18. September 2023 | Magazine:

“Focusing even more on relations with the industry” Interview with BLB Executive Board Member Prof. Thomas S. Spengler

The Battery LabFactory, BLB for short, is a research centre of Technische Universität Braunschweig. At the BLB, scientists research and develop electrochemical storage systems from laboratory to pilot plant scale. The aim is to enable the sustainable closed-loop production of battery cells. In June, the new Executive Board was elected. Since then, Prof. Thomas Spengler has been in charge of “Industrial Networks & Business Strategies”. We asked him in a short interview what role industrial contacts and new business models play for a research centre.

Prof. Dr. Thomas S. Spengler. Photo credit: Christian Thies

Prof. Spengler, you are responsible for industry contacts on the BLB Executive Board. This task has now been formulated and placed on the Executive Board for the first time. Is this a sign of BLB’s new strategy?

No, quite the opposite. Industrial contacts and the networking of BLB with relevant companies have been of great importance from the beginning. The explicit establishment of the Executive Board division “Industrial Networks & Business Strategies” is merely intended to bundle these tasks so that they also become an even stronger focus in BLB’s further strategic development.

What is the importance for you of relations with the industry? How does the BLB benefit from this?

Relations with industry are essential for us as a research centre of a technical university. Networking and exchange between the BLB and industry serve, on the one hand, the transfer of research questions to the BLB, for example through the acquisition of research contracts, but on the other hand also the transfer of achieved research results back to industry and politics. These serve industrial and political decision-makers for the evaluation of future technologies and for decision support in investment decisions or the design of future political framework conditions.

What does the division “Business Strategies” entail?

Business strategies encompass the entire value chain of circular battery production and the actors responsible for the respective processes. Business challenges lie in the competition-oriented design, planning and control of closed value-added cycles while simultaneously taking future sustainability requirements into account. This can only be done in close cooperation between industry, science and politics.

International contacts are becoming increasingly important. What measures is the BLB taking to expand its international network?

The BLB has been extensively networked internationally for years, both in science and in industrial practice. Scientific cooperation within the framework of research projects and the exchange of doctoral students and students are the focus of international research with partners from Europe, the USA, Asia and Australia. With the International Battery Production Conference (IBPC), which is held annually in Braunschweig, we address current research projects and practical experiences of the international community.

Are there already signs of developments in the area of transfer?

The transfer area is of particular importance at the BLB. In addition to the annual International Battery Production Conference, the focus is on comprehensive transfer fields such as research-based cooperation with companies, Relationship Management to build relationships for later transfer activities, the provision of research infrastructure, support for start-up activities, transfer-oriented teaching and further training, scientific advice for decision-makers, the participation of social stakeholders in the development of consensual solutions and scientific dialogue with society. Current projects include, for example, the establishment of an information centre on transfer offers, the establishment of an industry support group and the joint research strategy planned for all research centres.

Thank you very much.