to get to know the stakeholders from Germany, France and Switzerland better and to exchange ideas and experiences in the context of lectures and discussion rounds on various topics from the field of knowledge and technology transfer, also with regard to cross-border particularities. We spoke with Prof. Dr. Jörg Thietke, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Vice Rector for Research, Innovation and Transfer at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) Lörrach, about his expectations and wishes regarding this exchange format.
Prof. Dr. Jörg Thietke, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Vice Rector for Research, Innovation and Transfer at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) Lörrach. ©DHBW Lörrach
In which form does knowledge and technology transfer take place at DHBW Lörrach so far?
Prof. Thietke: Knowledge and technology transfer takes place in close cooperation with our dual partners, which are mainly small and medium-sized companies from the region. Everyone who studies at the dual university has a training contract with a company. Without exception, the final theses are written in these companies, whereby the content of the topics is determined by the dual partners. This results in a transfer from the university to the companies and back again. Thanks to the contacts and results that arise in the course of the final theses, we can adapt our curriculum, generate new modules and immediately integrate technology trends that are emerging at companies into our teaching. This form of cooperative, applied research is strongly oriented towards the needs of companies, which is reflected in our teaching.
The KTUR Circle is primarily about exchanging ideas with other transfer actors from Germany, France and Switzerland and getting to know each other better. What do you expect for your university from the KTUR Circle meetings?
Prof. Thietke: With the KTUR project, we have set ourselves the goal of developing the Upper Rhine into a highly attractive innovation area. The main focus is on getting to know each other personally and networking with each other. This is particularly interesting for the DHBW. We have had good contacts with some of the project partners for quite some time, for example with the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland or the Université Haute-Alsace. But it is also important for us to establish and expand contacts with other institutions. I myself am of the opinion that cross-border projects can only succeed through personal contacts. If you know other players personally, you can pick up the phone and discuss your concerns. That is very, very important. On the basis of a personal network, it is possible for us to act much better and pursue our common goal. For example, if a company contacts us with a specific question, we can refer them to a university that may be just the right partner for the company.
For us as newcomers in the field of knowledge and technology transfer, it is very interesting to find out how the processes work, for example, at a KIT, so that we can learn a little bit about them. By networking with other transfer actors from the region, a wonderful and very valuable basis for the expansion of our own transfer unit is created. We can profit tremendously from this and learn from each other. In return, our contacts and close partnership with SMEs enable us to provide very concrete and important impulses for the transfer of knowledge to the companies. For example, for the KTUR focus topic continuing training, we can help to find out which topics are currently relevant for companies in the region.
What topics would you like to discuss at the KTUR Circle meetings?
Prof. Thietke: One subject area in which we are quite good and in which we can certainly enter into a technical discussion with the other universities is the area of functional safety or cyber security. We see further starting points in the topics “Entrepreneur”, “Innopreneur” and “Intrapreneur”. In all three terms, we are concerned with the question of how the innovation process can be accelerated in small and medium-sized companies. This is done by providing the employees in companies with budget, time resources and freedom of action in order to establish a small internal start-up. In this way, for example, product ideas can be implemented directly as innovations or the innovation culture in general can be improved. With such start-ups, there is the possibility to drive the technology transfer process from the demand side, i.e. from the company’s point of view. We have already done this at the DHBW with our partners, former students who are involved in such processes.
How would you describe the potential of the KTUR Circle measure for the entire Upper Rhine region?
Prof. Thietke: Many companies have a need for cooperation, but do not know exactly who is the right partner for them. The national border plays a minor role for them. The companies are looking for a professional competence that will help them advance. What is special about the Upper Rhine is the diversity of the players. This results in enormous potential for closer cooperation and networking. For us, this is an opportunity to become even better as a whole region and to promote innovation.