5. May 2023 | Magazine:

Old clothes become bottles Technology Transfer Award of the IHK Braunschweig for TU researchers and TU spin-offs

The Institute for Chemical and Thermal Process Engineering (ICTV) at TU Braunschweig and the Lüneburg-based start-up RITTEC Umwelttechnik jointly win this year’s Technology Transfer Award from the IHK (Chamber of Industry and Commerce) Braunschweig. They are being honoured for their resource-saving and sustainable process for monomer recycling of PET plastics. In second and third place, Aeon Robotics and PhySens GmbH, two spin-offs of TU Braunschweig, were also awarded prizes.

The main award of 10,000 euros was secured by RITTEC Umwelttechnik GmbH from Lüneburg in cooperation with the Institute for Chemical and Thermal Process Engineering (ICTV) at Technische Universität Braunschweig for a process for monomer recycling of PET plastics. The patented process works with PET bottles, packaging or polyester-containing textiles. For example, bottles can be made from textiles. The foundation for the development of the process was laid by the BMBF project “Entwicklung einer Verwertungstechnologie für PET Altkunststoffe aus Multilayer- und anderen Abfallverbunden – revolPET” (Development of a recycling technology for PET waste plastics from multilayer and other waste composites – revolPET), which was funded from 2017 to 2020.

Caption: (from left) Dr. Vitaly Salikov (RITTEC), Carsten Eichert (RITTEC), Esther Brepohl (ICTV), Professor Stephan Scholl (ICTV), Tobias Hoffmann (IHK Braunschweig). Photo credit: Andreas Rudolph

Industry partners involved from the start

The two TU scientists Esther Brepohl and Lars Biermann have been part of Professor Stephan Scholl’s team from the very beginning and can now reap the fruits of their labour. “In addition, very valuable work by more than 20 students and six doctoral students has also gone into the development, which has contributed significantly to the success,” says Professor Stephan Scholl. RITTEC Umwelttechnik GmbH from Lüneburg and other industrial partners were also involved from the beginning. “It was important to us in our research to align it close to the market and with a viable business model,” reports Professor Scholl. “Our goal was to develop processes to be able to recycle materials that are not yet recyclable, such as textiles with flame retardants or made of different plastic fibres.”

“TU Braunschweig is an engine for innovation not only in the region. This becomes very clear with these awards,” says TU President Angela Ittel. “The award-winning projects are characterised by a high relevance for society, also particularly with regard to the cross-cutting issue of sustainability, which is important in our strategic university development. The inspiring research on which the award-winning market-oriented technologies are based contributes perfectly to TU Braunschweig’s profile.”

Two TU spin-offs ranked in the other places

The ICTV and the company Rittec prevailed in the Technology Transfer Award final, which was held for the first time, via public voting against two other excellent applications, both spin-offs of TU Braunschweig. Second place went to the project team led by Dr. Hans-Ulrich Auster and Professor Karl-Heinz Glaßmeier from the TU Institute of Geophysics and Extraterrestrial Physics and the company PhySens. The project involves the transfer of knowledge about the metrological process of traceable, accurate and precise measurement of magnetic fields. The focus is on making magnetic field sensor technology from space travel usable for mobility and industry.

Aeon Robotics GmbH from Braunschweig, which was founded by two former employees of the TU Institute of Robotics and Process Control, entered the competition with the “HandEffector” robot arm, which is intended to be used for the intuitive teaching of industrial robots. With the help of this technology, various robot systems can be taught fine gripping movements – without any prior knowledge of robotics or programming.

IHK President Tobias Hoffmann emphasised: “The return of the newly conceptualised IHK Technology Transfer Award is an important signal for Braunschweig as a location for innovation and makes clear the special value that continues to be placed on the coming together of industry and science.” The aim of the award is to honour successful transfers of technological knowledge from research institutions to industry. It is also intended to draw attention to the need for pioneering innovations. “Technology transfer is an immensely important process that can help to promote innovation, create new economic growth, sustainably improve the quality of life and at the same time protect the environment. The proposals submitted fully underline this claim,” said the IHK President.

About the award

The IHK Technology Transfer Award shows how efficient the research institutions located in the IHK district are and that the inhibition threshold between industry and science is being reduced more and more. Today, small and medium-sized enterprises also seek contact with research and are successful in the innovation process. Excellent examples of cooperation and technology transfer are honoured by the award.

The award, which has been presented since 1985, was initially only given for transfer achievements within the IHK district. Since 1991, proposals have also been accepted in which either the institute of the scientists or the technology-receiving company come from the district of the Braunschweig Chamber of Industry and Commerce. The remarkable success of the Technology Transfer Award is reflected in the number and quality of the individual proposals.