On 17 September, the winners of the inaugural University Innovation Challenge were chosen in a ceremony at Frankfurt’s Goethe University. After fascinating pitches by the various finalists, a live vote took place in which the audience chose the victors in each category. Our sincere congratulations go to all the winning entrants. We would also like to say a big thank you to all the participants, partners and guests for their work and support.
If you would like to take part in next year’s University Innovation Challenge, you can put your name down now at [email protected].



Future Engineering: Ineratec

The INERATEC founders have developed microstructured synthesis reactors in compact table-sized units that hold the key to decentralised chemical processes. They offer a high degree of load flexibility, allow entire processes to be started up and shut down in just a few minutes, and involve an investment volume that is around 1/10 of that required for comparable conventional systems. Containerised systems equipped with INERATEC’s reactor technology generate renewable fuel, allowing them to contribute to the ongoing transition to clean energy sources.


Future Materials: Bipolymer Systeme

Bipolymer Systeme are using patented bipolymers to develop heat engines that convert heat into electricity more cost-effectively than comparable technologies. This enables chemical industry customers to save electricity and cut production costs, while also allowing private households to generate their own electricity more cheaply than with photovoltaics. Users also benefit from supplementary heating and hot water generation. The start-up uses solar modules for domestic customers and low-temperature waste heat (< 200°C) in industry.


Future Finances: ChemSquare

ChemSquare is a digital platform for life science supplies which optimises sales and ordering processes, giving buyers greater transparency regarding possible suppliers and offerings. It also allows suppliers to find new customers more effectively and process existing clients’ orders more quickly. Based on state-of-the-art technology, the platform’s proprietary system enables ChemSquare to respond to individual industry requirements.


Future Living: Vilisto

vilisto develops and distributes self-learning radiator thermostats that optimise heat use in office premises and administrative buildings, thus potentially cutting heating costs by up to 40%. Their AI-based proprietary technology, which combines self-learning algorithms with integrated occupancy detection, automatically turns radiators down when no one is in the room, while existing occupancy data enables it to predict user behaviour and thereby reduce energy consumption.


Future Life Science: Inveox

inveox digitises and automates pathology labs, thereby increasing the safety and reliability of cancer diagnoses while also optimising efficiency and profitability. The system comprises an intelligent sample container for biopsy tissue, an automated processing machine and a highly secure Web app for transferring data between the patient’s physician and the pathology lab. The integration of these three components allows the seamless automation of data entry (previously conducted manually), the otherwise error-prone transfer of samples from transport containers to tissue cassettes, and their clear and permanent labelling via laser technology.

Future Data Intelligence SPECIAL AWARD

Future Data Intelligence SPECIAL AWARD: Bernstein

Using blockchain technology, Bernstein allows companies to create a digital record trail for their innovation processes. Customers can quickly and easily register inventions, designs and proofs of use, in return obtaining blockchain certificates that prove an IP asset’s ownership, existence and integrity. Thanks to a unique cryptographic key, all notarised information remains completely private. Blockchain technology is ideally suited to registering public and private records and makes for a notarisation platform that is decentralised, uncensorable, permissionless and resilient.



University research in German-speaking countries is a rich source of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. So many new ideas are born in college lecture theatres, seminar rooms and laboratories. That’s why more and more universities are developing incubators in which research findings and innovative thinking are translated into start-ups. Here, ingenious ideas can be paired with marketing know-how and expertise in scaling up and finding backers. Innovations and a start-up culture are key to the success of our economy, with the ability to rapidly turn ideas into businesses set to play a crucial role in securing our economic future. After all, start-ups are SMEs in the making – and thus fundamental to continued economic growth.

For Handelsblatt and Goethe University Frankfurt, the award’s initiators, the University Innovation Challenge (UIC) is an opportunity to celebrate pioneering solutions and thus showcase innovative ideas for tomorrow.