Prof. Dr. Siegfried R. Waldvogel, Professor at the Department of Chemistry at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) and spokesperson of its Top-level Research Area "SusInnoScience" (Sustainable Chemistry as the Key to Innovation in Resource-efficient Science in the Anthropocene) and the BMBF Future Cluster ETOS (Electrification of Technical Organic Syntheses) was honored yesterday by the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Bettina Stark-Watzinger, for founding his company ESy-Labs GmbH. At a ceremony in Berlin, Stark-Watzinger awarded him the title "UNIPRENEUR" of the initiative UNIPRENEURS. This is under the patronage of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection, cooperates with the Donors' Association for the Promotion of Sciences and Humanities in Germany and has the task of promoting entrepreneurship at German universities. "We want to strengthen the start-up scene at our universities. Professors play a central role in this. They make a significant contribution to the start-up culture at universities and are important drivers of Germany's innovative strength and future viability," says Stark-Watzinger. Prof. Dr. Siegfried R. Waldvogel is one of 20 professors who were honored yesterday as "UNIPRENEUR". Previously, 700 candidates had been nominated by company founders. The certificate is signed by Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research, and Dr. Robert Habeck, Federal Minister of Economics and Climate Protection, each as patron.
The UNIPRENEURS award is based on the voice of the founders, because only they can finally judge the quality of inspiration and support provided by the professors. The most advanced 5,502 founders in Germany from the commercial register were identified and contacted. In addition, together with the 20 best venture capital investors and 20 most successful founders, a large-scale campaign with more than 500,000 contacts was run over 6 weeks in April and May of this year. As a result, nearly 700 nominations were received from founders. These were then deliberated by a renowned board of trustees with the participation of Achim Berg (former President, Bitkom & Operating Partner, General Atlantic), Andrea Frank (Deputy Secretary General and Member of the Executive Board of the Stifterverband), Dr. Alexander von Frankenberg (Managing Director of High-Tech Gründerfonds), Prof. Dr. Anke Kaysser-Pyzalla (Chairwoman of the Board of the German Aerospace Center) and Mr. Hilpert, and the 20 winners were decided.
"We congratulate Siegfried Waldvogel on his award as a company founder and wish him every success with ESy-Labs," says JGU President Prof. Dr. Georg Krausch. "The award illustrates the excellent work being done in our SusInnoScience profile area and highlights JGU's research strength in sustainable chemistry."
Electrosynthesis as a future technology
Based on his research at JGU, Waldvogel founded ESy-Labs in 2018 together with Dr. Tobias Gärtner from the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology. The company specializes in the application of electrosynthesis for the production of organic and inorganic raw materials required by the pharmaceutical or chemical industries. "The advantages of electrosynthesis are that electric current replaces chemical reagents, which are expensive and usually generate toxic waste. In addition, electricity from renewable sources can be used for this purpose," Waldvogel says. "This makes electrosynthesis a technology of the future that will become dramatically more important in the coming years due to climate change." However, he says, there is still a gap between laboratory application and industrial use, i.e., the production of raw materials in quantities of several grams and of several tons. ESy-Labs aims to close this gap between academic and industrial research by dedicating itself to process development and custom electrosynthesis. An important aspect of this is the conversion of waste streams into value products, for example the recovery of zinc from fly ash. The company is located in Regensburg and Gernsheim and now has more than ten employees.