Yearbook 2022: Max Planck Innovation – the technology transfer organization of the Max Planck Society

50 years Max Planck Innovation: Stefan Hell, Martin Stratmann, Jörn Erselius und Mario Brandeburg (starting left). © David Ausserhofer

Max Planck Innovation (MI) evaluates an average of 135 inventions per year, of which just over 60% lead to a patent application. Since 1979, more than 4,860 inventions have been accompanied and around 2,935 exploitation agreements concluded. Since the early 1990s, 181 spin-off companies have emerged from the Max Planck Society (MPG), the vast majority of which have been actively supported by Max Planck Innovation. Since then, almost 9,300 jobs have been created in these spin-offs. Since 1979, a total turnover from licenses and the sale of participations of around 550 million euros has been achieved.

In 2022, 132 inventions were disclosed to Max Planck Innovation, 90 patents applied for and 81 contracts concluded, including over 50 exploitation contracts. The proceeds from the exploitation of licenses and sale of participations are expected to be around EUR 16 million. The final figures for the 2022 financial year will not be available until mid-2023 due to the subsequent settlement of various licensees.

2022 was a particularly successful year in terms of spin-offs. A total of ten MPG companies were spun off, all of which were supported by Max Planck Innovation in different phases of founding the company. In 2022, the MPG made a new open capital investment in five spin-offs. It should be particularly emphasized that the portfolio companies (i.e. spin-offs with open MPG participation or revenue sharing) raised a record investment sum of around EUR 225 million in 2022. Two of these portfolio companies were fully or majority sold to established companies in 2022. The proceeds of the MPG from the company sales and distributions totaled almost 3 million euros.

Initiative for more spin-offs

With the MPG Entrepreneurship Initiative "MAXpreneurs" and the incubation program MAX!mize, the spin-off potential in the MPG is to be exploited to a greater extent in the future. Among other things, the start-up culture is to be strengthened at the Max Planck Institutes, in particular through MPG formats for raising awareness and career planning on the part of the Planck Academy. In addition, measures taken by the scouts based at the Max Planck Foundation are aimed in particular at the additional identification and advice of new start-up projects. In this way, they complement the activities of Max Planck Innovation to identify new start-up projects and to prepare them for a successful company start through individual coaching and a new incubation program.

The new incubation program called MAX!mize represents the core of the MAXpreneurs initiative. MAX!mize is a structured start-up incubation program that offers coaching, webinars and networking opportunities for those interested in founding a company. The program is intended to offer the start-up teams structure, freedom and financial support for targeted preparation of the corresponding start-up projects in the areas of team, market and product, as well as content and entrepreneurial support that is optimally adapted to the respective needs. MAX!mize aims to successfully develop as many start-up projects as possible with the best possible support to start-up maturity.

The teams selected after an online application will then be invited to the MAX!mize boot camp. In this three-day event, the start-up ideas are subjected to an initial stress test. After that, the successful teams validate their founding idea in an initial exploration phase of up to 6 months with workshops on market and customer analysis or entrepreneurial strategy development. The second phase of the program runs for a period of 18 to 30 months and focuses on concrete preparations for founding the start-up. The teams benefit from targeted know-how support and needs-based funding. The program is supplemented by numerous networking opportunities with successful entrepreneurs and experts from the start-up scene.

In May 2022, after a test phase, the first batch of the MAX!mize incubation program started. 13 teams took part in the boot camp. A jury selected 11 start-up teams for further participation in the first phase of the incubation program. These teams each received needs-based funding of up to 50,000 euros. They also received professional support from experts (external and from Max Planck Innovation) within the framework of of events, webinars and workshops on the topic of founding a company. In addition, they could promote an optimal validation and preparation of their spin-off projects. The start-up managers from Max Planck Innovation continuously advised and supported the start-up teams as sparring partners between the events of the program on all start-up-related aspects. At the end of phase 1, four founding teams were able to convince the jury to be included in phase 2. Two other start-up teams have successfully applied for funding via EXIST research transfer, and up to three teams are still planning a corresponding application. This high success rate shows the outstanding potential for spin-offs at the MPIs. 16 teams have already applied for the next boot camp in March 2023. The incubation program has therefore got off to a very successful start and is expected to lead to the first spin-offs as early as 2023.

