Hessian Founder Award: Frankfurt and Darmstadt Dominate The Final

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Business ideas with AI and sensors were the main focus of the twelve young Hessian companies in the last round of the competition

Shafique Fakih

With 5 out of the 12 finalists being young companies from Darmstadt, the city of Science, makeup almost half of the finalists in the Hessian Founders Award 2021. A quarter comes from Frankfurt and the other finalists are all from the southwestern part of the state. That is one of the results of the exciting semi-final with exciting pitches last Monday (September 20, 2021) at Design Offices in Frankfurt. “It is a bit unusual that no founders from East, North or Central Hesse were able to qualify for the finals this year. It was different in previous years. Of the 48 startups from the semifinals, only twelve were able to reach the finals and the decisions of the juries were sometimes very tight, ”says Elisabeth Neumann, project manager for the Hessian Founder Award at KIZ SINNOVA Gesellschaft für Sozial Innovations gGmbH. “I am quite sure that the young companies from other parts of the country will use this as an incentive to bring the award to their region in 2022. “

In the last round of the competition, the “Innovative Startups” category was filled exclusively with companies from the major city in southern Hesse, all three of which also rely on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). COMPREDICT by Rafael Fietzek and Stéphane Foulard predicts the service life of vehicle parts using AI and virtual sensors. Simon Krech, Dr Martin Krech, Markus Hessinger and Arthur Buchta from Core Sensing have developed a force and torque sensor that can be used to monitor machine elements. Here, AI helps to make failures plannable and to optimize processes. PipePredict by Christoph Dörner, Valerie Fehst and Tri-Duc Nghiem analyzes sensor data using AI to prevent water pipe bursts.

“The topics of AI and sensor technology made themselves very noticeable in the competition this year and are now well represented in the final round. This shows the innovative strength of the Hessian founders. But beyond that, we saw a lot of great business ideas from various industries that contribute to the renewal and rejuvenation of the Hessian economy and create high-quality jobs,” explains Elisabeth Neumann. “In total 1,207 jobs these 167 startups have created, of which just over half full-time and 367 part-time, 187 people are freelancing busy. 37 apprenticeship positions are also a great success. The number of jobs created is almost 30 per cent higher than in the previous year. I am very impressed that the Hessian founders did not despair in the second year of the corona pandemic; in fact, with 167 young companies in the first round of the competition, we had the fourth record participation in a row.”

47 startups from Frankfurt, this year’s regional partner, applied, three of which made it to the finals. Two of them are represented in the “Social Impact” category: Enviria by Melchior Schulze Brock involves companies more closely in the energy transition by offering energy-as-a-service solutions for the B2B sector. The startup enables medium-sized companies, industry and municipalities to find innovative solar-centric solutions and aims to decentralize and democratize power generation. The Frankfurt Dignity Center from Dr Ingmar Hornke and Boris Knopf want to strengthen humanity in health care and care for the elderly. It accompanies people in making decisions about living wills, power of attorney as well as ethical questions and decisions and aims to alleviate physical, psychological, social and existential hardships and make it easier to say goodbye. Finally, Digi Sapiens from Langen in the Offenbach district by Daniel Iglesias and Andreas Haag offers AI support to promote reading. Because reading tandems at a distance are also possible via the app, the system is also suitable for pandemic times and encourages children to read aloud.

Darmstadt, the city of science, also dominates the “University Startups” category with 2 out of 3 finalists: Lucas Fuhrmann, Julian Mushövel and Montgomery Wagner founded Revoltech to produce the purely vegetable leather alternative LOVR from waste from German hemp cultivation. LOVR is 100% biodegradable, the first purely vegetable product with a leather-like look, feel and robustness and saves 99.7% CO2 compared to real leather. Small World Vision by Sebastian Schmelze, Sarah von Hagen, Marc-Simon Stutz, Michael Heethoff and Bernhard Ströbel develops and sells high-precision 3D scanners for small, complex and colourful objects. Fabian Goedert and Sophia riders from Butzbach in the Wetterau founded FISEGO fire protection engineering at the Technical University of Central Hesse. They developed the first fire detection and fire fighting system for small and large electrical appliances that not only detects a fire but also extinguishes it without human intervention.

Since 2019, the Hessian Founders Award has been in the “Sustainable Succession” category, because taking over an existing company offers just as great opportunities as founding it. Even in this situation, it takes a lot of founding spirits to set new impulses. Here AQON Water Solutions is part of Bensheim in the finals. Founded to develop filtration technology, the two sons of the company’s founder, Maximilian and Konstantin Wilk, who joined the company in 2017, developed AQON Pure. This is a limescale protection system that works without salt, reduces limescale deposits in the drinking water installation, on fittings and surfaces as well as the chloride content in the wastewater and thus protects the environment. At Graphic-Idea Textile Advertising from Frankfurt, Sebastian Borst became an entrepreneur after 17 years as an employee and took over the Helm in 2020. He orients the company towards sustainable management, has just passed the GOTS certification for social and ecological responsibility in textile production, is converting finishing techniques, screen printing or direct digital printing to sustainable technologies and attaches great importance to organic and fair wear products for the textiles used. SK Laser from Wiesbaden manufactures customer-specific laser machines with which materials can be engraved, marked, ablated and cut. Since 2005, a typical garage company has become a global company and one of the leading producers of laser systems in Germany. Dina Reit, daughter of the founder, has wanted to hold and expand this position since 2019. She has given up her career as a curator in a museum in order to give employees, customers and suppliers of the family company SK LASER cross-generational stability and new impulses for the future. Reit has digitized marketing and expanded communication.

More information and press photos on their website ()

The competition: From all applications — in 2021 there were 167 and thus the fourth applicant record in a row despite Corona — a total of 48 companies in the four categories (“Innovative Business Idea “,” Future-Oriented Successor “,” Social Impact “and” University Startups”) reached the semi-finals. There they pitched in front of a jury that selected three finalists for each category, i.e. a total of twelve. These will compete against each other on November 3rd and will be honoured as winners at a festive award ceremony in the evening, one company per category, i.e. a total of four, will also be highlighted as winners. The award ceremony will be carried out personally by the Hessian Minister of Economic Affairs, Tarek Al-Wazir, as a patron. Participants can win a professional company film, media attention, high-quality network contacts and valuable training.

Hessian Founder Prize: The Hessian Founder Prize has been awarded since 2003. Founded in 2002 by the KIZ gGmbH in Offenbach, it is funded by the Hessian Ministry for Economic Affairs, Energy, Transport and Housing as well as with European funds from the Fund for Regional Development ERDF. The Hessian Founders Award will take place in Frankfurt in 2021.

The Hessian Founder Prize is funded with European funds from the Fund for Regional Development EFRE.

For more information:

Martin Brust

Phone +49 151 567 584 59

[email protected]

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