By Birgit Baustädter
The FFG promotes academic start-up projects with spin-off fellowships. In 2022, eleven projects received funding across Austria - two of which are based at TU Graz.
DIGICOPRO (DIGItized COncreting PROcesses) - digitization in construction operations: Quality assurance of concreting processes through polysensory systems
Concreting too quickly is one of the most common reasons for poor properties of concrete, such as lack of colour uniformity, defects in texture and uneven surfaces. In many cases, these and similar faults require cost-intensive and elaborate remediation. An additional problem arises from the fact that the formwork used can fail if the fresh concrete rises too quickly. This results in a potential hazard for workers on the construction site. In order to prevent the aforementioned deficiencies, a team from the Institute of Construction Management and Economics at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) is developing a multisensory monitoring system for concreting processes on construction sites. Several sensors record important parameters, such as the bulk layer development or the placement sequence.
polyDURAMEA (polyaniline modified catalyst for durable polymer electrolyte fuel cell membrane electrode assembly )
For hydrogen to be used as an energy storage medium worldwide and on a large scale, efficient and reliable energy converters are needed, such as polymer electrolyte fuel cells. At present, however, insufficient durability and excessively high material costs still prevent their widespread use. The core of the fuel cell - the membrane electrode unit - is particularly problematic. Large amounts of platinum are necessary to maintain performance over a long service life as the catalyst is lost through ageing processes such as carbon corrosion and platinum agglomeration. For this purpose, a more stable catalyst system based on polyaniline was developed and patented at the Institute of Chemical Engineering and Environmental Technology at TU Graz. It protects the carbon, slows down the agglomeration of platinum and thus increases the service life of the fuel cell. Now this technology is being scaled up to industrial application.
FFG spin-off fellowships
The spin-off fellowship programme is designed to support the exploitation of intellectual property at universities and research institutions at a very early stage in order to enable the founding of a company after completion of the fellowship. During the term of the spin-off fellowship, the fellows have to concentrate 100 per cent on their tasks and may not pursue any teaching or other research tasks. In order to impart entrepreneurial thinking and action, the fellows receive accompanying further training measures, coaching and mentoring via the FFG network.
The call for applications is aimed at interested persons with at least a Bachelor’s degree from universities and research institutions. The funding amounts to a maximum of 500,000 euros with a funding rate of 100% and takes the form of non-repayable grants. Funding is provided for the costs of the fellow, but also for development costs and third-party services. The duration of a spin-off fellowship is a maximum of 18 months. The application is submitted to the FFG by the respective university or research institution, and the fellow is responsible for project management. So far, a total of 24 projects have been funded in three rounds of calls, 15 of which have matured into spin-offs. The next call is planned for the second quarter of 2023.