3rd place for FibreCoat
at the finals of the Rice Business Plan Competition in the USA
RWTH Deep Tech highly visible on international start-up stage
A four-person team from the Institute of Textile Technology (ITA) at RWTH Aachen University took third place in the world's largest and richest student start-up competition, the "Rice Business Plan Competition" (RBPC). In 2014, the RWTH team Medical Adhesive Revolution (MAR) had already successfully competed against 41 competitors in the final round and won first place, which was endowed with around 500,000 US dollars.
Among the top 3 start-ups out of 440 applications
FibreCoat is one of two international teams that made it to the finals, along with researchers from universities such as MIT, Harvard and UCLA. In the pre-selection of the "Rice Business Plan Competition", the RWTH team had to prevail against well over 400 competitors from all over the world. In the end, 54 start-ups were invited, including only 7 international teams. The only European university represented was RWTH Aachen University with the scientists from FibreCoat.
As in the previous year, the four-day competition, which took place for the 21st time this year, was again held virtually. The participating teams received virtual coaching and mentoring in advance and presented their technologies in a live pitch in the final. In the preliminary round, FibreCoat prevailed in the "Hard Tech" category and finally competed against six other start-ups from other categories.
High-performance composite fibres developed at RWTH
The FibreCoat GmbH produces inexpensive high-performance composite fibres with the help of a highly productive patented spinning technology. These are glass fibres with a polymer coating or basalt fibres with an aluminium coating. With the help of a coating technology developed at RWTH Aachen University, FibreCoat GmbH is able to coat the individual filaments directly in the manufacturing process and achieves a production speed of over 1,500m/min as well as a completely homogeneous sheath. In January, FibreCoat launched its first product, "AluCoat". These fibres are 10 times cheaper than comparable conductive fibres, which are currently in high demand for applications in e-mobility or electromagnetic shielding.
With its patented technology, the FibreCoat team convinced the jury and thus won the investment prize of 50,000 USD for third place. The company also received two other prizes (the TiE Houston Angels prize of $100,000 and the Mercury Fund's Best Hard Tech Elevator Pitch prize of $500), adding up to a total of $150,500 in cash and investment prizes for the company.
RWTH as a start-up incubator and trailblazer for structural change
„We are very proud that FibreCoat came in third place at the 2021 RBPC while being the only European finalist”, emphasises Marius Rosenberg, Managing Director of the Excellenz Start-up Center in Aachen, who stood on the stage in Houston himself seven years ago to receive the award, at that time as Managing Director of Medical Adhesive Revolution GmbH, and who now supports the next generation of start-ups in the RWTH Incubation Program. „With our Incubation Program we seek to prepare our teams to become internationally successful. FibreCoat’s success story is a clear validation of our mission to build Europe’s leading start-up ecosystem as part of the Exzellenz Start-up Center.NRW initiative.”
Thanks to its many universities, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia has enormous potential as a leading start-up region in Europe. With the help of the Exzellenz Start-up Center.NRW (ESC) initiative, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy aims to create the basis for successful "entrepreneurial transfer" at the universities, intensify start-up activities from within the universities and thus ensure a comprehensive transfer of innovative ideas into society. One of the measures within the ESC is the RWTH Incubation Program for start-ups with a focus on deep tech. The program provides targeted support to early-stage founders in developing a sustainable, investment-ready business model and successfully launching their start-up.
A prime example of successful spin-offs from research
Proof that these efforts are bearing fruit can be found in the stellar development of the FibreCoat team, which only started at the beginning of the year as one of 12 start-ups in Round 2 of the Incubation Program and has now already succeeded on an international level. Considering the start-up's date of foundation in February 2020, this success becomes all the more remarkable. This, however, was not the team's first success. In its founding year, FibreCoat already won the RWTH Spin-off Award, took 2nd place in the Pitch Battle at the Aachen Technology and Entrepreneurship Conference (ATEC X) and at the AC2 Gründungswettbewerb, received the "Science Start-up" award from the Falling Walls Foundation, achieved 1st place in the NUK Bussinessplan competition and made it into the list of the top 50 start-ups in Germany, among others.
FibreCoat's story shows the great potential of technology-based spin-offs from the university. With its third place, the start-up not only left researchers from renowned North American universities such as Harvard, UCLA and McGill behind. The team from the ITA also impressively demonstrated that Europe can not only keep up, but also actively contribute to shaping the future. Making targeted use of RWTH's innovation potential through spin-offs from the university and strengthening the offers to researchers in the area of knowledge and technology transfer is therefore anchored as a central goal in the RWTH Excellence Strategy for the coming years.
Instead of basking in their success at the RBPC, the FibreCoat team is now planning the next steps: "We are very proud of this success and will use the visibility we have gained with investors to close our current financing round in the middle of the year. In addition, the push from the US gives us the necessary tailwind to win more customers for our product and to continue to grow. We are pleased to be able to build on the support of RWTH Aachen University and its many institutions," says Robert Brüll, CEO and co-founder of FibreCoat.
About the Rice Business Plan Competition
The Rice Business Plan Competition is the world's largest and richest student start-up competition. It is held annually by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at the Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business at the University of Houston, Texas. The first competition was held in 2001 with nine teams and $10,000 in prize money. Since then, the competition has grown to 54 teams in the final round and more than $1.6 million in prize money. The RBPC offers students the opportunity to showcase their start-ups, improve their business strategy and learn what it takes to launch a successful business.
FibreCoat GmbH was founded in February 2020 by Dr Robert Brüll, Alexander Lüking and Richard Haas in Aachen. The idea for the start-up arose at the Institute of Textile Technology at RWTH Aachen University in 2014 when Robert Brüll wanted to investigate a new approach to shortening the production chain for fibre composites. While still a student at the time, Alexander Lüking was able to implement this approach for the first time and continuously coat glass fibres with plastic. In the course of further projects and the doctoral studies of Alexander Lüking and Richard Haas, the process was then transferred to other materials and brought to industrial maturity. With the start of EXIST research transfer funding in April 2019, the foundation for the company's development was laid, so that FibreCoat GmbH began business operations in February 2020. Through constant further development of the technology, the first material "AluCoat" was brought to the market and to the first pilot customers in January 2021. Materials are the basic building blocks of all products manufactured today. FibreCoat believes that continuous progress in the field of materials science has the potential to improve our environment, society and lives in a sustainable way. FibreCoat's stated goal in the pursuit of innovation is to realise sustainable, accessible and affordable materials for our planet and beyond.