AMO’s vision of the Digital Hardware Hub Aachen passed the first crucial test

On May 26, 2020, the Advisory Board of the Rhineland Economic Development Agency (Zukunftsagentur Rheinisches Revier) has announced a list of 83 projects that are recommended for funding within the structural measures planned by the German Federal Government to support the transition to a coal-free economy. The Digital Hardware Hub Aachen is one of them.

The Digital Hardware Hub Aachen - AMO's vision of the future

The Digital Hardware Hub Aachen – projecting AMO into the future

The Digital Hardware Hub Aachen is a project presented by AMO GmbH. The goal is to establish a central infrastructure for nanotechnology in the Rhine region that can support start-ups and SMEs in the high-tech sector. This is a field where developing new products and ideas requires access to very expensive infrastructures and special laboratory equipment. The investment costs for establishing such research and development infrastructures are often prohibitive for small companies and start-ups ‒ which is the reason why high-tech founders often move to regions where access to high-tech infrastructures is easily obtained to develop their ideas. The Digital Hardware Hub Aachen aims at competing with excellence Deep-Tech centers around the world and at becoming a major incubator of innovation in the Rhine region.

A long-lasting vision

The Hub will literarily build on the existing infrastructure and know-how of AMO GmbH and scale it up substantially, with more clean-room and office space, new laboratories and new equipment. AMO was founded in 1993 as a non-profit nanotechnology company with the same spirit that now drives the Digital Hardware Hub Aachen: to support high-tech companies in the Rhine region with a central infrastructure for nanotechnology. Faithful to this mission, AMO has today more than 200 partners in 35 different collaborative R&D projects. But it cannot grow further because of the physical limits set by its current building, where there no more space for new equipment, new researchers, new projects.

“With the Digital Hardware Hub Aachen we aim at a change of gear not only for AMO, but also for the whole region”, says Prof. Max Lemme, Director of AMO GmbH. “Our goal is to establish a center that can truly sustain the innovation potential of the Rhine region in the field of Deep Tech. The Hub will not only provide more space for AMO but, most importantly, also for start-ups that need access to a top-notch high-tech infrastructure. The Hub will allow AMO to engage in joint new R&D projects with other companies, and the close proximity to RWTH and its pool of excellent engineers and scientists will make it easy to convince companies to settle in the region.”

Bridging digital and hardware innovation

The name Digital Hardware Hub Aachen was chosen deliberately to show the complementarity with the Digital Hub Aachen e.V., where startups in the digital domain find support from RWTH Innovation GmbH, the city, and region of Aachen, the chamber of commerce and others. AMO´s vision is to connect this existing infrastructure with Deep Tech hardware innovations. However, there is still some way to go for the Digital Hardware Hub Aachen.

As for the other 82 projects on the shortlist, the endorsement of the Advisory Board of the Rhineland Economic Development Agency is only the first step to enter in the next selection phase, where the state government and the Rhineland Economic Development Agency will decide which projects should be prioritized for funding, with either state, federal or EU funds. “Passing the first gatekeeper is already a good reason to celebrate”, says Lemme. “It’s great to see our vision officially endorsed. It brings us one step closer to our dream”.