CHIC is starting up businesses in the heart of Berlin
The Charlottenburg Innovation Centre offers more than 60 young companies a home in Berlin’s City West
Since it opened in early 2011, the Charlottenburg Innovation Centre (CHIC) has been offering a home to start-ups in Berlin’s City West. More than 60 young companies with 708 employees are currently working here to establish their innovative business ideas for a wide range of target markets.
For serial founder André Glardon, it was like coming home. With his medneo GmbH, he was one of the first people to move into the Charlottenburg Innovation Centre (CHIC), when it opened in 2011. Both his start-up and CHIC have been busy writing success stories since then: Medneo now has about 500 employees and 40 offices in Germany, Switzerland and the UK, and since based its headquarters at Hausvogteiplatz, one of the most prestigious locations in town. Together with Matthias Issing, his co-founder from back then, Glardon is now charting a new course. Both are using their know-how and their networks in the health and finance industry to kick-start new projects for a more efficient and digital healthcare provision.
With their freshly founded roclub GmbH, they have now moved back to CHIC. “The same offices – but one story higher,” says Glardon. Roclub is developing a digital platform that can be used by freelance medical technical assistants (MTAs) to remotely operate X-ray, tomography and other medical equipment from anywhere in the world. This decentralised pool of specialised skilled workers helps clinics to better utilise expensive equipment, increase the quality of their diagnostics, and prevent the frustration of cancellations as a result of the shortage of skilled workers.
About a dozen of the 60 or so companies at CHIC are launching new digital health ideas like these. Among them are VISSEIRO, winner of the Deep Tech Award, and Nostos Genomics. The former is developing smart seat cushions that use sensor systems to monitor the vital functions of the people sitting on them. The latter uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect mutations in the genomes of their patients that cause rare diseases. Nostos Genomics matured from a start-up into a scale-up, like medneo once did, and recently moved into a new headquarters.
Last year, the start-ups based at CHIC generated total sales of more than 22 million euros with 708 employees. Their ideas range from apps for chronically ill people, to a mobile, digitally connected eye clinic tailored to developing regions, to connectivity solutions and software for clinics and health insurance providers. However, digital health is just one of the focus areas. Another half a dozen teams are blazing trails in digital educational technologies and aerospace solutions, respectively. The latter includes networking platforms for airlines, embedded systems for drones, and the development of propulsion systems and communication hardware for satellites. The proximity to Technische Universität Berlin at the heart of Berlin’s City West is a great advantage when doing so. It is there that they find highly skilled specialists and student workers who can shuttle effortlessly between company and campus.
Other teams at CHIC are focusing on mechanical and industrial engineering and develop simulation and visualisation solutions to support construction and manufacturing processes at an industrial level or construction planning. Using AI methods has already become standard for further developing products and services.
According to a survey, 86 percent of the teams are expecting increasing sales – and another nine percent expect them to remain constant. The pandemic pessimism is starting to dissipate. The trend towards working from home is waning. The need for social exchange is growing all around and it can soon be met at a new co-working space, designed by Urve Liivak, an Estonian interior and workplace designer. The conversion is almost complete and the opening is just around the corner.
Start-ups and their ideas shape the agenda in important ways. However, since not any one start-up can or should have to reinvent the wheel, Olivia Budek and Tobias Kirschnick, the CHIC management team, are relying on event formats that foster professional exchange. “Our cafeteria is also coming back to life,” says Budek. The new provider wants to establish kitchen sharing there soon. The team is also planning new event venues and a new design for the foyer. Moreover, they are developing a new event series to stimulate networking between start-ups and academic research staff together with Rawad Chammas, the specialist for technology transfer at WISTA Management GmbH.
Things are moving forward on Bismarckstrasse. Returnees like André Glardon are greeted by what the Germans call Zukunftsgeist, a forward-thinking spirit. The teams based at CHIC only return to the past if this is where they want to go. Augmented Robotics, for example, is going back into children’s rooms to translate analogue toys into futuristic augmented reality (AR) worlds. Historicity GbR, too, is making history come alive with audio guides and AR animations and creating a future from things long past. What better place to do this than Berlin!
Peter Trechow for POTENZIAL