On the track of collaborative innovation

Tim Schweisfurth is a new professor at the TU Hamburg


Tim Schweisfurth is a new professor at TU Hamburg. Photo: private
Tim Schweisfurth is a new professor at TU Hamburg. Photo: private

Small decision, big effect: at the end of the 19th century, chemists at the Bayer pharmaceutical company, in their search for new drugs, invented two new substances within a very short time: Aspirin and heroin. The laboratory director responsible initially considered the later famous headache tablet aspirin to be unsuitable as a painkiller and focused further research on heroin, which is now known to be a dangerous narcotic. The company brought the highly addictive drug onto the market as a medicine, and millions of people were given it. The example shows: small decisions in innovation processes can have an enormous impact. As of now, Tim Schweisfurth is investigating how such processes can be influenced and what role organizational structures play in this process as a new professor at the TU Hamburg.

At the new institute "Organizational Design and Collaboration Engineering" everything revolves around the term "collaborative innovation". This involves the question of how advanced products, methods or structures can be found in collaboration to solve a particular problem. "Innovation processes work differently today than they used to," says Schweisfurth. "In the past, research and development departments developed ideas, and superiors decided on them. Today, it often happens decentrally." That means many people inside and outside the organization generate the ideas together, for example through idea platforms, surveys among employees or crowdfunding, the financing of projects through equity.  

The TU professor sees another important area of responsibility for his work in addition to the scientific one. "A special feature at the new institute is that we not only want to understand collaborative innovation, but also apply it." This can happen, for example, through collaboration between local companies and students in teaching, or by working in a network with organizations. This network also opens up through the professorship's benefactor, the Tempowerk Technology Center. Here, around 100 companies from the technology sector work together in offices and laboratories, which promotes exchange with each other.

As a child, Tim Schweisfurth wanted to be an inventor. "I read a lot of comics and always liked the job of Daniel Düsentrieb, an inventor from the Donald Duck universe. I didn't become an inventor, but understanding where ideas come from, how they are selected and implemented is very central to my current work." Tim Schweisfurth has already studied and earned his doctorate at the Technical University of Hamburg. After professional stays at universities in Denmark and the Netherlands, he is now happy to be back at his alma mater. "What I like most about Hamburg is its diversity and openness. The city is constantly changing, for example in HafenCity and Harburg Harbor." Together with his family, he lives in the St. Georg district - from where he enjoys cycling to work.

TUHH - Public Relations Office
Lena Bender
E-Mail: lena.bender@tuhh.de

Download full size pictures: Tim Schweisfurth is a new professor at TU Hamburg. Photo: private