Professor Bulitta, what is the purpose of the Innovation Lab?
Prof. Clemens Bulitta: The Innovation Lab is a project that is part of the BMBF funding initiative "Innovative Hochschule" (English: Innovative Universities). Within the scope of this funding program, we collaborate with East Bavarian universities and jointly proposed a project titled TRIO. The abbreviation TRIO stands for "Transfer und Innovation Ostbayern" (English: Transfer and Innovation in East Bavaria). Our subproject focuses on medical technology as an example of the potential opportunities an innovation lab has to offer and show how it can promote technology transfer and innovation in a geographic location.
Who is your target audience?
Bulitta: We support companies in the region and stakeholders in health and social care, such as schools or preschools. We always focus on medical technology in this setting. Our goal is to evaluate the possibilities this type of structure offers and the needed products, most notably because the Eastern Bavaria region is shaped by small and medium-sized enterprises and a lack of large enterprises, often preventing the former from developing structures for innovation. That’s why there is always a need for partnerships and third-party relationships. We design spaces to foster creativity and spark innovation.
What does a collaboration with you look like?
Bulitta: It depends largely upon the stage of the innovation process. Ultimately, you can only call it an innovation if it is also successfully brought to market. That means we support three phases: The first one pertains to the generation of new and creative ideas, followed by turning this idea into a prototype, and finally its commercialization. Let's say a company wants to further develop and improve an existing product. You can apply creative techniques to generate ideas in this setting. The Innovation Lab provides a unique environment for creativity. It is also equipped with a makerspace and a 3D printer. It can be used for prototyping or simulation. The lab also features microelectronic components. People test things, try them out and –if needed- get advice on how to bring this product idea to market. We also plan to create three network services in addition to these three phases. The on-site physical environment is already available and supports the prototype phase and the incubator stage. What’s more, we want to set up an additional mobile innovation lab and take it directly to the companies. The third element is a virtual component. We want to offer internet-accessible options. This allows us to invite concepts like open innovation for example. We are in the process of developing several other options and rely on a give-and-take approach with our partners. In other words, we have the infrastructure and the staff to support the companies.