2023 Innovation Award: RWTH-Spun Startups Honored


Innovations ensure the future viability of our society. Technical innovations are essential to confront challenges such as climate change, with startups a key driving force here. RWTH-spun startups Accure and Cylib were recently honored with the 2023 NRW Innovation Award.


Accure was founded by Dr. Kai-Philipp Kairies, Dr. Georg Angenendt, and Dr. Johannes Palmerist in 2020. The company emerged from the Chair of Electrochemical Energy Conversion and Storage Systems, which is headed by Professor Dirk Uwe Sauer. Sauer and cofounder Kairies accepted the award in the innovation2business category in Düsseldorf on Monday evening. Accure monitors battery performance, safety, and longevity based on big data and the use of AI. "This award means a lot to us," Sauer said, "because we are stepping up to change things with our research." Technologies need to be brought into the industry, says the chair and head of Europe's largest battery systems research group. The achievement was now recognized with the award, the jury stated: "The innovation2business award category honors individuals who have developed a successful business model from outstanding ideas for product or process innovations.” This category always goes to entrepreneurial innovation, where innovators create new products, services, or ways of doing things, while entrepreneurs turn those ideas into viable business concepts. The category is endowed with 50,000 euros, which is earmarked for research activities.

It was an even more exciting evening for Lilian Schwich, one of the three founders of Cylib. While Accure had already been established as the prizewinner for some time, Schwich had to pitch and compete against two other nominees on Monday evening, with the audience deciding on the winning project in the innovation4transformation category right there. She had three minutes to win the audience over with her Cylib project. Founded by Lilian, her husband Dr. Gideon Schwich, and Paul Sabarny, the team developed a process at RWTH over a number of years that sees all components of lithium-ion batteries recycled. "We can recover all the components and close the gap in the circular economy," says Lilian Schwich. This is significantly more effective and also more environmentally friendly than the current state of the art. The concept also convinced the audience, resulting in Cylib winning the innovation4transformation category. "The award also recognizes our hard work," said Lilian Schwich, "the research we spent many hours, days, weeks, weekends on." A lot of energy from the whole team went into it and the award now recognizes this research, "we're delighted." The innovation4transformation audience award recognizes individuals whose innovative products, solutions, or business models make an outstanding contribution to solving transformational challenges (for example, decarbonization, closed loops, digitization). The award comes with 25,000 euros in prize money.

Interview and video with Professor Dirk Uwe Sauer

Interview with Lilian Schwich