Start-up teams, companies founded, competitions won, prizes...

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Starting a Business After Communication and Multimedia Design Studies (CMD) - tiftapp

Starting a business after Communication and Multimedia Design studies (CMD) - tiftapp

One Degree Programme - Lots of Possibilities | Starting a Business After CMD Studies 

Most people envisage the logical evolution of human professional life as follows: School, university and, eventually, entry into the profession. While it is clear for a lot of degree programmes which career choice comes after studying, there are also interdisciplinary degree programmes where this is not clearly defined. Communication and Multimedia Design (CMD) at FH Aachen is a prime example of this. The degree programme imparts technical, economic, creative and journalistic knowledge. Many students find it difficult to decide on a specialisation. What comes after completing the CMD degree? Where will I find a job?

"Find a job? I don't actually want that!" Julian has decided to take a different path. For him, the answer to the question is clear: What comes after completing the CMD degree? Starting a business! Founding your own company is undoubtedly not the first thing CMD students think of at the beginning of their studies. Some of them are toying with the idea of working as independent developers or freelance designers. However, it is much rarer to realise your own product idea as an entrepreneur.

Julian, Christian, Julien and Christoph are four graduates of the degree programme. For the time being, a practical training, a permanent position or a Master's degree are out of the question for the four of them. They would like to found a technology start-up. "Our software product 'tift' was developed for medium-sized companies and should be ready for the market by the summer of 2015," says Christian, who is responsible for product development and is happy to have also acquired business knowledge. With intelligent shift planning, the team simplifies tedious personnel planning in shift operations. Using an algorithm, 'tift' creates complete shift plans at the push of a button. The founders expect this to save the planners 80 percent of their time, and their employees will be more satisfied thanks to fair shift times. With a 20-page sketch of their ideas, the four of them successfully applied for a start-up scholarship during their Bachelor's thesis. With EXIST, a support programme for people interested in setting up a business, they receive support from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy for one year. This enables young people with start-up ideas to bridge the time during which they write a business plan and develop the product without having to worry about finances. This also helps the scholarship holders to avoid the alternative of becoming dependent on investors at an early stage. "Maybe we would have developed a start-up plan without CMD, but our studies certainly made it easier for us," says Christoph. "We are not journalists or computer specialists, but we have learnt to write texts, develop marketing measures, plan our projects and design our ideas in a user-friendly manner. Only basic knowledge, you would think, but this knowledge seems to be necessary for entrepreneurship. "Even if Christian and Julien implement the product technically, the degree programme gives us a rough understanding of the technology and we can join in the discussion," says Julian. The concept of the degree programme has proven itself in their project. Not only the subject as such, but also the small project groups and the proximity to the professors help the students to not feel strange in this start-up situation. "We were able to contact our professors at any time and ask them for advice. This was particularly important before we submitted our idea sketch to the ministry," says Julian. In addition, FH Aachen supported the prospective founding team with the university project "TRACE" in cooperation with RWTH Aachen University. "We were able to approach our professors at any time and ask them for advice. Christian, Christoph and Julian attended business lectures at other faculties during their studies and continued their education independently. "This was also a ground-breaking move for us, because we were able to engage with other founders at an early stage," says Christoph. However, anyone who claims that CMD is exclusively a course of study for founders is wrong. There are enough success stories of graduates in permanent positions. Students have found their challenges in design agencies or development teams as well, in Cologne, Munich and Berlin, or in Aachen. It is said that the course is interdisciplinary. Well, it's a bit of everything. That doesn't have to be bad. "Ultimately, it depends on what you do with it," says Julian, who is certain that he has taken the right path after completing his CMD education. Not wanting to make a decision is, after all, also a decision.

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PhoenAix - The Modular Transport Drone

PhoenAix - The Modular Transport Drone

The worldwide rapidly proceeding development of the market for unmanned aerial vehicles offers great potential for growth and added value. Unmanned aircraft, i.e. flying systems without crew on board, can be designed much cheaper, smaller and more efficient than manned solutions through the miniaturisation of electronic components. Many companies are not yet aware of the actual potential of this technology, so we want to create a company that offers the full spectrum of unmanned aerial services. Whether it is development, production, sales, maintenance, operation or training, we will be the "single point of contact" that our customers can trust. We are two award-winning aerospace engineers who have been successfully collaborating in the development of unmanned aerial systems for years. We see ourselves both as a manufacturers of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and as providers of customer-specific services. In addition to selling our own drone "PhoenAIX", we will offer contract flights as well as individual product development according to the customer's requirements. Such a broad setup allows us to position ourselves extensively in the market and, for our customers, it has the decisive advantage that we are available as the sole contact for the holistic utilisation of unmanned aerial vehicles.

