Skip navigation

Focus on sustainability: three more start-ups come to TITK

The 7th pitch event of the Thuringian technology competition "Get started 2gether" took place in Erfurt on March 21, 2024. The result: Of the 14 start-ups that took part, eight were able to convince the jury and are now entering into a cooperation with a business-oriented research institute thanks to funding from the Thuringian Ministry of Economic Affairs. The TITK has found three new partners in this way and will now work with the founders to develop their inventions to "production maturity". Sustainable plastics and textiles are clearly the focus for all of them.

The public's favorite in Erfurt was in|stead GmbH from Jena, a very recent spin-off from Friedrich Schiller University. The small team of three chemists and environmental chemists is dedicated to the sustainable and plastic-free modification of surfaces. The start-up has applied with a process for marking filaments. These markers are used in textiles, for example, to distinguish originals from counterfeits or to comply with the new Supply Chain Act. To ensure that the filaments retain their properties after dyeing, they are made water-repellent using a patented process. In|stead does not use any plastics or perfluorocarbons (PFCs) for this so-called hydrophobization, but only non-toxic, biodegradable and environmentally friendly compounds. The process has been successfully tested on a laboratory scale. To scale up to a semi-industrial scale, the Jena scientists can now draw on TITK's many years of expertise.

Prof. Dr. Melik Demirel, founder of the company Tandem Repeat, comes from Philadelphia (USA). His start-up has developed a biodegradable protein fiber for particularly sustainable clothing and textiles. The production process consists of two key steps: Bioproduction of the protein powder and solution spinning of the fiber called "Squitex". "Our unique protein fiber enables us to reduce carbon emissions, energy consumption and water pollution," emphasizes Demirel. His start-up has already established the production of protein powder on a scale of 100 tons. Now fiber production is also to be scaled up from kilograms to tons. To achieve this, Tandem Repeat wants to further develop the solution spinning process with the TITK and make it more efficient.

And an "old acquaintance" is now also entering into another cooperation with TITK: Polytives GmbH. The highly successful Jena founders Viktoria Rothleitner and Oliver Eckardt were already winners of "Get started 2gether" in 2020 and won the IQ Innovation Award for Central Germany in the same year. The start-up has since moved to Rudolstadt. The latest project is called: "PHA optimization: Extended processing windows through polytive bFI additives". PHA - polyhydroxyalkanoates - are sustainable biopolyesters that are obtained naturally from bacteria, among other things. They are biodegradable and can be processed thermoplastically. However, they have inadequate processing properties, which means that they are often very brittle and decompose at temperatures just above the melting point. A new additive system from Polytives aims to solve this problem by improving processing and extending the process window. "The target groups are plastics processors with a focus on sustainability," explains Oliver Eckardt.

With the help of the TITK, several PHA types are to be mixed with the currently available bFI additives and their distribution in the polymer matrix observed. To this end, the processing conditions in injection molding, especially the temperatures and injection pressures, are to be investigated. As soon as an additive for lowering the process temperature has been found, biodegradability studies will be started.

The Free State of Thuringia is supporting the eight selected start-ups with funding totaling one million euros. "Together with the Ministry of Economics, the FTVT has created a program that is unique in Germany," states TITK Director Benjamin Redlingshöfer. It makes a very concrete contribution to significantly increasing the rate of innovators, which is absolutely necessary in view of the challenges of technological change. At the same time, Redlingshöfer sees the collaboration with the start-ups as beneficial for both sides: "We are looking forward to the new collaborations to which we are now making our expertise, technical equipment and networks available." At the same time, it is also very inspiring to have new start-ups in the company on a regular basis.

All successful start-ups at the pitch on 21.03.2024 in Erfurt. (Photo: RBI / Stephan Bodenbinder)
The founders of in|stead with TITK Director Benjamin Redlingshöfer. (Photo: RBI / Stephan Bodenbinder)
Prof. Dr. Melik Demirel, founder of the company Tandem Repeat, with TITK Director Benjamin Redlingshöfer. (Photo: RBI / Stephan Bodenbinder)
Oliver Eckardt (left) and Viktoria Rothleitner from Polytives with TITK Director Benjamin Redlingshöfer. (Photo: RBI / Stephan Bodenbinder)
View into the auditorium of the pitch event. (Photo: RBI / Stephan Bodenbinder)