• 11/25/2022
  • Reading time 3 min.

Teams from construction, chemistry and pharmaceuticals recognized

TUM IDEAward for sustainable start-up ideas

Building materials made from hops, a pyrolysis system for plastic waste and a patch that helps prevent urinary tract infections: These three start-up ideas were honored yesterday with the tenth TUM IDEAward.

The award winners with representatives of TUM, UnternehmerTUM and the Zeidler Research Foundation. Andreas Heddergott / TUM
The award winners with representatives of TUM, UnternehmerTUM and the Zeidler Research Foundation.

Which inventions can be turned into successful products? Who has the best idea for founding a start-up? For the tenth time, a large number of founder teams competed for the TUM IDEAward. The finalists, selected by an expert jury, were introduced to an interested audience last night. On the occasion of the anniversary of the award, Sebastian Hilsenbeck, co-founder of NavVis, the first award winner, looked back on a decade of successful company history.

The best ideas are recognized by TUM, UnternehmerTUM, the Center for Innovation and Business Creation, and the Zeidler Research Foundation, which funds the total prize money amount of 37,500 euros.

1st Place: HopfON

The construction industry consumes enormous amounts of resources and is among the industry sectors with the greatest volumes of CO2 emissions, which means a high level of demand for alternative materials. This is why architecture student Marlene Stechl and civil engineering student Thomas Rojas Sonderegger are developing building materials made from hops. The students discovered that the fibrous plant is an excellent starter material for acoustic tiles, insulation materials and construction panels. Growing hops in Germany could also reduce transport distances in material production and thus further greenhouse gas emissions. Since only a small part of the hop harvest is used in beer production, the discarded rest could be used for the new products. In addition to the ecological benefits, the team also expects a cost advantage over its competition. The objective of HopfON is a product which can be broken down into its component parts at the end of its useful life, making closed loop recycling possible. The founder team hopes to make both the construction industry and agriculture more sustainable.

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2nd Place: WasteEx

Plastic waste is a major problem in many countries around the world with weak economic and infrastructure situations, especially when there no recycling systems are available. Chemistry student Elias Hasel and Marc Xia, doctoral candidate at the Chair of Plant and Process Technology, are developing a pyrolysis reactor for use in such regions. In pyrolysis, substances are split in a thermochemical process at high heat. Oil can be re-extracted from plastic in this way. Conventional existing systems are configured for industrial-scale mass processes and the operators require an extensive amount of expert knowledge. The reactor from WasteEX however is intended to be a compact system with modular construction and to be easy to operate. The founder team sees not only ecological advantages, but also the possibility of new value chains in low-income regions based on collection, sorting and shredding the plastic, the pyrolysis process and the usage of the oil for fuels.

3rd Place: PAVAOO

Urinary tract infections are widespread, particularly for women. The infections can result from sexual intercourse: There's even a special term for this phenomenon, honeymoon cystitis. Those affected often have to take antibiotics, which can also have negative health impacts when taken too often. Cordula Loock, student of pharmaceutical bioprocess engineering, and Christian Loock, graduate in aerospace, have therefore invented a preventive measure: a patch which is applied to the vulva before sex. The patch covers the urethra, preventing germs from entering it, while leaving the vaginal opening free. The patch is extremely thin, features an intuitive positioning aid and is virtually unnoticeable.

Further information and links

Every year TUM spawns around 70 technology-focused companies. TUM and UnternehmerTUM support start-ups with programs tailored to the various phases of building a business – from creating the business model to management training, and from market entry to a possible IPO. The TUM Venture Labs offer an entire research ecosystem for start-up teams working in important scientific fields. Up to 30 teams can use the TUM Incubator to prepare for the launch of their companies. Through its own venture capital fund, UnternehmerTUM invests in tech companies displaying strong potential. Meanwhile, with MakerSpace, it provides a 1500 square meter high-tech prototype workshop. According to the “Gründungsradar” no major German university provides better support for spin-offs.

Technical University of Munich

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