DIHP pitches for young start-ups

Promoting innovative project ideas in the field of photonics

Annual call for participation: DIHP Pitches


At the beginning of each year, DIHP organizes its most important event: the "DIHP Elevator Pitch". Researchers, start-up teams and SMEs are here invited to present their optics/photonics ideas, which they can present in front of a highly qualified jury. The candidates that convince and impress the jury the most will receive substantial funding from DIHP budget to further investigate and develop their ideas. 

Get the chance to develop your idea and apply for the next DIHP Elevator Pitch!

We are excited to hear about your innovative ideas, which we will support with substantial research budgets in optics, photonics, biophotonics, and beyond. And as Elevator-Pitch-Winners, you will have the chance to develop your projects at one of five excellent research institutes.

What's there to win?

With your application and a successful pitch of your ideas, you can win a research grant in optics, photonics, biophotonics at one of five excellent research institutes. The research budget equals up to 6 person months.

You can profit from this research grant in two ways:

  • You can instruct a research group to conduct further research to bring your innovative idea forward.
  • If you are an employee at one of the institutes, several possible options are available to you – which will be discussed individually.

Experienced advice is often the key to advance an idea. Therefore:

  • You will get valuable feedback from our great and diverse jury.
  • Some candidates win the possibility to participate to the "Crowd Innovation Challenge": the ideas are posted on a platform to find novel applications, where they will get feedback from business experts and potential customers.
  • January 12, 2023

    On January 12th, DIHP invited photonics fans and founders to present their innovative research ideas and business projects at the fifth edition of the Elevator Pitch. Winning ideas aimed, for example, at curbing bee mortality, or were projects in bioanalytics or medical technology. The winning teams receive research budgets of around € 55,000 each.

    In total, a budget of over € 275,000 was awarded for the Pitch 2023. Thanks to this consistent budget, the team’s ideas can be further developed at the five research institutes that are part of the Digital Innovation Hub Photonics.


    Winning teams

    The successful teams were all thrilled to invest their new research budgets at one of the five partner-institutes to further investigate their ideas:

    • Laser-Flow – Dr. Tino Schenk and Dr. Sven Stengel (with the Abbe Center of Photonics (ACP):
      This project aims at developing a novel high-throughput technique for the diagnosis and monitoring of single-cell changes in liquid biopsies.
    • CompCam – Dr. Günter Weber, Dr. Uwe Spillmann and Wilko Middents (with the Helmholtz-Institute Jena):
      This team plans a feasibility study of new types of X-ray imaging based on the Compton effect.
    • On-site sensor technology (SustainIR) – Steffen Biermann (Leibniz IPHT) and colleagues from Micro-Hybrid Electronics GmbH, Hermsdorf:
      With SustainIR, a new method is being developed to enable fast and fully automated on-site analysis using spectroscopy in the mid-infrared range (dispersive spectroscopy).
    • ProDICAN – Christin Reimer, Dr. Johann Kufs and Prof. Falk Hillmann (with the Leibniz-HKI):
      Cannabinoidis can be produced in cultures of slime molds under controlled conditions: ProDICAN is dedicated to the observation and control of this process, using optical methods.
    • BeeSupervisor– Philipp Landwehr, Albert Dehne and team (with the Fraunhofer IOF):
      This project is developing an optical detention system to identify the infestation of a beehive with the parasite Varroa destructor (Varroa mite). Varroa mites are responsible for most of the global decline in bee populations. 


    "Crowd-Innovation" Award

    Additionally, three more teams were given the opportunity to further develop their ideas on "Crowd Innovation" – e.g., through market feedback – in collaboration with the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW. The teams are:

    • "Situation analysis around the patient bed" – Tobias Gebhardt, Marcel Walz, and colleagues for GWA Hygiene GmbH, Stralsund:
      Determining whether a patient is securely in their bed or has experienced a fall, assessing if nursing staff are present at the bedside, or if the patient is alone – these questions are intended to be addressed by a universal sensor unit, enabling a situational analysis around the hospital bed.
    • "BeeSupervisor" – Philipp Landwehr, Albert Dehne and team :
      Developing an optical detection system to identify infestations of a beehive with the parasite Varroa destructor (Varroa mite) as part of the project. 
    • "EnLight" – Dr. Jan Sperrhake, Prof. Maria Mittag, Michael Steinert, Dr. Jan Petersen and Prof. Thomas Pertsch:
      This project is dedicated to the development of nanostructures on glass chips with multiple chambers of varying environmental conditions and microbe cultures migrating between them.


