ATEC 2021


  • Outstanding, cross-industry speaker line-up
  • CODARY wins the Pitch Battle
  • Eight start-ups receive RWTH Spin-off Award

“Dare the Impossible” was the motto of the eleventh ATEC (Aachen Technology and Entrepreneurship Congress), which took place today, Friday, at Aachen’s “Liebig” and was streamed online. With a total of more than 1,000 participants, the organisers from RWTH Innovation, digitalHUB Aachen e.V. and the Collective Incubator draw a positive conclusion. ATEC initiator and host Prof. Dr. Malte Brettel and moderator Dan Ram were pleased to welcome a live audience on site again after last year’s digital ATEC.

“The hybrid format of this year’s ATEC is a great opportunity for the Aachen start-up ecosystem: On-site and livestream participation allows the many regional, national and international, long-standing and new players in our network to engage with each other and continue the conversation. We are pleased to once again be able to offer deep-tech enthusiasts a platform for exchanging technological answers to seemingly unsolvable questions. This mindset is not only reflected in this year’s motto ‘Dare The Impossible’, but also unites the great line-up of speakers who have raised the bar and already made the impossible possible with their disruptive ideas. Likewise, the participating start-ups also have the potential to drive sustainable economic and social progress with their technologies,” says Prof. Dr. Malte Brettel, initiator of ATEC and Prorector for Business and Industry at RWTH Aachen University.

The event focused on the question: How can we use innovative technologies to meet the pressing challenges of our time, such as pandemics, climate change and increasing social inequality? Inspiring speakers from business, politics and science explored this question in their impulses, presentations and discussions.

This year’s top speakers included Chris Barton, founder of Shazam (music recognition app); Jeff Hoffman, successful entrepreneur and multiple founder of com; Judith Dada, partner at the European venture capital fund La Famiglia; Carolin Gabor, FinTech expert and CEO of Movinx, Jasper Masemann, start-up investor and partner at HV Capital, and Dr. Oliver Grün, CEO of digitalHUB Aachen e.V. with Andreas Booke, founder of the high-profile Aachen startup gridX. In addition to the digital entrepreneurs and investors, there were many exciting contributions from artists, creative professionals and start-up founders.


Dr. Oliver Grün, CEO of digitalHUB Aachen e.V. and Andreas Booke, Co-Founder of gridX, gave a talk on the topic “How can digitalisation enable the impossible?”

“Digitalisation is not only the prerequisite to be economically successful and sustainable in Germany, but also an important key to solving the major challenges of our time. Based on this conviction, we founded the digitalHUB Aachen and have been promoting digitalisation in our region for almost five years. The example of the start-up gridX shows the enormous potential in our start-up ecosystem and how well the start-up support of RWTH and the digitalHUB Aachen, with their focus on deep tech on the one hand and digital business models on the other, complement each other,” says Dr. Oliver Grün.

“On our start-up journey, we have received a lot of support from the Aachen start-up ecosystem, especially from RWTH and the digitalHUB. In recent years, the ecosystem has been expanded even further and it’s great to see everything that’s happening and being set up here in Aachen,” says Andreas Booke. Referring to the potential offered by digitisation, he adds: “With gridX, we have managed to use technology and digitisation to make the power supply less CO2-intensive, more decentralised and more energy-efficient. On the one hand, this ensures a faster switch to renewable energies and, on the other, greater consumer acceptance.”

The smart energy startup gridX emerged as a spin-off of RWTH Aachen University and is one of the first member start-ups in the digitalHUB Aachen. With its digital business model based on the electricity distribution platform for business customers and consumers, gridX has successfully taken off. In September 2021, Eon acquired the majority shares in gridX to bring in the necessary expertise for the digitalisation of the energy industry (see Handelsblatt, September 24, 2021). Andreas Booke is still active in the Aachen ecosystem and regularly contributes as an alumni in the digitalHUB incubation program.


The participating start-ups with their innovative ideas and business models played a central role at ATEC 2021. In the Pitch Battle, eight selected teams competed in front of European top investors and industry leaders for more than 15,000 euros in prize money. The winners were decided by audience voting. The Berlin-based start-up CODARY secured the €10,000 first place prize and convinced the audience and the jury with its playful programming learning platform for children and teenagers. Second place (€3,000) went to Bochum-based start-up Lidrotec with its hydro-laser technology and third place (€2,000) to social start-up iDixcover from Lagos, Nigeria, which facilitates access to technological and vocational education for African youth and supports them in global career opportunities.

ATEC also featured the presentation of the RWTH Spin-off Award 2021 – the only official award for outstanding spin-offs from the university. With this award, the university gives its spin-offs the opportunity to advertise their connection to RWTH and thus get off to a successful start in the post-founding era. The winners of the Spin-off Award 2021 are:

In the closing talk, host Prof. Dr. Malte Brettel and moderator Dan Ram praised the high number of innovative ideas and business models presented and exchanged during ATEC 2021 and encouraged all participants and audience members to stick to their visions and continue to dare the seemingly impossible.

Editorial: digitalHUB Aachen

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