Representatives from startups and aspiring entrepreneurs at the kick-off event of the Digitized Hardware Expert Hub.
Photo: RWTH Innovation GmbH

Supporting Startups With Expertise and Infrastructure

Expert Hubs: Subject-Specific Networks for Advancing Innovative Ideas

Since 2019, RWTH has been developing and expanding its structures for technology transfer and startup support as part of the Excellence Start-Up Center.NRW (ESC) funding measure, an initiative of the then Ministry of Economic Affairs, Innovation, Digitalization and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia. The ESC project seeks to raise awareness of entrepreneurship among students, doctoral candidates, and professors and offers a wide range of services for those interested in launching a University spin-off.

Through its Entrepreneurship Center, RWTH Innovation offers, among other services, workshops for those considering starting a business. For example, doctoral candidates have the opportunity to discuss their dissertation topic from a business perspective and have it examined with regard to its entrepreneurial potential. The Ideation Program supports newly formed startup teams in developing their business model, pitching their own idea to an audience, and acquiring initial funding, while more established teams are prepared for contact with investors in the Incubation Program.

What all these offerings have in common is that they primarily address the economic aspects of startups. This support is particularly valuable for founders with a background in engineering or the sciences, who thus get the opportunity to gain much-needed insights into the basics of entrepreneurship as well as the financial and organizational aspects of the prospective business venture.

However, cross-technology business support is only one form of startup assistance offered by RWTH. In addition to the University’s central hub for entrepreneurship activities – the Collective Incubator – RWTH has established subject-specific Expert Hubs for founders.

These hubs serve as networks for startups with a similar technological focus where they can get to know each other and share their ideas and experiences. In addition, startups in the Expert Hubs are assisted by (designated) staff at RWTH Innovation and RWTH, who can put them in touch with relevant RWTH institutes and departments, if necessary. As of today, RWTH Innovation operates four Expert Hubs on the topics of Digitized Hardware, Resources, Life Science, and Digital Start-Ups. A fifth hub on the topic of Circular Economy was launched in November 2022. In order to be able to provide more specific support in the relevant technology fields, the Expert Hubs are divided into so-called Expert Bases. Each Expert Base has an RWTH professor as its patron and is supported by a two-member Expert Base management team. One of the managers belongs to the relevant institute; the second position is filled by staff from RWTH Innovation.

The researchers participating in the network provide expert advice to the founding teams. This allows startups to incorporate first-hand expertise into their product and business development activities. At the same time, they can benefit from an expert’s perspective and put their own ideas to the test. In addition, they can explore whether the department’s or institute’s infrastructure can help them advance their product development. The Expert Hubs thus also help facilitate access to the University’s infrastructure. The RWTH departments that are part of the network provide startups with access to labs, workshops, or equipment that they would not be able to use otherwise.

However, it is not only the startups that benefit from this arrangement. Several RWTH departments have already been able to advance their own research by collaborating with startups and are now working on joint project proposals to expand their cooperation.

Other networking activities between RWTH and its founders include events, such as talks and lectures on relevant topics, which always offer the opportunity to connect with others and share useful information and resources.

In addition to these programs for (prospective) founders, which are typically completed within a few weeks or months, the general expertise of the Expert Hubs can be sourced at any time. The extensive network and the events are also open to (founding) RWTH alumni, who are invited to share their professional experience with the younger founders.

The Expert Hub events are designed to help researchers and representatives from startups get to know each other.
Photo: RWTH Innovation GmbH

Get Involved With Our Mentoring Network!

We have a broad network of high-profile mentors who work closely with our startups both in the Expert Hubs and as part of our coaching programs. The diverse experience of our mentoring team helps our startups take the next step on their path to becoming a successful company.

Through their support and consulting activities, our mentors stay connected to the RWTH network and are thus always up to date on the latest developments in our startup ecosystem.

Would you like to become a member of the mentoring team and exchange ideas with our most promising startups? Get in touch with us at

The Expert Hubs invite professional exchange between science and startup companies.
Photo: RWTH Innovation GmbH

– Martin Köpcke