Precise flow probes and long-lasting energy storage for photovoltaic systems: Katharina Kreitz from Vectoflow and Michael Peither from VoltStorage were honored on Wednesday in Berlin at the "Innovatoren unter 35" competition. Both start-ups are spin-offs of the Technical University of Munich (TUM).
The young talent award "Innovators under 35" is among the most prominent awards for young entrepreneurs. It was launched 18 years ago by the US magazine MIT Technology Review. The German edition of the magazine has now selected promising innovators from Germany for the fifth time, among them the initiators of two TUM spin-offs. The winners are automatically nominated for the international list of 35 innovators under 35.
Katharina Kreitz, Vectoflow GmbH
Katharina Kreitz's idea of founding her own company was born out of exasperation. During her mechanical engineering studies at the TUM with a focus on aerospace technology, she frequently had to deal with flow measurements and was unhappy with the technology deployed in conventional flow sensors. She thus decided to develop her own stable and customizable flow sensors and market them with her own company. The young entrepreneur founded Vectoflow GmbH in April 2015 together with Dr. Christian Haigermoser, also a TUM graduate. The mechanical engineer Florian Wehner is the third partner.
There is substantial demand for accurate flow probes. Car manufacturers, for example, install the probes when investigating the aerodynamics of their prototypes in wind tunnels. But aerodynamic flows are also measured in the production of air conditioning systems, extractor hoods and drones. And in all kinds of applications the measurements are not restricted to the flow of air, but extend to gasses, water and oil.
Vectorflow now employs a staff of seven, with clients from around the world, including from China, India, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Among others, the start-up supplies various racing series such as the Formula 1 with their probes. The company turned its first profit after only two years.
Vectorflow has already won numerous start-up awards and is a finalist in the German Founder Award, the most important award for young entrepreneurs in Germany.
Michael Peither, VoltStorage GmbH
Feed-in tariffs for electricity from photovoltaic systems are on the decline, making self-consumption increasingly attractive for private households. Using the generated electricity directly requires off-grid storage systems. But which technology is best suited for storing energy in the home? Michael Peither started pondering this question during his studies of electrical engineering at the TUM and concluded that there was no optimal product on the market yet.
In his research, Peither stumbled upon vanadium redox flow batteries. These batteries store energy in the form of chemical compounds dissolved in a liquid. Since the liquid is 80 percent water, it is non-inflammable. The storage capacity and the performance of flow batteries remain high even after many uses, and the batteries have a good life cycle assessment. Peither took a semester off and built his first prototype.
His idea also convinced his fellow students at the time, Jakob Bitner and Felix Kiefl. In 2016 they founded VoltStorage GmbH. In many hours of tinkering, the three TUM graduates managed to reduce the size of the battery to that of a small refrigerator. They also improved the manufacturing process to allow the automated production in large quantities. Today, the company has 24 employees working at its locations in Munich and in Shenzhen, China.
Co-founder Felix Kiefl was recently added to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list.
TUM fosters founders
Both start-ups were fostered by TUM and UntenehmerTUM, the center for innovation and founding. They took advantage of the start-up advising services and used office space and workplaces in the Incubator, as well as the high-tech workshop MakerSpace.
The Vectoflow team prepared for market entry in the "XPRENEURS" program. “Techfounders” put the team into contact with potential investors and clients. Both programs are run by UnternehmerTUM. VoltStorage participated in the Climate-KIC Accelerator program.
According to the current “German Startup Monitor”, TUM produces more start-up founders than any other German university. Around 70 companies are founded at TUM every year. The outstanding support for spin-offs is recognized by the “Start-Up Radar” of the German business community's innovation agency (Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft), which lists TUM in 1st place among major universities.