University Innovation Challenge 2021 awarded outstanding ideas from university founders

From university to business life

Agile start-ups that develop forward-looking innovations and ideas are increasingly becoming a success factor for our economy. The rapid implementation of solutions and business ideas secures our future viability. This was once again demonstrated by this year’s University Innovation Challenge (UIC), in which the Handelsblatt, together with Goethe University Frankfurt, honoured outstanding solutions developed in university research or by a start-up with a university background. From 48 innovative start-ups in six categories, the jury selected twelve finalists who presented their pitch live once again at the awards ceremony in the university’s casino on 21 October. The audience of experts then chose the winners. Dr. Thomas Steinmann, Head of Life Science at the consulting firm PTA GmbH, was a member of the jury in the “Medical Technology” category.

“At this year’s UIC, almost all the results were very close, which speaks for the quality of the finalists,” says Dr Thomas Steinmann, summing up the course of the award ceremony on the campus of Frankfurt’s Goethe University. “We did not make the choice of this year’s winners easy.” As a member of the jury in the “Medical Technology” category, he selected the winners of the 2021 Challenge: HHBOX Therapies, which develops, produces and markets a platform technology for adjusting the oxygen content in the blood for therapeutic purposes – also called hyperbaric oxygenation of blood. The jury was convinced by the groundbreaking concept, through which carbon monoxide poisoning can be successfully treated without using a pressure chamber with a mobile device, the consequences of heart attacks can be reduced and cancer treatments can be supported. HBOX thus presented a solution that has the potential to save thousands of lives.

PTA contributes expertise
As Head of Life Science at PTA, Dr Thomas Steinmann is a proven expert in medical devices and knows the market and its developments well. As a juror for UIC 2021, Dr Steinmann supported the strengthening of the start-up culture in Germany with his knowledge and expertise. The IT consultancy with headquarters in Mannheim has also been active in the field of medical devices for 20 years, is ISO 213485 certified and supports clients not only in the development of medical devices, but also accompanies them in terms of process consulting, software development and quality assurance. In more than 400 interface projects, the PTA consultants have proven that they know exactly how to integrate medical devices into existing healthcare ecosystems while complying with the legal requirements regarding software and documentation.

UIC opens up fruitful win-win situation
“We are well acquainted with the hurdles that have to be overcome in the approval of a medical device and have been supporting our customers for years in jumping over them light-footedly. And we do this with individual advice and energetic support to exactly the necessary degree, without building up excessive complexity,” the life science expert explains further. With the partnership at UIC, PTA becomes part of the UIC network. This opens up great development potential for both start-ups and companies like PTA: for the start-ups, by making it easier for them to enter the market in cooperation with the companies and by providing them with proven sales structures. For the companies in the exchange with the university founders in the development of new, future-oriented solutions. Competitions like the UIC provide a valuable link between the university research environment and the business community, pooling knowledge in subject areas that will be highly relevant in the future – and already today.

Enormous range of forward-looking ideas
All in all, the University Innovation Challenge brought to light a very broad spectrum of solutions and business ideas. When it comes to areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), the workplace of the future, future life science, medical technology or future engineering, Germany is certainly not lacking in entrepreneurial spirit and promising ideas. This is shown, for example, by an AI application for optimising the distribution of consumer goods or, from the field of Future Engineering, the presentation of the sharpest blade in the world: a method for reducing rejects when cutting chips from ten percent to almost zero percent. Also impressive was an AI solution to optimise the use, storage and marketing of renewable energies in real time or the attempt to optimise the maintenance of vehicle fleets without additional sensors by means of artificial intelligence. An approach that should be very interesting for the logistics industry. “The many application examples impressively showed that universities have long since left their ivory towers and many of their students and graduates develop modern solutions in think tanks and incubators and consistently transfer them into practice,” Dr Thomas Steinmann concludes.

An overview of this year’s winners of the University Innovation Challenge can be found here: