Deep tech - innovations with disruptive technology

Hamburg News talks to Professor Ed Brinksma about Hamburg's innovative clout
23 May 2019
TUHH-Präsident Professor Ed Brinksma

“Future City”, “New Work” and “Deep Tech” are high on the agenda of the 2019 Hamburg Innovation Summit 4.0 underway Thursday (May 23) in the Fischauktionshalle. The interactive expo with over 70 exhibitors, workshops talks and panels are all focusing on technology-based trends and innovations. Dr. Carsten Brosda, Senator of Culture and Media, Ragnar Kruse, CEO of Smaato, and Professor Ed Brinksma, President of the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH), will discuss the scientific aspects of deep tech during the “Deep Tech – What will soon become State of the Art” panel.

Hamburg News: Professor Brinksma, can you explain briefly the concept of deep tech?

Professor Brinksma: Let’s start with what deep tech is not. It is not about making existing services available on the internet. Deep tech is essentially what TUHH teaches, what it encourages students to do and what it expresses in its leitmotif “technology for people”. These are research-driven developments with a technological core that have a sustainable, positive impact on commerce and society. Deep tech referes to innovations with disruptive technology that replace existing technologies, products or services in the market entirely. The emphasis is not on further developing technology, but on creating something brand new. Let’s take recent examples of deep tech. The car prevailed over the horse-drawn cart and almost without a hitch, the CD banned the (vinyl) record into the annals of time, smartphones with touch screens replaced mobile phones with keyboards – the list goes on.

Hamburg News: What innovative strength are we talking about here?

Professor Brinksma: The power of innovation becomes apparent when a technology asserts itself in everyday life and a new business model is established. First and foremost, this innovation must offer people solutions for specific needs. It must be useful, make work easier and life nicer. It changes user behaviour in the best sense of the word and may even require a new mindset. The TUHH has, for instance, founded the Nüwiel start-up, which has developed an e-bike trailer that is attached to the bicycle. The driver does not notice the trailer’s load and freight making it an ideal vehicle for modern urban spaces. TUHH’s bentekk start-up develops, produces and sells analytical gas measurement technology for determining levels of hazardous substances. The measuring systems are based on an Industrial Internet of Things approach and are already being used successfully in industry.

Hamburg News: How is TUHH paving the way for founders in future?

Professor Brinksma: The TUHH was honoured by the German government as a founding university in 2013 and is happy to continue fulfilling the resulting mandate. We support young scientists and those willing to set up their own businesses from the initial idea to the realisation of their own business under the auspices of Hamburg Innovation. The TUHH’s Hamburg Innovation Port in Harburg offers fledgling companies extraordinary opportunities for networking with scientific institutions and business enterprises. This technology and innovation location can achieve the greatest possible synergies quickly. These are the best conditions for establishing an active founder and start-up scene.

Hamburg News: How is Hamburg’s founder scene positioned in the deep tech sector?

Professor Brinksma: Hamburg has a strong deep tech start-up scene and is catching up with Berlin. The start-ups are hardly sector-specific, but increasingly in clusters such as aviation, life science or the maritime industry. Hamburg is a very good location for the start-up scene as all actors from science, business and politics work closely together here and for Hamburg as a business location. But we also notice where things are lacking. Hamburg definitely needs more venture capital, i.e. more risk-taking investors, so that it is competitive in this segment. Research and development work needs more infrastructure and networks that facilitate co-operation and also provide experimental space. Even more potential in science needs to be identified and promoted. TUHH is driving this forward with Hamburg Innovation and our partners in industry, universities and research institutions. This is reflected by initiatives such as the platform beyourpilot for founders in a university and research environment or the funding initiative call4transfer with Hamburg’s Ministry for Science and Research.


Professor Ed Brinksma

Hendrik (Ed) Brinksma, 62, has been President of the Technical University of Hamburg (TUHH) since 2018. The Professor of Computer Science was Rector of the University of Twente, in the Netherlands, from 2009 to 2016. Prior to that, he worked at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, at the University of Twente and at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.