With our products, we want to make a contribution to the realignment of the logistics market. We are targeting a market that is still in its fledgling stages. Leading analysts are forecasting up to one million drone transport flights in the USA alone in the next 15 years - per day! Analysts expect the parcel industry to grow by between 17 and 28% a year until 2021!

This is where we come in: Your customer in rural areas demands express delivery of his or her goods with the shortest response times? - No problem! Our drone picks up the goods and flies them to their destination. This does not require any infrastructure, a minimal open space is sufficient. Does this sound a bit futuristic now? - Not at all! Due to our funding within the framework of the competition "STARTUP-Hochschul-Ausgründungen" (STARTUP University Spin-offs), we can construct a technology demonstrator and prove the functionality of our system. The market for transport flights with unmanned aerial vehicles is still untapped due to the short range and flight duration of conventional drones (e.g. multicopters). At present, such flight systems can only be operated by experts, the drones are inflexible when in use, and many smaller companies cannot afford a dedicated department. We will be the first to offer an optimised platform system for this market and solve the current problems with an innovative combination of multicopter and (fixed-wing) airplane. Our airplane "PhoenAIX" weighs 25 kg and has a wingspan of 4.20 m. On request, "PhoenAIX" can take off and land vertically and - depending on the configuration - transport payloads between 3 and 5 kg, or a volume of 31.5 litres (equivalent to the size of a wine box) over a distance of more than 150 km. The system is completely designed for easy handling and high robustness in everyday use. Added to this is the fully modular construction: The customer has the choice between several propulsion systems and, before each flight, it can be decided individually whether a vertical take-off is necessary or not. Simply by plug & play. Our system surpasses the flight performance of comparable products and offers unprecedented flexibility for every customer. The advantage for us is that we only use one aircraft that can be quickly adapted and thereby reduce our costs. There is currently no comparable product on the market. Similar flight performances have so far not been achieved by comparable systems, and the focus on optimal adaptation to customer wishes with a modular overall concept has not yet been implemented by the industry.


On the Road to Success | FH Graduates Marcel Wirtz and Sven Barnick Found the Start-Up Company "Fuhrparkhelden"

On the Road to Success | FH Graduates Marcel Wirtz and Sven Barnick Found the Start-Up Company "Fuhrparkhelden"

In the beginning, there's the idea. An old cloth factory in Aachen's Frankenberger Viertel is to become a creative working space for people who want to set up their own business. At the beginning of the 20th century, cloth makers played an important role in the Kaiserstadt (Imperial City). Today, new products are being developed at the historic site. The so-called "coworking space" is provided by Sven Barnick and Marcel Wirtz who founded the start-up "Fuhrparkhelden". "Our company is growing. At some point, we are going to need the space, until then we will rent out the rooms and office furniture," Marcel explains. "It will also enable us to exchange ideas with the other founders and support each other," Sven adds.
The start-up "Fuhrparkhelden", which is financed by the founders, has existed since 2016. The two founders met at the car rental Europcar. Sven worked as a sales manager and Marcel as an independent agency partner. "In conversations with our customers, we noticed that there was a strong increase in frustration in the market. The pricing and claims handling of car rental companies is not transparent, tenders deprive companies of important resources, comprehensive booking tools have to be purchased and are pricey. The service provided to the customer also tends to be pushed into the background by the providers," Marcel says. They saw another shortcoming in the fact that services are often incorrectly invoiced. "Invoice checking is very time-consuming and sometimes impossible for companies. We sat down and talked about a concrete solution to these problems," Sven says in retrospect. "For example, we thought of a fully automated booking and billing process with invoice check, which would guarantee error-free and intuitive overall processing for the customer." This is how an idea became a concept and a start-up was founded: the Fuhrparkhelden GmbH.

