Innovation Research Lab (IRL) at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), Germany, offers its interdisciplinary partcipants from universities, start-ups and industries a unique creative working environment and coaching where they can develop ideas and concepts. Participants can choose to work on scientific as well as business challenges such as healthcare systems of the future, factory 4.0, future smart cities, automation, apps, bio-markers for various neurological diseases, prostheses for patients, building start-ups on own projects etc. The projects are assigned, mentored and funded by industries and universities.

In collaboration with Siemens Healthineers and led by Sultan Haider, founder and director of the Innovation Think Tank Labs worldwide at Siemens Healthineers, IRL offers participants from all disciplines lectures and practical training on the topics of innovation management, innovation leadership, interdisciplinary innovation in medical technology and product design. The researchers involved in IRL projects investigate technical, scientific as well as business problems and could range from core technology, production, marketing, usability, financial, product design and open innovation topics. The projects are worked on in collaboration with universities and industries. Every year in serveral events held all over the world the participants work on interdisciplinary projects and present their outcomes to the stakeholders.

Global recognition as academic innovation best practice

One example of the events was the Innovation Management Certification organized by Peking University in collaboration with Siemens Shanghai Medical Equipment (SSME) and created by Haider where 60 participants from 11 Chinese universities and SSME worked on industry defined problems. A number of participants were offered “Young Innovator Fellowships” at the Innovation Think Tank Labs, Siemens Healthineers, in Shanghai, Wuxi and Erlangen. The program was supported by Prof. Qiushi Ren, Chairman, and Prof. Changhui Li, Associate Professor at Department of Biomedical Engineering, Peking University and Xia Feng Hua, President and CEO of Siemens Shanghai Medical Equipment.

Another example is the implementation of a yearly Innovation Management and Leadership Certification program created at the Bogazici University together with Siemens Healthineers, Turkey. Bogazici University acts as the “Siemens Academic Innovation Hub in Turkey“.  (Program link : Hüseyin Gelis, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Siemens Turkey, attending the outcome exhibition at Bogazici University said, “As Siemens, we will be celebrating our 160th year in Turkey next year. Sustainability and innovation are among our most prominent issues. Today, we are happy to see valuable projects that have an innovative spirit and I congratulate the participants who participated in our Certification Program. We, as Siemens, will continue to support such initiatives.”


Prof. Franz Magerl, Dean of Industrial Engineering at OTH Amberg-Weiden with existing cooperations with Siemens Healthineers in Kemnath, recently invited Haider to teach at his university, “For many years, I have been following the success of Innovation Think Tank as academically recognized industry innovation best practice. I have great respect for Sultan Haider for its implementation and congratulate him for the same”. An innovation certification program focusing innovations in mechatronics has been developed which will be offered to employees and students in the newly founded ITT Kemnath Lab. (Link (German only)

Innovation events bringing the stakeholders together

Innovation events such as the annual Innovation Research Lab Exhibition (IRLE 2016) brings together universities, start-ups and industries from all over the world including its collaboration partners worldwide to present their outcomes. The winning team receives in addition to the best project award and the best department/ industry award financial incentives and can get fundings for continuing their projects or start-ups. The mentors and advisors of the program are also awarded. 40 projects qualified for this year’s annual exhibition. The teams came from 8 different countries – Germany, the USA, Portugal, India, China, Turkey, Brazil and Switzerland – and 20 different universities, including the USA’s renowned Johns-Hopkins-University.

FAU President Prof. Dr. Joachim Hornegger mentioned in his inspiring keynote speech: “I am very grateful to Sultan Haider, for coming up with the idea of IRL – Innovation Research Lab. If you think about the term Innovation and Research – you know how the classification usually goes: Research means, you take money and generate ideas – Innovation means, you take ideas and generate money. To bring these two things together is something, which is clearly a challenge for German universities.”

Prof. Dr. Siegried Russwurm, CTO and Member of the Management Board of Siemens AG, in his speech via videomessage at the IRLE 2016 said, “In the many years of pioneering Healthcare at Siemens it has become evident that open ecosystems such as these are an ideal place to enhance innovative, out of the box solutions. Our Innovation Think Tanks – which supported and initiated this event – are a great example for that.”

Three start-ups came out of IRL in 2016 and were presented at IRLE 2016 which proves that the ideas are not simply theoretical. The start-up founders developed the concepts for these companies in the Innovation Research Lab and are now applying them in practice.  Simon Begemann, Nina Nieratschker, Milos Wieczorek, Mario Jasko, who attended IRL in previous semesters, presented their three start-ups and portfolios to their potential customers. “We support the innovation by creative documentation using design and visualization tools”, says Simon Begemann, CEO of SB-Films. Nina Nieratschker, CEO of N&W Creative Design: “Working at IRL not only gave me the confidence to do something by my own but also gave me the opportunities to acquire our first projects.”

Torsten Niederdränk, representing Strategy and Innovations at Siemens Healthineers, in his speech during an IRL event said “It is mind-blowing to see again the results of projects, seeing the different proposals, the ideas coming together, that you are not just looking at different technology proposals, you are not just looking at workflow proposals, you are looking at the entire picture. You are starting from the problem actually in the healthcare systems and looking at various kinds of problems you are seeing there and put it in your ideas”.   Andre Heinz, Head of HR at Siemens Healthineers, showed various career possibilities at Siemens Healthineers to the IRL exhibition participants: “We are the partner of FAU in this program and I want to thank Prof. Hornegger and Mr. Haider very much for putting this together. It is really amazing to see the diversity of different ideas and it’s all about innovation. Innovation is in the middle of the DNA of our organization.”

“I would like to take the opportunity to thank numerous colleagues at Siemens and universities and most importantly our program participants around the globe for their continued support, trust and valuable contributions in insitutionalizing all these programs. This is your success and I am very glad to see our program participants taking over various initiatives as well as its leadership roles globally” says Sultan Haider.

Innovation Think Tank fellows and Innovation Research Lab members regularly hold lectures at various university and industry events worldwide further intensifying collaborations. Some of the examples of the last months are Derek Fritz at the Gerogia Institute of Technology, Maximillian Reymann at the Johns Hopkins University and Richard Johnson with Pengfei Liu at Peking University.