A win-win partnership
Through this kind of cooperation, the university can offer its students hands-on training and real-world experience. The corporate partners in turn benefit from ideas for new business opportunities and new and improved products. Furthermore, connections are made with talented students who could later graduate to become valuable employees.
The US giant General Electric (GE) is one of TUM’s biggest partners. Since 2004, students have been working with GE on a project to design and build more efficient gas turbines for use in aircraft, in the pumping stations of oil and gas pipelines, or to drive battle tanks. In 2016, TUM opened a new laboratory with GE on campus and the costs (€15m) were shared between the company, the university and the state of Bavaria. For GE, the financial outlay has already paid off: TUM has developed a 1,300hp (horse power) engine for the company that consumes 20 per cent less fuel than older models. This engine will soon become the standard for small business aircraft including, for example, the Cessna Denali made by U.S. manufacturer Textron.
Through years of successful collaboration with the corporate sector, the university has developed professional standards and business models to make the contracting process easier. The university’s main concern is to secure its rights: students must be able to write about their work and publish the result, perhaps in the form of a doctorate. From the companies’ perspective, they must gauge in advance which areas are suitable for collaboration and sharing (for example, where trade secrets are involved, the university may not be the right partner). Cooperations work best where companies want to explore and open up new business areas. “It’s important for the TUM to work with its partners on an equal footing,” Hofmann points out. The principles of the university are published on its website for the benefit of potential partners.