Research at the university? But in academia, it’s all mostly about theory! True - until you put theory into practice. Physicist Robert Koeppe has now created his second JKU spin-off company.
Imagine you need a prosthetic. The more customized it can be to fit your body, the better. How do you do that? You need robust, wafer-thin, skin-friendly, flexible sensors and this exactly what scientists at the Institute for Soft Matter Physics (department head: Prof. Martin Kaltenbrunner) at the Johannes Kepler University Linz have created. This expertise has allowed Koeppe and three other researchers to set up their own company called sendance.
Why do you think you will survive in the market?
Robert Koeppe: We have created a new way of integrating pressure distribution sensors into orthopedic aids (such as orthoses and prostheses) as well as in seat shells. These sensors allow us to perfectly fit these the aids as well as permanently monitor them. If they are not working properly, the malfunction is reported and the patient or caregiver can simply readjust the device. This all happens before anyone can even complain that it isn’t ‘sitting right’.
How was the launch?
Robert Koeppe: It was very special (laughs). We are four entrepreneurs – and while starting a business, a few of us had kids at the same time. So, in that sense, we sought the perfect timing (laughs). However, sendance was created in March and things got off to a good start. We're currently still working on financing and product development. Fortunately, we have already started to work with a company that is interested in our technology.
You now have some experience under your belt. What advice do you have for other budding entrepreneurs?
Robert Koeppe: You have to consider it more of an adventure. The learning curve is steep. The first JKU spin-off company ran well and was later purchased. My second attempt at a start-up company went wrong. That was painful, but life goes on and I learned a lot. Now things are going really well. You can't be discouraged by failure.
Do you have support during the start-up process?
Robert Köppe: Yes, the JKU offers services to start-up companies and tech2b supports us as well. Many people believe in us and that makes us proud. We also won the 2020 Edison Innovation Award in December. That also boosted our spirit and confidence.