News Release

Prestigious UNIPRENEURS Founders Award: Three TU Dresden scientists among the 20 honorees from all over Germany

Grant and Award Announcement

Technische Universität Dresden

Prof. Frank Buchholz

image: Portrait Prof. Frank Buchholz view more 

Credit: S.Rose Fotografie

The award ceremony was held in Berlin on September 6, 2023 by the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, and Dr. Anna Christmann, Commissioner for Digital Economy and Startups at the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action. Partner organizations of UNIPRENEURS are the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, the German Startups Association, Bitkom and

"The award winners demonstrate that research excellence and start-ups from universities are not opposites, but complement each other perfectly. Their award is a great motivation to continue on this path of success," underlines Andreas Pinkwart, who holds the Chair for Innovation and Technology Management at TU Dresden and attended the award ceremony as an official representative of TUD.

The UNIPRENEURS professors are highly respected authorities at their respective universities and have made significant contributions to the transfer of innovation to industry. The professors represent the highest research achievements in engineering, economics, natural sciences, computer science and medicine. Together, the UNIPRENEURS have supported over 1,200 startups as mentors, advisors or investors. More than half of the professors honored have founded startups themselves.

Award Winner Prof. Karl Leo

The physicist Prof Karl Leo as a pioneer of organic semiconductor electronics combines scientific excellence with entrepreneurial instinct. The 63-year-old has held the Chair of Optoelectronics at Dresden University of Technology since 1993 and is also the director of the Institute of Applied Physics and the "Dresden Integrated Center for Applied Physics and Photonic Materials (IAPP)", an interdisciplinary association for bundling research efforts on organic semiconductors at TUD. He is an internationally renowned expert in the field of organic semiconductors, which is reflected in numerous highly endowed awards and prizes, including the Leibniz Prize (2002), the German Future Prize (2011), the Blaise Pascal Medal (2021) and the European Inventor Award 2021 in the category "Lifetime Achievement". His pioneering work in the field of organic semiconductors led to the development of highly efficient, low-cost organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs), which are now installed in smartphone or TV displays all over the world. Leo works with his team to further develop other highly efficient organic semiconductor devices such as solar cells, transistors and sensors. Through his entrepreneurial instinct, Leo turned much of this work into successful spin-offs, contributing significantly to the expansion of Germany's Silicon Saxony high-tech network. He also co-founded the world's largest regional network on organic semiconductors: Organic Electronics Saxony. Since 1999, he has established eight start-ups, including such successful companies as Novaled and Heliatek. For Karl Leo, it is his own inner drive, the intrinsic motivation and at the same time joy of transferring his groundbreaking research results directly into application: "It is simply great when you see your scientific work having an effect in practice. In this way, we can give something back to the society that finances us and we open up many perspectives for young, talented people. The UNIPRENEURS award is a wonderful confirmation for everyone involved from my team, in the companies and of course for myself."

Award Winner Prof. Gerhard Fettweis

Gerhard Fettweis has held the Vodafone Endowed Chair of Mobile Communication Systems at TUD since 1994. His focal areas of research are on the further development of new mobile radio concepts, specifically in the design of transmission systems and their realization with the aid of new digital hardware and electronic systems. Over the past 30 years, he has been involved in more than one hundred research projects worth over 450 million euros, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the European Union, the German Research Foundation, the state of Saxony, and industry, among others. Under his leadership, 17 start-ups have been established out of the university, including, for example, Signalion GmbH (National Instruments since 2013), RadioOpt GmbH (acquired by Vodafone in 2016) or the most recent spin-off 5½ GmbH. To this day, Fettweis has created more than 500 new jobs in the field of research and development in Dresden.

"In 1994, my appointment at TU Dresden meant not only an exciting scientific challenge for me, but also an obligation to contribute to the economic development of Saxony," said Prof. Gerhard Fettweis. "The fact that we have been able to successfully implement this with graduates and their startups, and that we have been honored with the UNIPRENEURS award for this, means a very special honor for me."

Award Winner Prof. Frank Buchholz

Prof. Dr. Frank Buchholz, Head of the Medical Systems Biology Research Group at TU Dresden's Faculty of Medicine, has been named one of the highly deserving award winners of the prestigious 2023 UNIPRENEURS Award. This award highlights his impressive track record in medical research and recognizes his outstanding contribution to the advancement of genome editing and its potential therapeutic application.

Early in his scientific career, Prof. Buchholz recognized the enormous potential of recombinase technology as a precise and safe tool for genome editing. His dedication and perseverance led him and his team to pave the way to develop this technology for potential therapeutic applications, leading to potential market readiness.

"For me, this award is not only a recognition of my work, but also an acknowledgement of the importance of advancing groundbreaking research in close collaboration with industry and a supportive academic environment. I am very grateful for this honor and hope to encourage other academics with this track record," commented Prof. Dr. Frank Buchholz.

The groundbreaking results of his research have previously received recognition through the prestigious GO-Bio Award from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. These successful achievements attracted both industry partners and renowned investors. Prof. Buchholz founded Seamless Therapeutics in 2022 together with Dr. Anne-Kristin Heninger (Managing Director) and Dr. Felix Lansing (Chief Scientific Officer), which received an impressive seed funding of 11.8 million euros in 2023. Headed by Wellington Partners and Forbion and further supported by the BMBF, the development of the company's proprietary recombinase platform will now be further advanced in Dresden.

Information on UNIPRENEURS:
UNIPRENEURS has made it its business to promote entrepreneurship at German universities. In cooperation with renowned partner organizations such as the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, the German Startups Association, Bitkom and, UNIPRENEURS was able to launch an unprecedented initiative that honors the best professors for their outstanding achievements in the field of university spin-offs. Already today, about a quarter of all German startups are created in university and research-related environments. The German research landscape has enormous potential; in terms of patents and scientific publications of relevance to the global market, Germany occupies one of the top positions in an international comparison. Entrepreneurial thinking at universities and initiatives for more spin-offs constitute a crucial tool for exploiting this potential.

The UNIPRENEURS initiative aims to identify and reward academic pioneer entrepreneurs. Founders are given the opportunity to develop their entrepreneurial creativity through various channels and inspire others. This can be realized through events, business plan competitions, independent entrepreneurial initiatives, application-oriented research or personal commitment in the entrepreneurial field. In the medium term, the initiative is also expected to contribute to anchoring the topic of "entrepreneurial university" more broadly in the management bodies of universities. UNIPRENEURS is intended to make a significant contribution to the implementation of the coalition agreement, the German government's start-up strategy and the future strategy for research and innovation in the area of spin-off culture.

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