Since mid-July 2022, Marie-Claire Becker has been identifying intellectual property (IP) at the University of Stuttgart and has been coaching those interested in starting a business. As an IP scout and start-up coach, the engineer is working for the Department of Knowledge and Technology Transfer of Division 1 - Research and Transfer and for the Transfer Center of the university.
The University of Stuttgart is not a stranger to Marie-Claire Becker. Here, she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Technology Management and later specialized in Methods of Modeling and Simulation as well as Control Technology within the framework of her Master’s degree studies in Mechanical Engineering. At the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation Science (ENI), she attended the key competencies course T3 “Train the Trainer”, underwent training as a coach, and worked as a student start-up coach.
Important: Making people aware of IP
“IP is a super interesting topic,” Becker emphasizes. “Inventions, software, and know-how are intellectual property – and all this can be protected externally, or it is subject to copyright protection from the start,” she explains. Besides the well-known patents for inventions that deserve protection, there are also utility models, trademarks, and designs. As an IP scout, Becker actively approaches the institutes and departments. She has people explain to her what is being researched and also holds seminars on site to provide information about IP and the various trademark rights. “It’s important to make students, employees, and doctoral researchers aware of the topic. In addition, I try to identify research findings of interest as early as possible,” says Becker.
Protecting intellectual property is one thing – but an invention can also be suitable for starting a business. Marie-Claire Becker therefore looks very closely at the research findings and considers whether they would actually be suitable for a spin-off, while asking what business idea could be developed from them. After all: Research transfer is a top priority at the University of Stuttgart. “Researching, only to file the results away in a drawer, should not be the goal,” says Becker and explains: “In the project ‘Start-up Campus 0711’, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action within the framework of the EXIST Potential funding program, my colleagues and I are coaching students and researchers on their way from the idea to the business start-up. Sound IP advice is especially important for the EXIST research transfer teams.”
From information to patent searches
Since many large companies in the region want to recruit them, students and doctoral researchers often don’t even think about self-employment and don’t entertain the idea of starting their own business, Marie-Claire Becker knows. But she also knows that it can be worthwhile if the idea has potential. That’s why she sometimes assists with patent searches to see if there have been similar patent applications before. And, of course, she advises on all the funding opportunities and support services that can be helpful on the path to self-employment.
Becker’s concept of self-employment
The IP and start-up expert has always been interested in being self-employed. While still a student at the University of Stuttgart, she took the key competencies course “AWAKE – In Six Weeks to a Start-up”. “At the same time, my partner and I had the idea of a software platform that enables the sustainable use of the clothes in your wardrobe,” Becker reveals and admits that the further development of the project is currently only a hobby due to lack of time. However, this doesn’t mean that the idea of being self-employed herself is over.
She travels around the campus a lot – there are still numerous institutes and their research to discover. In order to be able to actively approach employees, students, and doctoral researchers at the University of Stuttgart with promising research results, she also always keeps herself informed about press releases and university news on current research.
Bringing in ideas and questions
But there is also another way: Anyone who has an idea and would like to have their work scrutinized with regard to IP protection and a possible spin-off can simply get in touch with her. “My colleagues from the Start-up Campus 0711, at the Transfer Center, from the Technology Transfer Initiative (TTI) and, of course, at the ENI are available for anyone who is thinking about starting a business,” Becker emphasizes. “We’re looking forward to hearing from you!”