What can the start-ups in Circular Valley learn? What expertise do they benefit from with you?
Gerhardt: The start-ups are taught the basics of what they need to get from an idea to a company. We start with questions of patent protection and move on to topics such as communication, marketing and sales. We offer some of these topics in-house. But the essential skill and ability of an accelerator is not to be the master of all classes or all content, but to make the appropriate connections. This networking with the respective experts in research and practice is the main value of every Accelerator – and so is ours.
For example, our Chief Scientist, Prof. Thomas Müller-Kirschbaum, is a former head of research at Henkel and has 30 years of research experience in industry himself. But even as a former Henkel research manager, it is of course impossible for him to cover all the important disciplines.
There are many topics in the area of the Circular Economy, so it's more a matter of skillfully connecting with the respective people with the relevant know-how. That's exactly what we also offer the start-ups here. We establish the connection to the large companies and scientific partners of Circular Valley. In addition to industry giants such as Bayer and Evonik, these are also smaller medium-sized companies. Wherever there is a connection in terms of content, we are happy to establish contact.
Why do you think it is so important for young companies to address the topic of the Circular Economy?
Gerhardt: It's important because it's the biggest future challenge we have as humanity. Everyone is talking about one dimension of Circular Economy at the moment, namely greenhouse gases. The open carbon cycle releases about 35 billion tons of CO2 per year. But beyond that, there are a whole host of similarly problematic fields, such as plastic and its single-use application: nearly 150 million tons of plastic end up in incineration or landfill after a single use. With our environmental inputs, we are placing an excessive burden on the biosphere and thus endangering our livelihood. For this reason, not only the European Union, but also the USA and China have put this topic at the top of their agendas with their respective regulations. The European Green Deal is essentially about circularity: How do we manage to reduce environmental inputs?