Dealing with Setbacks

The objective was not only to develop a booking platform, but to also generate a tool that enables customers to independently compare all aspects of travel services such as rental cars, flights, hotels, trains and taxis. "But the road to success is often associated with obstacles," Marcel says. "You can't let setbacks get you down." In the beginning, the booking platform did not work perfectly and the programmer suddenly left the company. So everything had to be redesigned "which costs time and money, and also a few nerves," Sven emphasises. However, you grow with the challenge. "We now have 14 employees, business is going well and our customers are very satisfied," the two founders say. What would be their advice for other start-ups? "Start the business with passion, because you' ll definitely need a lot of staying power and energy! And keep the passion burning for your idea and your company, because only those who keep the fire burning can ignite it in others".

Interested in Starting a Business?

TRACE (Transforming Academic into Entrepreneurial Minds) is a qualification programme for people at FH Aachen and RWTH Aachen University interested in starting a business with the objective to develop entrepreneurial skills and prepare people for a career as a founder or entrepreneur. At present, there are more than 60 active participants in the TRACE programme - most of them from FH Aachen.

Further Information: Click here

Bamboo - An All-Rounder in the Fast Lane | Start-UP "camboo"

Bamboo - An All-Rounder in the Fast Lane | Start-UP "camboo"

When you think of bamboo, the decorative privacy screen in the garden or perhaps the wall bars in the Asia restaurant might spring to mind. FH-graduate Philipp Moritz is convinced: "The grass is capable of so much more". As the fastest growing plant in the world and an extremely stable construction material, it is a real all-rounder. Together with two acquaintances, the former mechanical engineering student recently founded the start-up company "camboo" which focuses on the use of bamboo cane as a construction material. It is used to produce bicycle frames, rollators and, in the near future, prams. He came up with the idea two years ago when he became aware of the US frame builder  Craig Calfee who had been experimenting with the material for some time. "Bamboo is cheap, grows extremely fast and can, therefore, be logged every year without endangering the stock," Philipp Moritz explains. Bamboo also stores considerably more CO2 than trees and, thereby, enables production with a previously unattainable environmental balance.
His motto: "Bicycle frames made of carbon and aluminium are a thing of the past". He is not only interested in the plant for ecological reasons - he is particularly impressed by the breaking strength of the bamboo frame. Inspired by the sweet grass, Philipp Moritz even wrote his Bachelor's thesis at FH Aachen about the raw material. Among other things, his professors encouraged him to take the leap into self-employment. On the specialist side, his thanks go, first and foremost, to his former professor at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics, Prof. Dr. Stephan Kallweit, and to Prof. Dr. Markus Schleser, who provided him with advice and support on the subject of adhesive technology. Regarding all questions on the subject of founding, he received support from Prof. Dr. Constanze Chwallek and Zexiong Yan (Faculty of Business Studies/TRACE-Project) as well as from Silke Marczincik from FH Aachen's Innovation Transfer.
Meanwhile, Philipp Moritz and his team are diligently working on new creations around bamboo. "A B2B business model is what we are banking on," the mechanical engineer explains. "We are currently manufacturing the frames and supplying them to the bicycle companies that use them to make the end product. In the DigiChurch (formerly St. Elisabeth) on Jülicher Straße, Aachen, they have found the perfect location. A centre for Aachen's start-up scene.
For the founders of camboo, things couldn't possibly go better at the moment. "Of course, some people can't yet imagine what it feels like to sit on a bamboo bicycle. But as soon as they try out our bicycle, they're convinced of the comfortable riding experience," Philipp Moritz says. For many, however, the ecological aspect is also a decisive reason for buying. "Bamboo is a real all-rounder," the FH graduate knows.
Interested parties can visit the camboo website to get an idea of the products:

The Champions League of Welding | LaVA-X wants to establish laser beam welding in a vacuum

The Champions League of Welding | LaVA-X wants to establish laser beam welding in a vacuum