    Composition of the jury

    The selection of the award-winning teams was carried out by an expert panel composed of representatives from various institutions in business and science. This jury included representatives from companies such as JENOPTIK, industry associations, transfer experts from participating institutions, and notably, experienced entrepreneurs like Peggy Bärenklau (heracle GmbH) and Dr. Peter Miethe (Posanova GmhH). Dr. Claudia Reinlein, who presented her ideas for the first time at the DIHP Pitch in 2020 and later founded ROBUST AO GmbH, was also a member of the jury. Reflecting on this year's pitch, she remarked, "It's particularly exciting for me, after three years, to now sit on the jury and hear so many interesting topics."


    Jury members

    • Sven Kiontke, asphericon GmbH & BACJ e.V.
    • Dr. Claudia Reinlein, Robust AO GmbH
    • Stefan Jahn, bm-t beteiligungsmanagement thüringen gmbh
    • Dr. Peter Miethe, posanova GmbH
    • Peggy Bärenklau, heracle GmbH
    • Dr. Ekkehard Werner, JENOPTIK Optical Systems GmbH


    Representatives of the institutions involved in the DIHP+ consortium project

    • Dr. Ramona Eberhardt, Fraunhofer IOF
    • Dr. Falk Eilenberger, Abbe Center of Photonics (ACP) @ FSU Jena
    • Dr. Michael Ramm, Leibniz-HKI
    • Dr. Andreas Wolff, Leibniz-IPHT
    • Dr. Joachim Hein, Helmholtz Institute Jena
    • Dr. Robin Bürger, Fraunhofer IMW (Crowd Innovation)


    Thank you also to the present guests and supporters of the DIHP Pitch 2023!


  • May 23, 2022

    At the fourth DIHP Pitch Event, innovative ideas leveraging optics, photonics and biophotonics were awarded.


    Winning teams

    The winning teams were thrilled to invest their new research budgets at one of the five partner institutes to advance their ideas:

    • Industrial Emission Monitoring – Qualivon Ltd., Orissa, Indien (with Fraunhofer IOF):
      In this DIHP project, a highly miniaturized spectrometer will be used to analyze industrial exhaust gases for their various constituents simultaneously in a single system.
    • Microbial monitoring of bioreactors – FluIDect GmbH, Jena (with Leibniz-IPHT):
      FluIDect GmbH is developing sensors that can be used to examine bioreactors for microbial contamination in real time. The DIHP project includes initial preliminary studies.
    • ProDICAN – Christin Reimers, Johann Kufs, Falk Hillmann, Jena (with Leibniz-HKI):
      Cannabinoids can be produced in cultures of slime molds under controlled conditions. Observation and control of this process by optical methods are the project goals.
    • Deep&Chronic - DeepEn – Sergey Turtaev, Patrick Westermann, Jiri Hofbrucker, Hana Cizmarova, Jena (with the Abbe Center of Photonics (ACP):
      This team is working on hair-thin holographic and fiber-based endoscope systems for in vivo neuroscience and medical diagnostics. Fiber processing is being researched in the DIHP project.
    • AWARE – Advanced Wavefront Retrieval – Joachim Hein, Jena (HI-Jena):
      The analysis of a laser wavefront can be improved by optimizing sensors and software. With the DIHP budget won, suitable algorithms will be developed and tested with different sensors.


    Furthermore, four other teams got the option of a "Crowd Innovation Challenge" with the Fraunhofer IMW. Here, ideas are further developed on a platform through feedback from potential customers and subject matter experts.

