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KIT Entrepreneurship Talk with Prof. Stork – Pioneer of technology transfer at the KIT

Prof. Stork bei den KIT Entrepreneurship TalksOn April 23, 2015, the opening event of the Entrepreneurship Talks for the summer semester 2015 took place. Prof. Dr. Wilhelm Stork, multiple founder of KIT spin-offs, collegial leader of the Institute for Information Processing Technologies (ITIV), and director of the area of embedded systems and sensor engineering at the Research Center for Information Technology was invited as a guest. He talked about his professional career, which impressively combines science and entrepreneurship.

Prof. Stork already began to deal with entrepreneurial thought early on alongside to his pure research activities. His motivation in doing so was his curiosity regarding whether there was a possibility to realize his research results and whether there were already companies on the market that could manufacture products from them. The question about realization or even utilization of research results on the market was not self-evident at the time. It was a novelty and wasn’t viewed very positively. Consequently, Prof. Stork had to initially pursue his project relatively unnoticed.

The deciding factor for the first realization of a product came from one of his students at the time. As an employee of the largest research group for holography, he was thus able to create a contact with the largest manufacturer of holographic structures in Europe. In this case, coincidence helped. Another step in the direction of entrepreneurship was contact in the early 1990s with a professor who had already founded several companies and was thus able to support the first spin-off with his own experience. Through further encounters and a fortunate coincidence, applications for a new technology and the first customer were finally found. After Prof. Stork had carved his way from his business to the former TH Karlsruhe, driven by the economic crisis of the 1990s, the first transfer of research took place in 1998 with the company movisens, which is stably growing with good growth rates to this day. Further spin-offs followed in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

When approached about the success factors of his startups, Prof. Stork names two factors: coincidence and drive to want to realize the compiled knowledge. He pays attention to this drive, for instance, when hiring doctoral candidates. Anyone wishing to do their doctorate with Prof. Stork should be equipped with a sound career orientation. Why? The answer is simple: Only 2 out of 100 doctoral candidates would even have the chance to pursue a scientific career. All others will presumably go into industry after receiving their doctorate degrees. However, the option of a spin-off, – connected to the possibility of realizing your own research results – is a very attractive path. Prof. Stork likes to promote this path as an option for career planning. He exemplifies the changing attitudes of research institutions to more entrepreneurial work. The insights of Prof. Stork at the Entrepreneurship Talk were a successful onset for the event series in the 2015 summer semester.

On May 12, 2015, the highlight of the year will follow. KIT alumni Guido Appenzeller (CTSO at VMware, co-founder of Big Switch Networks and Voltage Security, Member of the Board of Directors at the Karlsruhe startup abusix, Inc.) will talk about his own startup experiences under the motto of “Silicon Valley meets Karlsruhe”. On June 30, 2015, the pioneer of German entrepreneurship, Prof. Dr. Günter Faltin who has been distinguished with the Federal Cross of Merit, will be a guest at the KIT Venture Fest. On July 16, 2015, we can then look forward to hearing from Tim Stracke, co-founder of Chrono24.

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