Julia Wimmer, Managing Director of the LMU Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center
photo: LMU

“Generate Value by Linking Research, Teaching and Praxis” – An Interview with Julia Wimmer from LMU IEC

At the end of last year, the LMU Entrepreneurship Center (LMU EC) stopped its operations. It has been succeeded by the LMU Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (LMU IEC). In our interview, Julia Wimmer, Managing Director of LMU IEC, explains the focal points of the new startup center of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and what makes it different from its predecessor.

Munich Startup: Please introduce yourself: What did you do before becoming the managing director of the LMU IEC? What would you like to achieve in your position?

Julia Wimmer: Before I came to the LMU IEC, I worked as a research assistant at the Institute for Leadership & Organization at LMU. During my doctoral studies, I investigated how the current organization of work impacts individual employees and work teams as a whole. Work and private life have intentionally and unintentionally become increasingly intertwined in recent years. This affects the performance and also the innovative strength of individuals and teams – on the one hand, it promotes the exchange of knowledge and makes work more flexible, but it can also quickly lead to stress and unclear role responsibility. The knowledge gained from my research as well as from experience in academic life in recent years is now extremely useful for me in the strategic design of the LMU ICE as an interdisciplinary institution whose goal is to generate value by linking research, teaching and praxis with one another.

Munich Startup: The LMU EC had been an institution in the Munich startup ecosystem for many years. It came as a surprise to many when it stopped its operations last year and the LMU IEC took over in its place. What was the background for that?

Julia Wimmer: We are positioning ourselves very close to research and teaching with the LMU IEC. Our activities aim to holistically integrate research into practice in order to promote the creation of innovations that are of high societal relevance. We see entrepreneurship as an effective tool for harnessing innovations and making a difference in the world. For this new strategic orientation, it was important to start over with a clean slate on an organizational level. The IEC is now an interdisciplinary center led by LMU professors that is fully integrated into LMU. This allows it to perform its function as an internal and external point of contact for innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Translating knowledge into practice”

Munich Startup: Who’s behind the LMU IEC? Who provided the impetus to found it?

Julia Wimmer: We currently have 30 members from the circle of LMU professors and young academics, from which the management board is formed. Professor Jelena Spanjol, head of the Institute for Innovation Management at LMU, is board spokesperson and has been leading the center since its founding together with her board colleagues Professor Martin Högl (Institute for Leadership and Organization) and Professor Albrecht Schmidt (Institute of Informatics). Moreover, twelve additional employees are working on the implementation of our support projects for research, teaching and startups.

Munich Startup: What continuities can be found between the LMU EC and the LMU IEC? What are you doing differently? What do you want to make your focal points?

Julia Wimmer: The LMU EC had already worked together with some of the LMU faculties in teaching with its program of courses. We want to expand on this interdisciplinary approach and also appeal to LMU researchers with our formats. The integration of research, teaching and startup activities is something we view as a key anchor when it comes to creating added value for society through innovation. We are therefore establishing programs one by one that aim to apply research – it starts with raising awareness among students and researchers about innovative thinking and entrepreneurship and continues with co-creation formats with students, researchers, industry experts and community representatives and follows right through to support in the founding of science-based startups. Our program includes both curricular courses and extracurricular workshops, certification and incubation programs. We stand for a holistic view of value creation that integrates the economic, environmental and social impact of entrepreneurial activities.

“Exceptional network in science, business, politics and society”

Munich Startup: What kind of startups is your program meant for? Is there a focus on specific topics or development stages?

Julia Wimmer: Our program focuses on a very early stage and concentrates at many points on translating knowledge from all subject areas into practice. We start in teaching by raising awareness about innovation and entrepreneurship, promote the further development of innovations with our incubation program, help with developing concrete business models and work closely with the LMU spin-off service during the seed funding stage. With these program modules, we want to primarily appeal to innovators, potential founders and early-stage founders. A central aspect of our work is our exceptional network in science, business, politics and society – on both a national and international level. This comes to bear, for example, in the startup program Munich Global Impact Sprint (MGIS), a cooperation agreement with the Munich universities LMU, HM and TUM.

Munich Startup: How do you intend to embed the entrepreneurial mindset more strongly in courses of study at LMU?

Julia Wimmer: In the years ahead, we plan to implement a broad-based program for impact-oriented entrepreneurship qualification. Embedding entrepreneurship in the curriculum of the faculties is a key component. It’s important to us to address students with topics that are relevant to them. Which is why we are combining subject-based entrepreneurship topics with interdisciplinary course units in this program. The project is funded by the Bavarian Ministry of Science and the Arts, and we are implementing it in collaboration with the Center for Digital Technology and Management (CDTM) and our affiliated partner, Augsburg University.

Munich Startup: The two events “Leading Entrepreneurs” and “Cashwalk” were set dates on the Munich startup event calendar. What event formats are you planning?

Julia Wimmer: Together with TUM and HM, we extend an invitation every semester to a co-creation conference as part of the MGIS, which will be held virtually on 6 April. This will be a meeting place for (tech) startups from around the world, key experts from industry, investors and representatives from the academic and public realms as well as the cultural and creative sector in order to create scalable innovations together that are geared towards the sustainable development goals of the UN (SDGs). In the approaching summer semester, a series of workshops and talks about innovation and startups will follow for different target groups. At the end of the semester in July, the Demo-Day of our incubation program will be held to give our startup teams the opportunity to pitch to potential investors, co-founders and industry experts.