The cooperation between Fraunhofer and the start-up eMovements GmbH leads to the integration of Fraunhofer-Technologies for the development of the electric walking frame "ello"
«TandemCamp» - that may sound like a new sports program to get fit for spring. This however is not what «TandemCamp» stands for, only the agility in the workflow and teamwork might be comparable to a sports programme. «TandemCamp» is a contest a start-up and Fraunhofer-Ínstitute cooperation. It's an initiative from the Fraunhofer-Venture format «TechBridge» , which is a project supported and financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and which aims to unite start-ups and Fraunhofer-Institutes.
Fraunhofer Researchers' motto is: "to breathe entrepreneurial air" whilst granting entepreneurs an insight into their world of research. In conjunction with Fraunhofer technologies, a sound research and development based on ideas and products enables start-ups to realize their ideas.
A cooperation between a young start-up and an established research facility - is that even possible?
In May 2018 «TandemCamp» will go into its fourth round and thus experience can be drawn from the early beginnings.
May Keßler, eMovements GmbH founder, as well as research assisant Cagatay Odabasi and Fraunhofer group-leader Dr Birgit Graf (both from the Fraunhofer-Institute for Productiontechnology and Automisation, IPA) reminisce and review their impressions from their participation in last years TandemCamp, in the spring of 2017.
The young company «eMovements GmbH» from Stuttgart develops and manufactures electronic walking frames. In order to personalize the walking frames for patients and to give physicians a chance to analyze their patients' motoric skills, the team (together with the Fraunhofer-IPA) is currently working on a camera system, which will track the patient's steps and foot movements. Physicians can use the recorded data to further assess the patient. Until now the add-on has not yet been configured into «ello», but a feasibility study is planned. The research project for this was supported by TechBridge.
How did the start-up think about the cooperation with Fraunhofer?
"The cooperation was very successful and has brought benefits for both sides, considering both technical and human aspects”, says Max Keßler. The young entrepreneur knows the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft from his university days, when he worked for the Institute. Now he can portray his perspective from an external viewpoint. The motivation behind applying to «TandemCamp» came from a financing need for testing technical feasibility of the project.
With undisputed research, Fraunhofer undoubtedly has a lot to offer, but how does the research company distinguish itself from other cooperation partners in the field, and does this also provide long-term advantages for a start-up? Next to technical expertise in numerous departments from bio technology to production technology and Cyber Security, Fraunhofer’s number one advantage is its name, which is widely known to investors and customers: "They trust the institution, thus there are fewer questions from customers and lenders”, observes Max Kessler.
And «TandemCamp»? He felt it was "non-bureaucratic and helpful" and it has strengthened the bond between start-up and research institute. If a startup cooperates with Fraunhofer, Max Keßler would “definitely recommend TandemCamp, because it offers vast opportunities to just try something out.”
The cooperation between eMovements and the Fraunhofer IPA however, has already achieved more than just "trying it out" and can show tangible results in form of a licensing agreement. The electric working frame is configured with an emergency call system, which works via Fraunhofer-patented data collection and distribution. This function is also a prerequisite for further project work on the walking frame, such as the visual system for recording the steps and foot position of patients. Hence, a small part of the cooperation between eMovements and Fraunhofer has already been integrated and offers a big potential for future joint work.
What do Fraunhofer-Researchers say about the start-up cooperation?
Also from the institute's point of view, it is agreed that the cooperation with eMovements GmbH is an interesting change with future potential. Cagatay Odabasi has been working for IPA for about a year and Dr Birgit Graf for a lot longer. Both describe the course of the project as enriching in every respect and consider an application for the «TandemCamp» as desirable for other projects as well. Cagatay Odabasi especially enjoyed the young entrepreneurs’ enthusiasm and their solution-oriented approach.
Researchers also rate the TandemCamp as a favorable format and Dr Birgit Graf summarizes: “«TandemCamp» funding has enabled us to develop new technologies for a socially most relevant application and to test their practical benefits."
Is the cooperation relevant for the future?
Whilst the eMovements GmbH is currently working on a serial production of their «ello» product, research and development can be continued by the Fraunhofer IPA researchers, in order to find solutions for further problems in the inpatient care sector. Service robot technologies are just one example of Fraunhofer IPA's ability to adapt society to demographic change.
Content of the TandemCamp: Financing and Coaching = Success?
Cooperation between Startups and Fraunhofer-Institutes serve as benefits to both entrepreneurs and researchers in many ways. As part of the competition for start-up cooperation «TandemCamp», cooperation can be supported and intensified with the help of coaching formats and project financing. The project work is supported by regular consultations so that the status quo, the progress and the results of the cooperation are always kept in mind. Thus, «TandemCamp» offers the best conditions to start your project agile and competently.