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Prototyp des Flugtaxis von Lilium Aviation.
So könnte die Zukunft des Verkehrs aussehen: Prototyp des Flugtaxis von Lilium Aviation. (Bild: Lilium Aviation)
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Six TUM spin-offs represented on the "Forbes 30 under 30 Europe" list

Europe's most innovative young entrepreneurs

As many as six spin-offs from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) appear on this year's "Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe" list. The US magazine ranks 300 particularly innovative personalities under 30 years of age. Among the ideas developed by the entrepreneurs are a wheelchair control unit operated by head movements and a lightweight vertical take-off aircraft. At the same time the German commercial daily "Handelsblatt" has included five TUM spin-offs in its selection of "100 German Innovators". All the start-ups were supported by the TUM.

Glasschair: Controlling wheelchairs with the nod of a head

The majority of students assigned to come up with new mobility services in the Information Systems seminar concentrated on automobiles. But Claudiu Leverenz and two classmates chose a different vehicle: the wheelchair. They asked themselves how they could improve mobility for people with extensive paralysis. Their answer is an application for smart glasses making it possible to control an electric wheelchair with head movements and verbal signals alone. The commands are passed, via a Bluetooth connection, on to an adapter that connects to the external control port of most conventional wheelchair models.

Today Leverenz (27) is busy preparing to found Glasschair as a spin-off and is on the Forbes list in the category "Science and Healthcare". His team has already established a major network including users, medical supply stores, clinics and wheelchair manufacturers. After clinical testing and certification as a medical product, the intelligent wheelchair app is expected to enter the market at the beginning of 2018.

KONUX: Using artificial intelligence to maintain industrial facilities

Where is a machine not operating ideally? When will a switch have to be repaired? KONUX lets companies stay constantly informed about their industrial facilities and rail infrastructures. Sensors detect the condition of the systems, while artificial intelligence predicts future maintenance requirements and plans repair tasks. The analyses can be accessed from a cloud at any time and any place. This helps companies avoid outages and increase the service lives of their devices.

KONUX CEO Andreas Kunze (25), production manager Dennis Humhal (27) and Vlad Lata (26), in charge of technology development at the company, studied at the TUM Departments of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Informatics, Mechanical Engineering and the TUM School of Management and founded the start-up in 2014. Today KONUX has already won renowned companies as customers, has completed several financing rounds, has opened an office in Silicon Valley, and is among the Forbes Top 30 in “Industry”.

Lilium Aviation: An air taxi for the daily commute

Reaching your destination at 300 kilometers an hour in an air taxi with no traffic jams, while using climate-friendly energy at the same time. The TUM spin-off Lilium Aviation has just presented a prototype which can make this vision a reality: An ultralight jet aircraft that takes off and lands vertically, powered by a total of 36 propellers in the wings. The engines are driven by six rechargeable batteries said to give the aircraft a range of 300 kilometers. The two-seater is not only quiet, it is also twice as efficient as current electric car models.

Matthias Meiner (29), one of the four founders of Lilium Aviation, is listed in the "30 Under 30" category "Industry". After earning his master's degree in Mechatronics at TUM, he conducted research at the DLR, Germany's federal aeronautics and space research center. He is currently in charge of flight control and aviation electronics at Lilium. The start-up recently succeeded in acquiring 10 million Euros in venture capital.

unu: Through the city on electric scooters

unu co-founder Elias Atahi (28) is also following new and environmentally friendly paths towards mobility. The electric scooter he and the founding team at unu developed is based on a vehicle whose gas-powered powertrain has been replaced with an electric one. Atahi and his colleagues have developed a modular, portable battery concept for the scooter, with a rechargeable battery that can be charged at any wall socket.

The first model of the scooter has been on the market since 2014. unu sold 4000 units in the first year alone, has in the meantime become the German market leader and is currently expanding to the Netherlands and France. Atahi is responsible for brand and product development at unu and was listed by "Forbes" in the "Industry" category. He studied Electrical and Computer Engineering at TUM.

99chairs: Interior design online

Julian Riedelsheimer (28) and the start-up 99chairs, an online platform for interior design, have entered the market and gone straight to a Forbes top ranking in the category "Retail & Commerce". In a "style-check" customers can specify their personal tastes and then receive an individual room concept from a designer. The furniture in the proposal can then be ordered through 99chairs.

Riedelsheimer earned his Bachelor's degree in Information Systems at TUM and founded 99chairs in 2014 together with TUM graduate Frank Stegert.

Celonis: Making business processes visible

At the age of only 26 Alexander Rinke is already one of the "All-Star Alumni", having already been listed in "Forbes 30 Under 30" last year as well. In 2011 Rinke, who studied Mathematics, joined two other TUM graduates in founding Celonis. The team developed what is a process mining software product which lets companies evaluate and visualize their ongoing business processes and improve them based on the results. Today Celonis is the world market leader in process mining.

Coaching, high-tech workshop and financing

Lilium Aviation (with founder Daniel Wiegand) and Celonis (with founder Martin Klenk) are also on the list of "100 German Innovators". The German daily "Handelsblatt" has also done a feature on Georg Schroth of NavVis, Thomas Kirchner of ProGlove and Christian Deilmann of Tado. NavVis has developed a navigation system for indoor spaces. ProGlove makes gloves with a built-in scanner that saves factory workers hundreds of hand movements. The digital control unit from Tado reduces the energy consumption of heating systems.

All these teams have received or are receiving long-term support from TUM’s start-up advising service. Thus for example Glasschair is currently planning its corporate founding in the "Incubator". Here the university provides office and work space – right next door to the scientists of the Entrepreneurship Research Institute, whose research results greatly help the entrepreneurs.

Glasschair constructed its prototype in the high-tech workshop "MakerSpace" at UnternehmerTUM, the Center for Innovation and Business Creation. UnternehmerTUM has invested in KONUX using its own venture capital fund. Several founders have also completed the UnternehmerTUM coaching program "Manage & More" or "Kickstart", which prepares entrepreneurs for market entry.

Additional curriculum at the Center for Digital Technology and Management

Elias Atahi, Vlad Lata, and Georg Schroth are graduates of the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM), which TUM operates jointly with LMU. The CDTM offers an additional curriculum in which the students design new technologies in interdisciplinary teams, develop actual products based on them and are then prepared to found a start-up.

Since 1990 more than 800 companies have been generated by TUM. The "Start-up Radar" of the German business community's innovation agency ranks TUM number one among major German universities. 

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