A robot takes over the welcome in the new Laboratory for Digital Transformation and Entrepreneurship (LAB4DTE): "I am extremely pleased to welcome you to the Innovation Lab," says Pepper in a tinny voice. "This is where I explore intelligent systems of the future with my human colleagues. For the rest of the program, I'll hand over to a representative of your species." So right away, at the opening of the new lab at Ravensburg-Weingarten University of Applied Sciences (RWU), it's clear: This is about developing future technologies. But this requires people, their spirit of research, their creativity and the social skills to work in interdisciplinary teams.
Last year, RWU received funding of 1.4 million euros from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, which supports universities and colleges in their start-up activities with a total of 150 million euros. As a result, the LAB4DTE was established at RWU under the direction of Professor Dr. Wolfram Höpken. The aim of this laboratory is to provide end-to-end support for potential company founders in all phases of the start-up process. The core element here is the laboratory for demonstrating and testing digital innovations. "LAB4DTE brings together researchers, students, companies and potential founders in an entrepreneurship ecosystem and inspires novel innovations and scientific start-ups," says Wolfram Höpken.
"Groundbreaking ideas made in Weingarten".
This inspiring spirit can be felt on opening day in the newly furnished premises. Various institutes and laboratories bundle their activities here. The Institute for Artificial Intelligence (IKI) develops prototype applications in service robotics. The Institute for Digital Change (IDW) deals with the topic of business intelligence, where, for example, a Deep Learning Work Station can predict the number of tourist arrivals from the frequency of Google queries or identify tourist hotspots and their networking via an Instagram evaluation. Another lab at IDW is called the "IoT Makers Lab." Augmented reality glasses enable the real world to be enriched with information, allowing, for example, necessary information to be fed directly to a production workstation. The Institute for Photonic Systems (IPHOS) has installed a 3D body scanner in LAB4DTE that takes up almost an entire room with its 78 cameras.
The mayor of Weingarten congratulates the new innovation center. "Weingarten is happy to be a partner in progressive projects. I look forward to groundbreaking ideas made in Weingarten," said Markus Ewald. The rector of the university, Professor Dr. Thomas Spägele, emphasizes the importance of the university for the region: "With this opening, we celebrate the so-called third mission of the universities, namely the transfer of our work into society. In cooperation with companies, the universities are making important contributions to the upcoming transformations."
A lab as a catalyst that generates ideas
Guest speakers from the business world were also invited to the opening of LAB4DTE. In his presentation, Dr. Alexander Kahlig addresses the emergence of innovations. "90 percent of innovation attempts fail," said the head of central technology pre-development at the company ifm. The decisive factor for an invention to become an innovation is the acceptance of a product on the market. Porsche had already developed a hybrid vehicle in 1902, but it was ahead of its time.
Sebastian Grimm, head of the ZF Group's Innovation Lab, asks how unused resources can be harnessed. His answer: "By integrating them into networks." The "Next Generation Mobility" can only be thought of in a networked way. So you no longer just develop a car, he says, but also think about the road, the house, the energy, the usage models. "Innovation has to happen quickly, but that is difficult in a large corporation," says Sebastian Grimm. For this reason, spin-offs are also promoted at ZF.
This, in turn, links back to LAB4DTE at RWU. "It is an innovation lab with a focus on digital transformation, and it is a startup center," says Wolfram Höpken. "Ideally, the lab acts as a catalyst that generates ideas that lead to startups. We cover the entire lifecycle of innovation all the way to startup consulting."
Text: Christoph Oldenkotte