Practice dovetails with theory - and vice versa

Technology transfer in universities

At many companies – mainly small and medium-sized ones – it’s simply not possible to exploit the full potential of innovations. In many cases, companies don’t even have a research department. As a result, they tap into third-party know-how from experts who can leverage knowledge to the commercial benefit of the company. For more than 25 years, companies have been coming to the Steinbeis IDA Transfer Center (IDA = Innovation > Development > Application) at Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences to see knowledge successfully translated into practice.

Professors Klaus Gremminger and Holger Vogelsang have been using Steinbeis’s IDA Transfer Center as a platform for students and companies to work together on new ideas and concepts – free from the constraints of academic principles and single-minded business thinking. The approach gives students in the Department of Computer Science and Business Information Systems an opportunity to apply specialist knowledge from their studies to a real product, just as they would in business. 

During the 2009/10 winter semester, the students worked with the Karlsruhe-based company 1&1 Internet, a leading provider of internet and communication services. Supervised by professors, computer science students were involved in a rather special project. Their job: to think up new “use cases” for the product 1&1 DSL-HomeNet, using hardware supplied by 1&1, then come up with a concept and implement it step by step. 1&1 product and project managers also supervised the students during the entire project, which concluded with the students presenting their successful developments to the professors and the entire 1&1 HomeNet team. As a hard-earned reward, each group received a complete set of hardware.

The 2010 summer semester saw a crossfaculty project involving computer science students, mechatronics students and the Karlsruhe-based company Systec & Services GmbH, a specialist in integrated product management. The aim of this project was to develop a multimedia energy portal based on a web data server which can be linked up to different data sources such as solar energy systems, power meters and weather stations. Production and consumption values can then be displayed to users in visual form, either through a web browser or “on the move” via Android and iPhone apps. The budding mechatronics experts worked on the hardware, while the computer science students developed the required software. Temperature and energy consumption readings from a mechatronics laboratory at the university were used for initial testing of the device’s functionality. At the end of the semester, the students finished their project by successfully presenting their system to Systec & Services. As a reward, each student was given an electricity meter which could be connected to the new multimedia energy portal.

Both 1&1 Internet and Systec & Services saw a partnership with Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences and the IDA Steinbeis Transfer Center as a commitment and a great opportunity to tap into the vast potential and innovative power of students. In turn, the students are full of praise for the project. So joint IT projects of this kind will continue at the university, in collaboration with other companies from the Karlsruhe Technology Region, and the university will continue to expand its network of partnerships with local businesses.

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