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The University as Start-Up Incubator for Publishing?

The question of whether publishers should invest in in-house R&D or act as incubators for start-ups was one raised at this year’s CONTEC digital publishing conference, held for the first time at Frankfurt Book Fair. The consensus from was that in-house R&D was complex, expensive and riddled with no guarantees of return on investment, despite some major success stories such as Swedish publishing house Bonnier, incubating the hugely successful Toca Boca via its R&D department.

So it was with interest to hear during the Fair about a new initiative being led by an incubator which sits within the Frankfurt University (Goethe Universitat, Frankfurt Am Main), designed to help nurture start ups and develop business strategies – and this year looking at digital publishing.

The Goethe Incubator (Goethe-Unibator) offers support for students and entrepreneurs, who, in theory and practice, wish to establish their own business venture. This incubator was set up in 2005 and is led by Professor Natter (Department of Economy) and Professor Zicari (Department of Computer Science).

Since launch it has helped students, researchers and alumni in developing business ideas via a mentoring programme. Some of the success stories to date include Music Fox, Reppetito and Geonome.

Could universities offer the commercial publishing industry research and development into possible business models for digital publishing?

For the first time, the Goethe Incubator teamed up with the Frankfurt Academy and designed a competition to open up its doors to external candidates for its mentoring programme, with a focus on creative ideas around digital publishing. A jury of experts, which included Holger Voller, Vice President, Conferences & Creative Industries at Frankfurt Book Fair, selected the top three most creative ideas according to sustainable new business models, innovative use of technology and industry and society impact.

The three selected ideas were announced today in the HotSpot eReading area. The winners included:

Florian Stahl und Gottfried Vossen (M√ľnster) – with their platform designed to aggregate networking community data, learning modules and relevant online media; Andreas Dollmayer (Stuttgart) and Hiroki Kamata (Tokyo) with a fascinating project aimed at bringing ancient Japanese manuscripts back to life using ePub3.

The winners will be offered active support by the incubator, and help develop and test business ideas.

Goethe Unibator

Press Release (German)

Further Reading: Looking Upstream

This post first appeared on the Frankfurt Book Fair Blog.

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