Start-ups and digital transformation

Photo: TecUP

Start-ups can provide the necessary impetus for well-established companies and at the same time prove to be valuable development partners for experienced companies. In particular with regard to digitalisation they can also make a considerable contribution to the regional economy with their innovative ideas. However, start-ups often lack access to venture capital or economic know-how.
In Tiding-online we speak about it with Dr Sebastian Vogt, managing director of the technology transfer and business start-up centre of the university in Paderborn (TecUP).

Digitalisation provides excellent perspectives for the region of East Westphalia-Lippe. The town of Paderborn plays a central role in the digital model region of North Rhine-Westphalia. The start-ups in the region of East Westphalia-Lippe already rely on digitalisation: agile project management, flexibility as to time and space and networked working. Offers such as garage33 in Paderborn constitute an important network in the digital age: here not only young but also established companies are given the necessary tools and the necessary space to develop new digital business models together with science.

 In an interview with Dr Sebastian Vogt, managing director of the technology transfer and business start-up centre of the university in Paderborn (TecUP), we speak about digital transformation and the significance of start-ups.

Tiding: Dr Vogt, how can digital transformation work on an organisational level? What role do start-ups play in this respect?

Dr. Sebastian Vogt: Digitalisation affects all sectors nowadays – it is a chance and yet a challenge. In order to be able to cope better with digital transformation, several companies have already begun working together with start-ups to gain better access to their lateral way of thinking, new technologies and innovations. Start-ups can provide the necessary impetus to well-established companies and at the same time prove to be valuable development partners for experienced companies.

In the test environment of garage33, the founding incubator in Paderborn, medium-sized companies can develop and test new products, processes and business models together with “the young and wild”, i.e. students, doctoral students and founders from the university in Paderborn at short intervals. In garage33, which is supported by the technology transfer and business start-up centre of the university in Paderborn (TecUP), companies have the opportunity to come into contact with lateral thinkers not belonging to the same company or industry. The companies get to see matters from a fresh perspective of neutral entrepreneurs and can benefit from the ideas, techniques and in particular the founding mentality of the start-ups. In this way they can accelerate their innovation processes and react more agilely to market changes. The combination of business start-up dynamics and the resources of “corporates” is therefore an advantage for both sides as such a cooperation can be a real door opener also for the start-ups from garage33.

Tiding: In what way do founding incubators such as garage33 contribute to the expansion of digital infrastructure?

Vogt: Many young entrepreneurs wishing to take the plunge into self-employment have an innovative idea but most of them lack the capital, the necessary network or the respective economic know-how. This is exactly where TecUP comes in: In today’s digital age we are the interface between economy and science and provide important networking opportunities, as in the case of garage33. Here young companies receive the required tools, capital and the necessary space in order to develop new, innovative business ideas together with science. High-tech start-ups are immensely significant for the growth and prosperity of a region.

If we continue to support founders strongly, the basis of existing companies will become broader and this will make East Westphalia-Lippe more attractive in the long term. Moreover, the InnovationslaborOWL (innovation laboratory East Westphalia-Lippe) creates new resources – in the coming three years three cohorts of start-ups will be qualified over a period of twelve months respectively for the purpose of successfully developing business ideas and putting them into practice. This is a new project of the university cooperation Campus OWL to which not only the university in Paderborn but also the university in Bielefeld, the university East Westphalia-Lippe and the university of applied sciences in Bielefeld belong. All in all, up to 45 start-ups and up to 100 founders at the university locations are to be supported by this project. The aim is to strengthen East Westphalia-Lippe as a founding region and high-tech location by expanding the digital infrastructure.

Tiding: In what way does digitalisation influence competitiveness in the region of East Westphalia-Lippe? 

Vogt: New digital ideas make a significant contribution to the regional economy: a great number of students, graduates and scientists from the region of East Westphalia-Lippe have set up an enterprise over the past few years and now do business with research and development and carry out important functions as employers in the region. Up to now more than 170 companies spun off from the university in Paderborn have created over 8,500 jobs 82 percent of which are in the region.

In order to support start-ups in the best possible way an ecological system for founders is required consisting of various individual elements. On the one hand, an innovation quarter is needed such as garage33, which acts as the contact point for all those involved. Our coaching and qualification offers constitute further essential elements of an ecological system for founders. Another significant element is access to risk capital. This access was lacking for a long time in East Westphalia-Lippe, which is why some of the start-ups left the region in their growth phases. The technology fund and the Business Angel network of East Westphalia-Lippe (BAN.OWL) have also managed to establish this element in the region.

 The aim of BAN.OWL initiated by TecUP is to link private economic investors of the region with start-ups in the best possible way in order to facilitate access to risk capital for founding companies thus supporting the ecological system for start-ups in the long term. The Business Angels, who are mostly successful entrepreneurs from East Westphalia-Lippe, provide risk capital for start-ups and also offer their experience and networks to the young founding businesses.

The technology fund OWL was initiated by the Sparkasse Paderborn-Detmold, the NRW bank and Phoenix Contact and is supported by the fund management EnjoyVenture, the top cluster it’s OWL and TecUP. The technology fund OWL can invest up to EUR 1.5 million in a shareholding – in doing so it supports in particular start-ups in the areas of IT or IOT (Internet of Things) as well as innovative business models with a high market and scaling potential. The technology fund OWL is a further important step in providing start-ups in East Westphalia-Lippe with an ecological system for their successful business foundation and thus binding them to the region for the long term.

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