21. April 2021

750,000 euros for start-up project at the University of Bonn 750,000 euros for start-up project at the University of Bonn

Physicists receive "EXIST Research Transfer" from the BMWi to develop industrial prototypes

How can modern components such as electric motors, rechargeable batteries or cell phones be manufactured ever faster, more energy-efficiently and with higher quality? One key tool from physics is high-power lasers, which help to process various materials. With their innovative technology to individually adjust the beam shape of the laser to the respective process, physicists from the University of Bonn have now won a highly endowed competition: The start-up project "Midel Photonics" by Dr. David Dung, Dr. Christian Wahl, Dr. Christopher Grossert and Frederik Wolf was selected for the "EXIST Research Transfer" funding program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the European Social Fund. The funding of around 750,000 euros is intended to help the founders transfer their promising approach from research to industrial application.

Founders of Midel Photonics
Founders of Midel Photonics - Dr. Christian Wahl, Dr. David Dung, Dr. Christopher Grossert und Frederik Wolf © Timo Heepenstrick

"Midel Photonics" is just the second project selected in this competition for the University of Bonn. "This is really a huge success for the founders, but also for the university and our enaCom offers for people interested in founding a company," says Benita Schuba, deputy department head of the Transfer Center enaCom, who intensively advised the founding team during the application process.

The method developed by the Bonn physicists makes it possible to shape laser beams into the appropriate form. This is arousing great interest in industry, where more and more lasers are being used, for example to manufacture electric motors or cell phone components. Until now, laser beams with a round shape have still been used for the very different processes. "It's like trying to turn any type of screw with a cordless screwdriver with a single cross attachment. With a matching attachment, it would be much easier. You save energy and time and gain quality," explains David Dung of Midel Photonics. With the technology of the start-up project, such attachments for the desired laser beam shape can be produced much more flexibly than existing solutions on the market.

The goal of EXIST research transfer funding is to develop industrial prototypes. For Christopher Grossert, one of the founders, this is a "huge opportunity to catapult basic research into industry." Now the team has the freedom to focus on industrial applications - a whole new chapter for the physics researchers. From customer acquisition to business plans, the scope of work has become more multifaceted. "In the process, we will also develop personally in many ways. But it's exactly what we've wanted to do for a long time. And now we have the resources to do it," says David Dung.

From microscopic to centimeter-sized structures

In order to achieve the set goals in the next 18 months, various challenges arise. "The biggest technical challenge is to take what we can do on a small scale and scale it up to a large scale. From microscopic structures, as needed in science, to the centimeter-sized structures needed for industrial use - and without compromising quality," explains Christian Wahl of Midel Photonics. In addition to these technical aspects, the final company foundation is also on the agenda during the funding phase.

Furthermore, the founders must establish a viable business model with a sales concept and, if possible, acquire follow-up financing. Investors enable start-ups to grow quickly in order to conquer the market. This is also the goal of Midel Photonics. In this respect, the team can draw on the business management experience of co-founder Frederik Wolf through his dual studies in business administration. The founders also receive further support from their expert mentor Prof. Dr. Martin Weitz from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Bonn. He is vice speaker of the Cluster of Excellence "ML4Q - Matter and Light for Quantum Information", a research network of the Universities of Cologne, Aachen and Bonn and the Research Center Jülich.

In addition to financial support from the EXIST program, the founders will continue to be helped by the services offered by the Transfer Center at the University of Bonn. "We are totally looking forward to further cooperation with enaCom," says Frederik Wolf. With the know-how and advice of the start-up coaches, the team will be able to further develop the necessary entrepreneurial skills, among other things, so that they can then take off on the market in the future.

Dr. David Dung
Institut für Angewandte Physik der Universität Bonn
Telefon: +49 228 73-60454
E-Mail: dung@iap.uni-bonn.de

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