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The spin-off company associated with ZEW Mannheim was nominated for the 2020 Leibniz Start-Up Prize. The start-up developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system that analyses company information online  in a high-frequency and fully automated manner. The company was founded as a result of a joint research project of ZEW and Giessen University on web-based innovation indicators, which was funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research.

“This spin-off comes just at the right time. Especially in this current situation, the technology of helps to get quick access to information on companies and in what way small and large businesses in Germany are affected by the coronavirus. This is exactly how knowledge transfer from research to practice should be like”, explains ZEW President Professor Achim Wambach.

Current use case: the coronavirus pandemic

While manual research had still dominated the market for company information, the AI system named webAI searches company websites for relevant information with high frequency and fully automated. Currently, the founders are investigating the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on businesses in Germany. ZEW economist and co-founder Jan Kinne explains: “We examine over one million company websites twice a week, and we were able to identify a steady increase in notifications on the coronavirus pandemic. In order to draw more in-depth and informed conclusions, we are currently working at full speed to expand our webAI. We have already received inquiries from other European countries asking whether our system can be applied there.”

Emerging from the TOBI research project

The founders behind are Jan Kinne, researcher in ZEW’s Research Department “Economics of Innovation and Industrial Dynamics” and PhD student at the University of Salzburg, and David Lenz, researcher and PhD student at the Department of Statistics and Econometrics at Giessen University (JLU). They work together on the research project TOBI (Text Data Based Output Indicators as Base of a New Innovation Metric) and have founded based on their cooperation in this project. JLU economist David Lenz summarizes their experiences so far: “It is really exciting to further develop our research approach by putting it into practice as a start-up company and bringing it to the market as an innovative product. The response has been very positive so far, and we are optimistic that our start-up will take off further in the coming years.”

Leibniz Start-Up Prize

The Leibniz Start-Up Prize, which comes with an endowment of 50,000 euros, will this year be awarded for the sixth time to start-up projects that demonstrate outstanding achievements in developing innovative, viable business ideas and setting up a new company. The start-up prize aims to support start-up projects initiated by Leibniz institutions, while increasing the public visibility of scientific work.





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