2. August 2019
Innovation Factory: Developing in a place where visions come true
Since May our team has been researching and developing in the Innovation Factory of RWTH Aachen University. The idea for this special workshop came from an Aachen visionary. It offers us everything we need to explore the basic functionality of our platform in agile work processes – and to come one step closer to our vision. Sometimes visions are a bit like a toddler’s: the first steps are usually quite wobbly. Sometimes you fall down, pick yourself up, fall down again – until it finally works!
Falling down, getting up again, moving on. Most engineers and scientists who are active in research and development, including ourselves, are familiar with this. What seems simple on paper is often a nerve-wracking process when it comes to implementation; every detail must fit, every parameter must be precisely determined. If the basic idea is there, but the ingenious concept is still missing, one thing above all applies: try out as much as possible. For us, this means working in agile work processes. This is made possible above all by the Innovation Factory of RWTH Aachen, a visionary innovation center in the ecosystem of the RWTH Aachen Campus, which is designed to meet all the needs of companies, to break down old structures and to reinvent itself.
In concrete terms, this means that we design and develop components for the channels of the platform, for example, in order to direct the plastic to where it can be skimmed off. In the RWTH Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Management they are then tested in the flow channel. But even in small-scale environments, we can generate currents and test ideas in the Innovation Factory. For example, we let small plastic parts slide into the flow, and at some point they encounter air bubbles that are supposed to carry them up. We then analyze and evaluate what happens for further studies.
A place to create something new
The unique ecosystem of the Innovation Factory is a stroke of luck for us. The bright rooms with their high ceilings are designed to provide space and peace for creativity, while at the same time providing enough space for different workgroups to work simultaneously. The workbenches have a simple appearance and yet offer state-of-the-art equipment with all the necessary technologies, tools and machines.
Dr. Tilman Flöhr, head of our Research & Development department, also sees the Innovation Factory as a great benefit for PGS because the team is independent and does not depend on anyone. “The innovation process does not work under a strict hierarchy and order,” he says. “Rather, it lives from developing concepts and primotypes with agility and constructive trial-and-error methods.”
But generating water currents, throwing in plastic particles and looking at what happens – that also works in the aquarium at home, doesn’t it? Not for long, says Flöhr: “In the course of an innovation process, the demands on the necessary technologies increase. If a simple workshop is sufficient in the beginning, more complex manufacturing and testing technologies will be required later. This paves the way for the platform, which will one day swim on the rivers of this world in a network.”
Think big, start small – and end up big: Günter Schuh, RWTH professor and founder of the Innovation Factory, achieved this with his e.GO Life and e.GO Mover electric vehicles. Today, the successful models are already in series production. Professor Schuh has demonstrated what many start-ups dream of. The fact that we can now develop in these halls and draw on the expertise of his team reinforces our resolve.