An interview with the Representative for Transfer, Prof. Dr. Günter Mayer, who heads the department Chemical Biology and Chemical Genetics at the LIMES Institute.
Prof. Mayer, you have been appointed transfer officer at the University of Bonn. How long have you had this task and what is your job?
I have been Representative for Transfer since May 2018. My task, together with other stakeholders at the university, is to establish and set up a transfer center at our alma mater. In addition to research and teaching, transfer is increasingly being assigned to universities as a third core task. Knowledge and technology transfer take place at different levels and directions, from the university to society / economy, from society / economy to the university, but also within the university. In order to make this possible, a central office is necessary that bundles activities and knowledge and coordinates it in a network.
What personal experiences do you benefit from in this task?
Some of my own scientific work is very application-oriented, and I have always been committed to making economic use of the results. This work resulted in numerous patents and interactions with other working groups, but also with companies. Products and license agreements have been developed from these collaborations. After completing my doctoral thesis, I already helped to set up a biotechnology company and co-founded it. That means that I am not a stranger to both sides, the academic and the entrepreneurial, as well as the requirements for products and the associated IP questions. Together with Michael Famulok we are currently trying to found another company, Clickmer Systems, which is currently based at the Life Science Incubator (LSI) in Bonn. In addition, I provide my scientific expertise to various companies and research institutions for advice. All of these experiences, which I have had in the past years, are of great benefit to me as a transfer officer. In addition, I also learn a lot of new things from this position, get to know other areas of the university - that is exciting and broadens the horizon.
How did the Transfer Center enaCom come about?
It was a collaborative effort by the Rectorate, the people who have been dealing with transfer tasks at the University of Bonn in Department 7 for many years, and many colleagues. We have started to undergo a transfer audit by the Stifterverband. This includes a self-report, i.e. a description of the status quo, and a description in which direction the transfer topic will be developed at the University of Bonn. In October 2018, a two-day audit was held, in which external experts with very different backgrounds were involved, from the academic and economic environment. All facets of the transfer were examined, with the active participation of all status groups and faculties of the University. The Rectorate and the Chancellor were also involved in this process. After these two very intensive days, the Stifterverband wrote a statement including suggestions on how to proceed. Based on these recommendations and our own ideas and framework requirements, the transfer center enaCom was founded.
So what are the main tasks and objectives of enaCom?
This is essentially the support of all projects in the area of knowledge and technology transfer at the University of Bonn, covering all disciplines. In addition to the traditional transfer tasks, such as supporting spin-offs and start-up projects, this also includes evaluating and exploiting potential in early research phases. Patent management, licensing and the support of all status groups, i.e. professors, scientists, but also students and members of the administration and academic staff with all transfer questions and projects. In addition to classic spin-offs, this can also include the coordination of company contacts, further training concepts, but also participation in courses. Our goal is that enaCom becomes the central transfer hub of the university, which everyone is happy to contact and where, as far as we can, he or she will receive unbureaucratic support.
Where is enaCom located in the university structure?
enaCom is located in Dezernat 7, which now operates under the name "Research and Transfer", as an independent division 7.4 Transfer Center enaCom.
How is the transfer center financed?
enaCom is financed from central funds, from excellence funds and third-party funding. In December 2019, we were able to raise € 1.4 million from the BMWi as part of the EXIST call ‘Potentials’. These funds are explicitly designated for increasing the university's start-up founding activities.
Where are you located?
We have been housed in Brühler Straße 7 since the beginning of May. Due to the Corona measures, we cannot yet get started at this location. At this location, we will also be able to offer co-working spaces for start-up teams in the early start-up phases and seminar rooms for events in addition to the office space for employees. The Science to Start-up (s2s) university group will also be on site. It will be an 'open' house, welcoming everyone to talk about transfer matters, on a casual basis.
How many employees do you start with?
At the moment, in addition to the employees Ms. Schuba and Mr. Wolf, Mr. Impekoven (Head of Dezernat 7) and I are trying to set up the division. We have just posted four positions within the EXIST program and three more for so-called innovation scouts will follow in the second half of this year. In addition, we endeavor to recruit a suitable person for leading the division. That means we are expecting an entire soccer team by next year.
How exactly should the work of the Innovation Scouts look like inside the university and to the outside?
Innovation scouts work decentral. This means that they will work very closely with scientists from the faculties, TRAs and clusters of excellence to discover innovations at an early stage and to develop possible exploitation strategies that will be followed up in enaCom. Of course, in close coordination with the scientists involved. As a result, we expect a significant increase in spin-offs and other uses of innovations that are being developed at the University of Bonn.
You have certainly been very busy with this new task. On the other hand, you can create a completely new and important structure here that will shape the University of Bonn in the coming decades. How do you experience the balancing act between additional effort and stimulating pioneering work?
It takes a lot of time, but I have the impression that it's worth it. We are a great team with which the work is largely non-bureaucratic and focused, and, what is particularly important to me, it is fun. Certainly, my own working group at the LIMES Institute sometimes gets a little short, but thanks to electronic tools, even before corona times, all of this is manageable. I hope that we can actually do valuable work for the entire University and build a powerful transfer center. The project is backed by the Rectorate and the odds are good that we will be able to achieve our goals in the next years.
University of Bonn
Transfer Center enaCom (Unit 7.4)
Brühler Straße 7
Representative for Transfer
Prof. Dr. Günter Mayer
Phone: +49 (0)228 73-2935