Third mission: Transfer at Ostfalia
In an interview, Gert Bikker, vice president for Research, Development and Technology Transfer,
and Martina Lange, head of Knowledge and Technology Transfer, explain what the "third mission" is
and the role Ostfalia is playing in this field.
More and more frequently people talk about the "third mission" at universities – what does that
Gert Bikker: Universities have different orders or “missions”. Teaching and research at
universities have always been an integral part of these missions. Since Ostfalia as a college is
very application-oriented in teaching and research, the transfer to practice is very natural for us
and closely connected with teaching and research. Now the “third mission” is increasingly coming
into focus – it refers to an advanced transfer concept.
Martina Lange: Here transfer does not just mean that universities transfer knowledge and
technology into society. Rather, the “third mission” describes a multi-directional process. In
interaction with civil society the universities make their contribution to solving social
challenges by considering the cultural, social and political dimensions together and applying
knowledge accordingly across disciplines as well.
What does this change at Ostfalia?
Gert Bikker: Due to the close relation to application in research at Ostfalia the research of
professors is already transfer-oriented as they work together with companies and associations in
their research projects. What is new is that the cooperation will be extended to other social
groups and, increasingly, issues will be taken up from society – so to speak more
Martina Lange: The existing cooperations will be further developed and intensified with the help
of various formats. For example, Ostfalia organizes “Round Tables” in which small and medium-sized
enterprises (SMES) discuss concrete digitization strategies with professors from various
departments or social institutions come together with researchers in order to determine their needs
in the area of transfer.
Ostfalia has a transfer strategy. What are the central contents of the transfer strategy and
what does that mean for practice?
Gert Bikker: The transfer strategy is derived from the overall strategy of Ostfalia. Ostfalia
sees itself as an integral part of the regional innovation system and is strengthening its
activities for the further development of the region using new ways of transfer. Central topics are
a sustainable entrepreneurial culture and the promotion of business start-ups, increasingly
integrating actors from (civil) society in research, innovation and transfer processes, as well as
creating consulting and support structures in order to facilitate the international networking of
the college in the field of research. Furthermore, the expansion of the research fields of
Ostfalia, the extension of collaborations with industry, other colleges, research organizations and
institutions as well as the cooperation with the economic development of the district of
Wolfenbüttel in the field of technology transfer and innovation consultancy are important parts of
the transfer strategy.
Last but not least: How are such projects financed?
Gert Bikker: The research at Ostfalia is mainly financed with third-party funds. For example,
the project GrowIn 4.0 at Ostfalia is currently running on European subsidies The project’s goal is
to reach out to SMES and support them in the implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies and
services. Transfer projects are also made possible by funding from the Central Innovation Program
for SMES (ZIM) of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, as well as bilateral
co-operation, as for example with the district of Wolfenbüttel. In addition, the current coalition
agreement with the state of Niedersachsen seeks to improve transfer structurally and
institutionally in terms of the “third mission”. Corresponding state funding is pending -- we are
looking forward to it.