Welding sounds like hard work, heat and dirt. Not so with LaVa-X: If you visit company founder Dr. Christian Otten in his laboratory, you will get an impression of what the future of welding might look like. "We've developed a technology for laser beam welding in a vacuum," the young scientist says. This process is not only more precise and cleaner than established welding methods, it is also much more environmentally friendly.
In the LaVa-X process, the workpiece is located in a vacuum chamber. The laser beam is guided through a kind of porthole into the chamber. "This is the heart of our development", Dr. Otten says. "We've developed a method in which the glass does not fog up or get dirty, so the laser beam can be safely guided into the vacuum chamber". If the welding process takes place in a vacuum, the laser output can be reduced by about a third. With a 500-watt laser, the LaVa-X machine currently achieves a welding depth of 3 millimetres - and does so with a very clean weld seam, no pores or splashes are produced. "Our process is very well suited when it comes to high-quality joint connections," Dr. Otten emphasises, citing sensors or the housings of pacemakers as examples. Vacuum welding also demonstrates its advantages when different materials have to be joined. This opens LaVa-X up to the booming market of Selective Laser Melting, i.e. the generative production with metallic materials.
In cooperation with Prof. Dr. Markus Schleser's team from FH Aachen's Faculty of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics and the CleanLaser company, located in Herzogenrath, Dr. Otten and his colleagues have made the new technology ready for the market. "In principle, we can now put a price tag on it," he says. However, the  LaVa-X business model is not based exclusively on the sale of machines; the FH Spin-Off also welds products on behalf of customers.
The first phase of the company's foundation was financed by the nationwide funding programme "Hochschul-Start-Up NRW". For the current ongoing phase,  LaVa-X and the university received funding within the framework of the Exist programme. In addition to 500,000 Euros for real investments,  LaVa-X can also employ four permanent employees and two graduate assistants. As part of the Exist-funding, the young company will - in the truest sense of the word - deal with other orders of magnitude. "We want to develop a process with which large pipes can be welded for foundation structures of offshore wind turbines," Dr. Otten explains. Of course, this no longer works in a vacuum chamber. Instead, the LaVa-X staff wants to develop a mobile solution that can be brought to the operating site in a container. The greatest challenge with facilities of this type is gap bridging. For pipes with a diametre of more than one metre, it is normal for the two pieces that are to be connected not to lie flat on top of each other. This gap must be bridged during the welding process; moreover, the vacuum must be maintained. A 12 kilowatt laser will be used to achieve welding depths of 50 millimeters. "This takes FH Aachen into the Champions League of laser beam welding," Dr. Otten says, "because everything we accomplish here in the research projects belongs to FH Aachen."

Further information about the company:

innoVitro | FH Aachen Spin-Off Wins AC² Start-Up Prize 2018

innoVitro | FH Aachen Spin-Off Wins AC² Start-Up Prize 2018

Under the aegis of the NRW Minister of Economic Affairs, Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart, the AC²-Innovation Prize Region Aachen was awarded on 7 June. Additionally, the three most promising business plans 2017/18 of the AC² Start-Up Competition were awarded at this event. The first prize of the start-up competition - and the associated prize money of 10,000 Euros - was won by Peter Linder and Dr. Matthias Goßmann from innoVitro GmbH. innoVitro is an FH Aachen start-up, the two managing directors are graduates and former employees of FH Aachen. A high-profile jury consisting of innovation experts, representatives of successful companies and the regional administration had selected the winners.

The idea: innoVitro offers the pharmaceutical industry a novel analytical method for testing active substances on artificially produced human heart muscle tissue. The method is based on the CellDrum-technology developed and patented by the Institute for Bioengineering (IfB) of FH Aachen under the leadership of Prof. Dr. Gerhard Artmann. Human heart cells derived from stem cells are cultivated on a special silicone carrier membrane. Combined, they mirror the properties of human heart muscle tissue and enable cell forces to be measured. Within the framework of their final theses and the subsequent funding in the "Start-up Hochschulausgründung NRW" programme, Peter Linder and Matthias Goßmann further developed this technology into an industrial-suited product and founded innoVitro GmbH. On their way to self-employment, they were supported by Prof. Dr. Manfred Staat from the Faculty of Medical Engineering and Technomathematics.

The advantages: The possibilities of drug development for diseases of the cardiovascular system are improved, the development of new active substances is accelerated and possible side effects are recognised at an early stage. In addition, the number of necessary animal experiments can be drastically reduced or even completely eliminated.

The Department of Transfer and the Faculty of Business Studies support students who wish to start their own business after completing their studies. The information offered includes facilitating contacts to the essential actors, seminars, lectures, competitions, events and trade fairs.