    • "Automatic Waste Sorting" – Supachai Vongbunyong, Bangkok, Thailand:
      In Thailand, plastic in sewers regularly causes flooding during the rainy season and often ends up in the sea. Near-infrared spectroscopy could be used to better separate the trash.
    • "Open UC2" – Benedict Diederich & René Lachmann, Jena:
      The duo is developing DIY microscopes from 3D printers and wants to distribute them to educational institutions.
    • "XR Twin Lab" – Nitish Jain, Johannes Kretzschmar & David Zakoth, Jena:
      This project tests how optical experimental setups can be digitized and used remotely. Applications can be found in teaching and personnel acquisition (e.g. PhD students).
    • "Strobe Glasses" – Healyan UG, Ilmenau & Berkeley, USA:
      It has been proven that calming effects can be achieved by means of the synchronization of light (strobe light) and sound. Healyan UG would like to develop this market.


    For a thorough and differentiated evaluation of the projects, the jury was composed of representatives of different institutions from industry and science, transfer experts of the participating institutions, as well as experienced founders.

    Jury members

    • Dr. Claudia Gärtner, microfluidic ChipShop GmbH
    • Dr. Peter Miethe, Posanova GmbH
    • Dr. Ruth Houbertz, ThinkMade Engineering & Consulting & SPRIND
    • Karin Rabe, bm|t - beteiligungsmanagement thüringen GmbH
    • Matthias Keckl, Fraunhofer Technology Transfer Fund (FTTF)
    • Dr. Frederik Blumrich, Carl Zeiss SMT GmbH
    • Dr. Marco Koschorreck, JENOPTIK AG
    • Dr. Claus Roll, OPTICA


    Representatives of the institutions of the DIHP+ consortium project

    • Dr. Ramona Eberhardt, Fraunhofer IOF
    • Prof. Dr. Jens Limpert, Abbe Center of Photonics @ FSU Jena
    • Dr. Michael Ramm, Leibniz-HKI
    • Dr. Andreas Wolff, Leibniz-IPHT
    • Dr. Silvio Fuchs, Helmholtz Institute Jena/Indigo Optical Systems GmbH
    • Valerie Daldrup, Fraunhofer IMW (& Founder service K1, FSU Jena)


    Special guests

    • Robert Fetter, Thuringian Ministry for Economy, Science and Digital Society
    • Dr. Michael Biermann, Ernst Abbe University of Applied Sciences Jena
    • Nora Kirsten, OptoNet e.V.
    • Simon Ammer, Fraunhofer ZV, Centers of Excellence
    • Christian Lohnhardt, iHUB (Innovation Hub of the InSignA Center of Excellence) 
    • Juliane Keith, Wirtschaftsspiegel Thüringen
  • January 28, 2021

    DIHP Pitch 2021 sought the most innovative ideas in optics and photonics across Europe. There were nine finalists who presented their ideas. Three extremely innovative business projects were awarded:

    • 1st place (research budget of EUR 50,000):
      The on-chip spectroscopy for non-invasive biomedical diagnostics, developed by Specto Photonics Srl from Milan
      (team: Giuseppe Antonacci, Dario Polli, Riccardo Magno et al.)
    • 2nd place (research budget of EUR 40,000):
      "QuSense" by Quantum Optics Jena GmbH, which enables quantum imaging for many fields, including biomedicine and quality assurance
      (team: Dr. Kevin Füchsel, Dr. Oliver de Vries et al.)
    • 3rd place (research budget of EUR 30,000):
      "IDloop", a technology that enables non-contact 3D fingerprint recognition.
      (team: Jörg Reinhold and Dr. Tom Michalsky)

    Jury members

    Our wonderful jury had a fundamental role in this third edition of the DIHP Pitch: all its members contributed with their different perspectives and expertise on entrepreneurship, investment, research, and startup funding.

