Digital Innovation SpaceNew Digitalization Center in Aalen
Researchers, companies and the population use the creative space together. In Aalen, an architecturally prominent building is being built on the university campus for research topics in the field of digitalization. Its goal is to strenghen the sustainability of business.
It will be a regional lighthouse for all topics of digitalization, including for example artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and data security. The new, 24 meter tall Digital Innovation Space will correspond to the planned departmental building for management and business sciences at the forest campus, which is still planned to begin construction in 2020. Together with the planned cafeteria, the Digital Innovation Space will sustainably strengthen the newly created part of campus.
As a combining part of the visual axis between the Burren campus and Beethovenstraße, the Digital Innovation Space will be used by both the university and companies. As an anchor for research activities and the quick transfer of knowledge for medium-sized companies, it will strengthen innovation in the region. This was an important argument at the presentation of the new project on June 29th in explorhino with mayor Thilo Rentschler, county commissioner Klaus Pavel, University President Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider, building authority Wolfgang Steidle und architect Cemal Isin, to further develop Aalen University in a goal-oriented and strategic manner.
The Digital Innovation Space should allow for people-oriented presentations of many digitalization topics, and act as a meeting point for conversations regarding these topics of the future. Construction is planned to begin at the beginning of 2021 and end in late 2022.
Societal Relevance of the Topics
University president Prof. Dr. Gerhard Schneider sees the necessity for further consequential and efficient exchange regarding digital future topics between the university, middle class and society. “These transfer spaces, like the ones to happen directly on campus through the Digital Innovation Space, are extremely important for promoting research, and implementing innovations into society”, says the university president. Until recently, digitalization mostly meant automation of work processes. For the future, though, it’s mainly going to be about data as a “raw material”. Up to 2023, another 10 professors will join the current 19 in the research field of digitalization.
The city of Aalen wants to support this structural change. “I see a great opportunity in implementing the conception of the Digital Innovation Space in furthering our university to turning Aalen into a sustainable and long-lasting center for digitalization. For that reason, we quickly and determinedly set the conditions for the new construction”, says the Mayor of Aalen, Thilo Rentschler. Explorhino, the recently completed ZiMATE and ZTN, as well as the Steinbeis-Transfer center also belongs to this visible architecture, which adds another level to the university.
Commissioner Klaus Pavel underlines the positive effect of the Digital Innovation Space: “Sustainable innovations and digitalization are highly important topics for us. The new center also plays an important role in our regional development strategy NiO (sustainable innovations in the Ostalbkreis), which is why chosen project elements are to be included in the current competition RegioWIN of the state Baden- Württemberg. Additional research and education infrastructures bring significant impulse for the sustainability of the Ostalbkreis region. The Digital Innovation Space, in combination with the INNO-Z and the ZTN, can contribute to a success story”. The commissioner emphasized that the competition between the regions has gotten very tough. “Pushing such a project through the city and the region isn’t typical“, as he praised the engagement from the city of Aalen.
In connection with the current approaches to digitalization from the large research fields at the university, the robust start-up scene in the innovation center INNO-Z, as well as the idea accelerator AAccelerator, structural and research-based developments make complete sense, emphasizes Mayor Thilo Rentschler.
Regional research-based foundations and companies see the situation similarly. On April 1, 2020, the Carl-Zeiss Foundation pledged 2.7 million euros to a center for machine learning in Aalen. Besides building a hotspot for research in this field, the money will also be used to employ two professors at Aalen University. Around 6 million euros of further research funding will also be received. In the coming four years, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will promote further research in topics of digitalization at Aalen University, together with companies and the state. “It’s about improving the regional economic structure for the long-term”, says university president Prof. Gerhard Schneider.
The chairman of the German Rectors’ Conference, Prof. Bastian Kaiser, also underlined this concern. “Aalen is ahead of things. Here, they are following a clear plan; the strategic concept is convincing and everyone is pulling together in the same direction”, says Kaiser.
Companies join in
Notable companies in the region will participate. “We see great synergy with our developmental key points for the field of digitalization in Aalen University. Our efforts to create new business models through picking up possible methods and products from digitalization will be improved in the coming months. The planned Digital Innovation Space will contribute to our place as a forerunner of these developments, together with the region. We have the opportunities of digitalization in sight and want to implement them in Aalen”, explains Dr. Jochen Kress, managing associate at tools manufacturer MAPAL.
Entrepreneur Gerhard Grimminger is convinced by the idea of the Digital Innovation Space as a research and meeting place for topics of digitalization.
“The Digital Innovation Space should be a platform for researchers, entrepreneurs and the population to meet one another, to brainstorm groundbreaking possibilities for digitalization. Additionally, we have to consider the dangers of faulty applications, overly complicated processes and procedures, as well as losing our self-responsibility and flexibility”, says the managing director at axle manufacturer Kessler & Co. in Abtsgmünd.
The Conception of the DIS
The office of Isin + Co. was employed in projecting the Digital Innovation Space. The nearly 50 planners in Aalen and Stuttgart achieved in creating an interesting and modern draft. Architect Cemal Isin designed well-known lighthouse projects like the Gold and Silver Forum in Schwäbisch Gmünd, as well as the enclosed Limes Gate in Dalkingen.
The conception for the six-floor building of the Digital Innovation Space (DIS) at the forest campus is planned as an architecturally appealing rotunda with innovative building construction with a 42 m diameter on a 2,500 m² piece of land. The building, which will have the ground floor deviate ellipsoidally, opens on the ground floor, as well as on the second story in the direction of the planned forest campus with its new cafeteria, departmental building as well as student dormitories. The second story is planned to be completely open. Above it stands the actual four-story building with around 5800 m² of rentable space and 460 m² as a meeting place on the ground floor.
On the ground floor, the conference rooms are arranged around a central round atrium. There, conferences, seminars and lectures can also take place. An exhibition space is planned for the second story for teaching digitalization topics, which is to be open to the public.
Laboratories, project rooms, offices and computer work spaces for researchers in cooperation with companies will be placed on four stories. The goal is to promote exchange between everyone working there. A digital animation from the office of Isin+Co helped make the usage of the building tangible, a good two years before completion.