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Keep it simple was their rule from the start, a motto that Coher Sense still abides by today. The Lübeck startup is set to revolutionise the monitoring of laser integrity and structural load with their sensor technology. We talked to Founder Dr Oliver Lischtschenko about the unlimited applications for their product and why, as part of their incubation with ESA BIC Northern Germany now in Schleswig-Holstein, space will be their next frontier.
Simplicity: The key to effectivity!
As an expert who worked in the optical sensing industry for many years, Founder Oliver Lischtschenko felt that the equipment or monitoring lasers and ensuring their effectiveness was much too cumbersome, expensive and unnecessarily complex. Often two or three tools were needed to measure simple values, and finding people that had the skills to use the equipment properly was a real challenge.
He started tinkering with ways to simplify the process. The final result was a new easy-to-use fibre optical sensor which simply plugs into the PC and measures three laser parameters – wavelength, bandwidth, and intensity – all shown on one simple screen.
From the sport shower to success
Lischtschenko quickly recognised that he would need the help of partners to grow his product. Speaking to friend and fellow optical sensor expert Mathias Groß in the showers after sport one day, Lischtschenko realised that his sensor could be the answer to many problems Groß was currently facing in the industry. Groß joined the team and shortly afterwards Lischtschenko approached another friend Dr Patrick Schmidt-Kaeding, a hardware developer, project firefighter and expert in agile processes. Together they discovered they had complementary skills and Coher Sense was born.
Shortly after they applied for and were selected by the Gateway 49 accelerator in Lübeck which they felt was a good fit for their stage of development.
“We all still have our day jobs but we each spend a few hours a day working our product and making sure that it is something that the market really needs,” says Lischtschenko.
Maintaining laser and structural integrity
Lasers have become ubiquitous in modern industry so there are many different potential applications for Coher Sense’s fibre optical sensor. However, the trio is keen to focus on two applications during their early years: laser quality assurance and structural monitoring of buildings, wind farms and most recently in space. “We don’t want to get lost!”, says Lischtschenko. “Sometimes it feels like a Swiss army knife!”
The startup is currently in talks with the big laser companies and is gathering feedback on their products. “We are all from industry, so we know how important it is to get feedback from the market. One of the first things we did was to take a kickstarter-type approach and offer our prototype sensors to laser companies for a relatively small sum. This not only provided us with early revenue but facilitated a more market-oriented development of the product itself by allowing our partners to shape the product design process”, commented Lischtschenko.
Structural load monitoring is another extremely attractive industry for Coher Sense. Their sensors can help to identify when structures like bridges, cranes and wind turbines are carrying excess load so as to avoid any unnecessary accidents or damage. The company quickly realised that due to huge loads and forces in play, their structural load technology had applications for space technology too. They therefore decided to explore space applications further and apply for the ESA BIC Northern Germany incubation programme.
Structural load monitoring in space is an exciting new market for Coher Sense. Spacecraft and the International Space Station (ISS), for example, carry huge load and changing orbit can have a huge impact on the integrity of solar panels. Any incorrect load or thrust will force the solar panels to simply break off. Coher Sense sensors will monitor the highly advanced, accurate laser systems integrated in into spacecraft and space stations to determine whether the load limit has been exceeded.
“With the ESA BIC Northern Germany programme, we are looking to find out how we should tailor our product to the space industry. We want to benefit from their network and gather open and honest feedback from the market,” said Lischtschenko.
Lischtschenko is also very positive about working with the space industry. “What I really appreciate about working with space and aeronautic partners is their openness for innovation. They are aware that a perfect product does not just emerge overnight; rather that it is a step-by-step development process.”
“I am really excited about deploying our sensors in space technology. If there is any application that demands robustness, long lifetimes, and structural integrity, it’s space. It is a great proving ground and one which will help to mature our technology and build our credibility.”
“Space is the ultimate challenge: Bring it on!”
For more information on products and updates, check out cohersense.de and @cohersense on LinkedIn.
About ESA BIC Northern Germany
The Incubation Centre of the European Space Agency in Northern Germany (ESA BIC Northern Germany) is headquartered jointly with the Bremen aeronautics and space industries association AviaSpace Bremen at the BITZ, the largest innovation and technology centre for high-tech companies and startups in Bremen. The ESA BIC Northern Germany brings new startup opportunities to the region and thus strengthens the aeronautics and space sector in the German federal state of Bremen. AviaSpace Bremen supports the incubatees with its network, public relations work and targeted coaching not only during the incubation period, but also afterwards as alumni. Starthaus is the central point of contact in the Bremen startup ecosystem and supports the startups on all issues relating to business development and financing. The ESA BIC Northern Germany is managed by Anwendungszentrum GmbH Oberpfaffenhofen (AZO), an international networking and branding company for the European space programmes that also manages ESA BIC Bavaria with three locations in southern Germany.
Since 2021, ESA BIC Northern Germany has also been offering its service to space-related startups in Schleswig-Holstein. The Technikzentrum Lübeck with GATEWAY49, AviaSpace Bremen and AZO jointly operate this extension of ESA BIC Northern Germany. There are also plans to extend ESA BIC Northern Germany to the northern German federal states of Hamburg, Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin-Brandenburg.