    • Dr. Fred Grunert (AMS AG)
    • Karin Rabe (bm|t - beteiligungsmanagement thüringen GmbH)
    • Matthias Keckl (Fraunhofer Technology Transfer Fund (FTTF))
    • Dr. Gernot Berger (High-Tech Gründerfonds (HTGF))
    • André Kabeck (Ernst Abbe University Jena)
    • Dr. Julia Bauer (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, esp. Fraunhofer AHEAD)
    • Dr. Hans-Otto Feldhütter (Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft)
    • Dr. Peter Miethe (fzmb GmbH, Research Center for Medical Technology and Biotechnology)
    • Valerie Daldrup (Founder service K1, FSU Jena)
    • Dr. Danny Krautz (hy Axel Springer Consultants, formerly: ZEISS Venture)
    • Dr. Jan Werschnik (Jenoptik AG)
    • Kay Sawatzky (State Development Corporation LEG Thuringia)
    • (i.V. Alexander Dieser)(State Development Corporation LEG Thuringia)
    • Dr. Frank Lerch (Optec-Berlin-Brandenburg (OpTecBB) e.V.)
    • Christiane Kilian (Foundation for Technology, Innovation and Research Thuringia (STIFT))
    • Robert Fetter (Thuringian Ministry for Economy, Science and Digital Society)
    • Isabell Wohlmann (Thuringian Ministry for Economy, Science and Digital Society)
    • Dr. Ramona Eberhardt (Fraunhofer IOF)
    • Prof. Dr. Andreas Tünnermann (Fraunhofer IOF, Institute for Applied Physics, FSU Jena)
    • Prof. Dr. Stefan Nolte (Institute for Applied Physics, FSU Jena, Fraunhofer IOF)
    • Dr. Andreas Wolff (Leibniz IPHT)
  • January 26, 2020

    To promote innovative research projects, the Digital Innovation Hub Photonics (DIHP) welcomed interested startups to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts during its second edition of the Elevator Pitch. A total of eight projects were presented. The winners received 200,000 euros in funding from grants financed by the Thuringian Ministry of Economy, Science and Digital Society.

    The four winners:

    • SPACEOPTIX – Metal optics and mirror systems
      High-performance optical components and systems made of metal for applications in space, astronomy, science, and industry
      (team: M. Beier, M. Hornaff, M. Schulz, A. Urbich - Fraunhofer IOF)
    • TruQuant – Single Photon Source for CubeSats
      Photon sources for research in quantum photonics, quantum cryptography and quantum computing
      (team: T. Vogl, F. Eilenberger, H. Knopf - Friedrich Schiller University Jena/University of Cambridge)
    • Robust AO – Adaptive Optics
      Deformable mirrors for laser material processing
      (team: C. Reinlein, I. Burkhardt, M. Gier (Fraunhofer IOF))
    • CONAN – CONvoluted optical Assembly for Non-terrestrial use
      Temperature monitoring of the earth using small satellites for smart farming and precision agriculture
      (team: M. Gulde, M. Bierdel, C. Williges, C. Mittermaier - ConstellR)
  • May 15, 2019

    The first edition of the DIHP Elevator Pitch was an internal competition between the Institute of Applied Physics (IAP) of Friedrich Schiller University Jena and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF. Two teams won substantial research budget to further develop their projects:

    • UltraGratings – Ria Krämer and Daniel Richter from the IAP
    • Dr. Markus Gräfe and Dr. Erik Beckert from the Fraunhofer IOF

More information on DIHP-consortium

The DIHP’s consortium is composed of the following 5 members:

  • Abbe Center of Photonics (ACP): They conduct fundamental and applied research in a broad variety of research fields, with a focus on ultra optics, strong field optics, and biophotonics. More information: https://www.acp.uni-jena.de/
  • Leibniz-HKI: They carry out research into natural products from micro-organisms and into the inflection biology of pathogenic fungi. More information: https://www.leibniz-hki.de/en/about-us.html
  • Leibniz-IPHT: The focus of their scientific work is on optical health technologies and is oriented towards current medical issues and needs. More information: https://www.leibniz-ipht.de/en/research-profile/
  • Helmholtz Institute Jena (HI-J): They work on new laser-induced accelerator concepts, the production and investigation of intense photon and particle beams, as well as on imaging techniques and precision methods for the detection and spectroscopy of light ranging from XUV to hard X-rays. More information: https://www.hi-jena.de/en/
  • Fraunhofer IOF: Their work is focused on the business areas of light sources and lasers, opto-mechanical systems as well as sensor technology, metrology and quantum optics. More information: https://www.iof.fraunhofer.de/en/we-about-us.html