For more information on the incubation program, visit

50-year celebration in Berlin

On December 14th in Berlin, the focus was on the results of more than 50 years of technology transfer and the benefits of technological innovations for society. In addition to the President of the Max Planck Society (MPG), Martin Stratmann, speakers were also the Member of Parliament and Parliamentary State Secretary to the Federal Minister of Education and Research, Mario Brandenburg, and the Managing Director of Max Planck Innovation, Jörn Erselius. In a panel discussion with representatives from politics and science, interesting insights into research and the transfer of results into practice were granted. In addition, numerous successful start-ups were presented that originated at one of the 86 Max Planck Institutes.

The Villa Elisabeth & St. Elisabeth Church in Berlin provided the framework for the celebration »50+2 years of Max Planck Innovation, 50+2 years of technology transfer for the Max Planck Society«, which was postponed by 2 years due to the corona pandemic. Martin Stratmann opened the celebrations with an appreciation of the achievements of Max Planck Innovation in front of around 200 participants: "When Max Planck once said: insight must precede application, we live according to this vision and bring both things together: insight and application. And so it is more than appropriate that we take an evening to pay tribute to the application of our scientists, but above all to the platform without which nothing would work: Max Planck Innovation. I would like to congratulate you on the anniversary and combine this with a big thank you to all employees, those people who are and were part of MI today or in the past. 50 years ago, MI was a pioneer of German technology transfer, today we are a pioneer in the creation of innovation campuses together with partners from industry and academia. And I promise: We will not let up and will continue to do our part to create an even better culture of innovation in the next 50 years. Congratulations MI – and many thanks from all of us!”

Another highlight of the event was a panel discussion devoted to the topic of transferring scientific results into commercial practice. Represented were Nobel laureate and company founder Stefan Hell, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Multidisciplinary Natural Sciences in Göttingen and at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Peter H. Seeberger, company founder and Director at the Max Planck Institute for Colloidal and interface research in Potsdam, and Christian Theobalt, director at the Max Planck Institute for Computer Science in Saarbrücken and also a company founder. The deputy general secretary and member of the board of directors of the Stifterverband Andrea Frank completed the round.

As part of an exhibition, 15 MPG spin-offs supported by Max Planck Innovation, which were founded on the basis of Max Planck technologies, presented themselves: abberior instruments, Batene, Cardior Pharmaceuticals, Dewpoint Therapeutics, Lead Discovery Center, Lipotype, Menlo Systems, Meshcapade, MODAG, QLi5, Scienion, Tacalyx, Targenomix, terraplasma and Thermosome.

License Agreements

In 2022, more than 50 exploitation contracts were concluded. In this way, inventions, some of which had significant market potential, were licensed to industry for further development.

Clemedi AG has concluded a license agreement to detect latent tuberculosis. With the rights of use, Clemedi is expanding its existing tuberculosis product line to include the diagnosis of latent tuberculosis. The company, which develops sequencing-based tests for infectious diseases, wants to use the new diagnostic tool to improve disease management in the field of tuberculosis. The new technology allows M. tuberculosis DNA to be extracted from the blood of patients with latent tuberculosis. Latent tuberculosis is a form of tuberculosis in which the patient has no symptoms and cannot transmit the disease to others. However, at times when the immune system is suppressed or compromised, the disease can revert to active tuberculosis. However, existing tests often give false positives in patients who have been vaccinated against tuberculosis or who have had a tuberculosis infection a long time ago. The new technology provides tangible evidence of an infection for the first time. It now makes it possible to detect potential antibiotic resistance to enable better eradication therapy, since it can be confirmed that the bacteria have been killed by the therapy. The intellectual property of this discovery is jointly owned by the Max Planck Society and the Medical University of Vienna. The license agreement with all parties now enables Clemedi to commercialize the invention.

Biotech company BiondVax has announced successful results from its preclinical study of its innovative inhaled COVID-19 nanoantibody therapy. The nanoscale antibodies (NanoAbs) for the treatment of COVID-19, which were developed at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry together with the University Medical Center Göttingen, were successfully tested in a preclinical in vivo study on hamsters. For this, the hamsters were infected with SARS-COV-2 and then treated with inhaled anti-COVID-19 NanoAbs. These showed a significantly less severe disease and faster recovery compared to infected hamsters treated with inhaled placebo. The aim is to develop a COVID-19 drug that can be conveniently inhaled at home. A first phase 1/2a clinical trial in humans is already planned for 2023.

