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The RWTH is one of the leading universities for patent applications. According to the German Patent and Trade Mark Office, RWTH Aachen University leads the list of patent applications in NRW in 2019, as it did in 2018. In a nationwide comparison, it ranks second behind the Technical University of Dresden. The number of patent applications thus continues the ongoing upward trend of recent years: the positive development from 72 in 2017 to 88 applications in 2018 is followed by a jump to 119 internationally registered patents for 2019.

RWTH Aachen University has been known for years for its groundbreaking patents in the fields of mechanical engineering, medical technology, textile technology, technical chemistry and many other disciplines. The university serves a wide range of patent projects: Thus, the focus can be placed on pure basic research, which is essential to ensure that inventions of today can be developed into innovations of tomorrow. Many inventions and patents are also generated in industry-related research. This is particularly promoted on the RWTH Aachen Campus by the research Clusters and Centers in which science and industry work on innovative solutions under one roof. The potential of such cooperation is all the greater if several chairs join forces to conduct interdisciplinary research.

Innovation culture at RWTH Aachen University

Patent applications are an essential part of the research and innovation culture at RWTH Aachen University. In this way, RWTH fulfils the task of universities as specified by the State of North Rhine-Westphalia in the Higher Education Framework Act: "The universities serve to gain scientific knowledge and to maintain and develop the sciences through research, teaching, studies, the promotion of young scientists and the transfer of knowledge (in particular further scientific training, technology transfer, promotion of spin-offs). (§ 3 paragraph 1 of the State University Act). Thus, at universities, young generations are not only to be educated in the scientific fundamentals, but also to be enabled to actively develop them further, which is embedded in the excellence strategy of RWTH Aachen University as "Entrepreneurial Transfer". It is accomplished in the form of excellent innovative research followed by successful technology transfer.

The fact that RWTH Aachen University is not only concerned with scientific progress as such, but also with the actual societal benefits of this research is demonstrated by the university's current research trends: artificial intelligence, alternative mobility (especially hydrogen as a fuel), urban energy supply, quantum computing, big data, autonomous driving, CO2 research, patient-individualized medicine – topics that will determine the future of living together as a society.

From research result to innovation

However, for innovative research in these areas to be successfully translated into social progress, many factors must work together – patents are only the beginning.

"Registered patents are not the primary objective, even if statistics want to use this figure as a measure of a university's innovative strength. Inventions at universities have the potential to bring about fundamental and radical changes, but tend to be distant from the market in the early stages of their development. What is crucial, therefore, is the further development of the research result into innovation – either through spin-offs or through cooperation between chairs and interested companies. The patent only offers the exclusivity of the subsequent application, without which a start-up would have no chance and companies would not be willing to risk the high development costs," explains Jörg von Appen, Head of Innovation Management at RWTH Innovation GmbH, the RWTH subsidiary for technology transfer.

To meet these requirements, RWTH Aachen University has developed a special transfer approach: The unique integration of innovation management, start-up support and industry cooperation within RWTH Innovation offers researchers at RWTH Aachen University not only comprehensive support in the registration of patents/intellectual property and patent exploitation, but also, as a next step, entrepreneurial consulting and start-up programs as well as networking opportunities with strong industry partners.


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