André Noack opens up new technological possibilities and business areas. (Image: Christian Plaum)
André Noack opens up new technological possibilities and business areas. (Image: Christian Plaum)

André Noack

Tremendous Potential

Many companies in the region can justly pride themselves on their long experience. But they can’t afford to rest on their laurels. André Noack explains why target-oriented technology and innovation management is particularly vital for small and medium-sized enterprises.

“Aus Erfahrung gut.” This German advertising slogan, which translates as “Good from experience”, is still associated with one of the world’s largest electric concerns today and is a promise to which tradition-rich companies readily ascribe. And likewise many small and medium-sized enterprises whose success story is based on their long experience. However, this does not automatically mean they are going to be successful. In the face of ever quickening technology cycles, they have to deliver on this promise every day. So innovation potential is required as well as experience. But this only materializes when companies draw the right conclusions from their experience to master present or future challenges.

Pooling expertise

If one were to describe André Noack’s competence profile, it could look something like this. His knowledge is based on many years of experience in the optics industry. The qualified telecommunications engineer studied physics in Mainz and Darmstadt, specializing in optics. He then worked at the Institute for Microtechnology (IMM) in Mainz. Shortly after the turn of the millennium he set up the Competence Network for Optical Technologies Optence and became its first director. “I was fascinated, and still am, by the idea of pooling expertise and building a bridge between the business sector, associations and universities,” says Noack. After two years at Swarovski Optik in Absam, Austria, he returned to Hessen in 2013.

In the meantime, the idea of pooling expertise has turned into a business idea. As a consultant of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) André Noack passes on his knowledge to others. What he is particularly good at is harnessing his wealth of experience to draw the right conclusions for the benefit of his customers. “I have learned the many facets of optics from various angles, particularly in industry and at universities. In doing so, I have come to realize that industry needs research and research needs industry, but the two speak a different language,” says Noack. Here he tries to define joint projects and goals and to mediate between potential partners.

Technology and innovation management

André Noack has known the Wetzlar industrial region for over ten years. He is particularly familiar with the requirement profiles of small and medium-sized enterprises like the back of his hand – and their conflicting goals. Unlike large enterprises, SMEs can rarely afford their own R&D facilities. Yet as manufacturers or suppliers of optical components and systems, they are constantly competing for innovations. Proceeding from the profile and product portfolio of the particular company, André Noack analyzes development potential, evaluating the market and the in-house skills to develop new technological possibilities, business areas and sales channels.

André Noack is convinced that small and medium-sized companies in the optical industry bring vast development potential to the table, particularly in the segments of display technology, image processing, free form and diffractive optics, OLEDs and laser material processing. “Many SMEs in this region have the necessary know-how, but hesitate when it comes to making the investment that appropriate development projects entail.” André Noack helps here, too: he contacts potential research partners and funding organizations in the field of technology and innovation management and even finds investors that provide the necessary venture capital.

Cooperation between industry and universities

A particularly important part of André Noack’s work is initiating cooperation activities between industry and universities or research institutions. Two years ago he brought two companies and a university together to develop new laser optics for material processing, solar cell production and medical technology. In 2011, the DISMAT project realized by TOPAG Lasertechnik GmbH, GD Optical Competence GmbH and the Institute of Microtechnologies (IMtech) at RheinMain University received the Hessian Cooperation Award.

Cooperation projects like this are naturally measured by their success – in this case, by the degree of innovation of the technology to be developed. But before this stage can be reached, the development work itself and the relevant milestones have to be defined, taking care to protect and preserve the interests of both sides. “Small and medium-sized businesses are particularly wary of cooperative ventures with large and seemingly overly powerful research institutes – especially when copyright issues are at stake and cooperation contracts are being formulated,” says Noack. He sees it as one of his main tasks as consultant not only to realize R&D projects in terms of technology but to accommodate the needs of both sides.

Ideas and innovation potential

André Noack knows both sides, industry and academia, inside out. This makes him all the more appreciative of the planned setup of an endowed professorship and the application center for optical technologies in Wetzlar: “This initiative, which has principally evolved from the region’s industries, shows that industry and research are beginning to interact.” As a committee member of Wetzlar Network and within his broad network, he will play a role in shaping these developments in future. Word has spread – not only within the industry region of Central Hessen – that André Noack is good from experience. And he’s aware of the danger of resting on his laurels. At any rate, he’s not short of ideas and innovation potential. That’s good for him – and good for his customers, too.

 

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