The vaccine candidate VPM1002 shows its safety in a study with HIV and non-HIV exposed newborns: no other infectious disease has killed more people than tuberculosis. Only one vaccine is currently available to prevent severe cases: Bacillus Calmette Guérin (BCG). However, it is not equally effective against all types of tuberculosis. Therefore there is an urgent need for more effective tuberculosis vaccines, especially in infants and immunocompromised patients. A clinical study in South Africa has now shown that the vaccine candidate VPM1002, newly developed by Max Planck researchers from the MPI for Infection Biology, is equally safe in newborns with and without HIV exposure and has fewer side effects than BCG. For the development of the vaccine successor VPM1002, the researchers genetically modified the weakened BCG vaccine strain so that immune cells can better recognize the pathogen. The license for VPM1002 was granted to the company Vakzine Projekt Management (VPM) in 2004. Since 2012, the company has been further developing the vaccine together with the Serum Institute of India, one of the world's largest vaccine manufacturers.

A license agreement for a high-throughput 3D microscope with internal focusing has been signed with a global leader in the precision engineering and optical industry based in Germany. The light microscope is suitable for examining a large number of samples at the same time. These microscopic objects can also include biological organisms embedded in a gel. In contrast to conventional high-throughput microscopes, the samples stand still during sample delivery and image acquisition. A very high level of accuracy is achieved in this way, since the samples are not disturbed by mechanical movements. The samples are displayed three-dimensionally. For this purpose, layer images are recorded, e.g. with a light sheet microscope, and a 3D stack is calculated, which allows a 3D representation of the sample to be viewed on the monitor. Due to the special structure, more samples can be evaluated in a shorter time. In the future, the technology will be used in particular in the fields of biology and medicine.

Spin-off companies

An invention by researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research could make batteries significantly lighter, more efficient and safer. The team found a way to create very fine metal fleeces that can serve as current collectors in batteries, making them more efficient. Batene GmbH, founded in 2022 and a spin-off of the institute, licensed the technology through Max Planck Innovation and is now marketing it. The start-up has received initial funding of ten million euros for this. The new approach enables the production of a new generation of accumulators. The metallic fleece fulfills the desire for lighter batteries with high energy density, faster charging times, longer battery life and a longer service life. In addition, natural resources are conserved through significantly reduced material consumption and an extremely energy-saving manufacturing process. All of this helps society in the transformation away from fossil fuels towards a zero-carbon economy. Precisely this protection of the climate and the environment played just as important a role in the considerations as economic factors.

A spin-off from the MPI for Quantum Optics and the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich called planqc wants to revolutionize quantum computing. The aim is to develop highly scalable quantum computers based on atoms in optical lattices that function at room temperature. The problem with current quantum computers lies on the one hand in the limited number of qubits used and thus in the limitation of the amount of information to be processed. On the other hand, a poor gate quality leads to errors in the result of a calculation, also known as "noise". planqc's new quantum computer stores quantum information in individual atoms and processes it by arranging these qubits in highly scalable registers and then manipulating them with precisely controlled laser pulses. This enables the creation of quantum processors with thousands of qubits and thus creates the necessary prerequisite for an industry-relevant quantum advantage. The young start-up has already raised 4.6 million euros for its project in a first round of financing.

The newly founded Open Sesame Therapeutics GmbH, a spin-off from the MPI for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, deals with the question of how cells of an organism absorb substances, since the targeted release of active substances is crucial for the success of a therapy. Most active pharmaceutical ingredients dock onto a specific cell type and either act on its cell surface or are absorbed into the cell. Open Sesame is particularly interested in the use of absorption mechanisms for the targeted introduction of active substances into a cell and the targeted transport to their specific site of action in the cell. Based on their new discoveries in the area of the endosome and the endomembrane system, the goal of Open Sesame is to open up new routes for active substances into the cell and thus enable new and more effective therapies.

LigniLabs GmbH wants to put an end to fungal infestation in viticulture. The spin-off of the MPI for Polymer Research wants to market so-called lignin microcarriers. The technology is based on porous spheres with a diameter in the millionth of a meter range. These microcarriers are made of lignin, a component of wood that gives it its strength. The tiny carrier materials are loaded with a fungal control fungicide and injected into the vines. There they develop their effect against Esca, a fungal disease that attacks the vines from the inside, decomposes the lignin and causes the vine to die. In this way, Esca also infects the microcarriers, which also consist of lignin, which then release the fungicide and effectively combat the fungi. In the future, LigniLabs will continue to advance research into sustainable, microtechnology-based crop protection products and bring them to market maturity.

On November 10, Bayer announced the acquisition of the German biotech start-up Targenomix. The spin-off from the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology uses novel methods from systems biology and computational life sciences to identify new mechanisms of action for crop protection products. Targenomix's expertise, people and platforms will be an important part of Bayer Crop Science's commitment to the development of safe and effective molecules. They will accelerate the discovery and development of molecules that have the potential to make agricultural production more sustainable despite dynamic challenges such as climate change and to increase weed, disease and insect resistance.


The Lead Discovery Center GmbH (LDC) was founded in 2008 by the technology transfer organization Max Planck Innovation as a novel approach to use the potential of excellent basic research to discover new therapies for diseases with a high medical need. In 2022, the LDC again accompanied important developments:

The KHAN Technology Transfer Fund I (KHAN-I) has committed up to EUR 3 million in milestone funding to CalTIC, a Dortmund-based start-up, for the development of a new class of drugs. The start-up builds on a long-standing collaboration between the LDC, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Physiology (MPI-MP) and the University of Leeds (UoL). This resulted in the validation of the inhibition of so-called TRPC channels (transient receptor potential canonical channels) as a promising new approach for the treatment of widespread diseases such as metabolic diseases, obesity and cardiac hypertrophy. With the money, the founding partners will continue to work together to advance their findings to the preclinical stage. The shareholders of CalTIC are the UoL, the LDC, the MPG and Prof. Marc Freichel from the Institute for Pharmacology at the University of Heidelberg and KHAN-I.

Qli5 Therapeutics GmbH, a German-Korean joint venture to develop a new class of proteasome inhibitors, has closed a EUR 10 million Series A financing round with an international consortium of investors, including KHAN Technology Transfer Fund I. QLi5 will use the funds to advance its pipeline of highly differentiated proteasome inhibitors into clinical trials in multiple indications. Based on the leading proteasome expertise of Nobel laureate and company co-founder Prof. Robert Huber and a multi-year collaboration between his laboratory at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry and the LDC, QLi5 has a versatile platform for the design of proteasome inhibitors with excellent selectivity, unique create non-covalent binding properties and favorable pharmacodynamic properties.

Qurient Co. Ltd., a Korean biotech company, has received a clearence from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its investigational new drug (IND) application for Q901. Q901 is a small molecule oncology drug candidate targeting cyclin-dependent kinase 7 (CDK7). The CDK7 project originally emerged from a scientific collaboration between the Lead Discovery Center GmbH and research groups from the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster and the Max Planck Institute for Immunobiology and Epigenetics in Freiburg. The CDK7 Inhibitor project and other projects were supported in part by private sponsors and charities, most notably the Max Planck Foundation.

IT Inkubator GmbH (ITI) is also a company of Max Planck Innovation GmbH and Saarland University Knowledge and Technology Transfer GmbH (WuT). The task of the IT incubator is to develop outstanding ideas, technologies and research results from the fields of information and communication technology (ICT) through an incubation process, to found new companies (start-ups) for their marketing, or give licenses for new ICT technologies for further development and marketing to established industrial companies. The ITI had the following to report in 2022:

In 2022, four companies were founded after successful incubation at the IT incubator.
With the help of intelligent drive and sensor solutions, DelfaSystems GmbH would like to give robots and machines tact and reflexes. Thanks to their innovative properties, the new sensor solutions can be used in smart applications to record and evaluate process and position data or to trigger reactions.
Another spin-off is MONA AI GmbH. MONA AI is AI software for automated recruiting. With multilingual and AI-based digital employees, an automated and smart recruitment process that is individually adapted to the respective company is made possible.
ESCRA GmbH has specialized in fast and, in particular, secure remote maintenance. The focus is on secure remote access to production machines according to the latest security standards.
The Spielerisches Lernen UG (playful learning UG) develops virtual assistants for individual, sustainable and pedagogically valuable children's activities between 0-6 years. Online and offline game elements are combined.

About Max Planck Innovation

As the technology transfer organization of the Max Planck Society, Max Planck Innovation is the link between industry and basic research. With our interdisciplinary team, we advise and support scientists at the Max Planck Institutes in evaluating inventions, filing patents and starting businesses. We offer industry central access to the innovations of the Max Planck Institutes. We are therefore fulfilling an important task: The transfer of results from basic research into commercially and socially useful products.

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