HAFIS - Helmholtz Academy for Intrapreneurship

Project-based learning instead of concentrated educational programs is the focus of the Academy. Along a self-designed transfer project, researchers are taught the skills they need to identify transfer potential and to implement it. The Academy builds on the research results already achieved, existing skills and existing interests of the participants and supports them in the development and implementation of a suitable project idea with practical relevance. Therefore, HAFIS keeps the spectrum of transfer formats open. Potentials can range from knowledge and technology transfer to start-ups. The participants are accompanied by coaches and experts. Consequently, they gain competencies and qualify for their own careers.

The Academy is the perfect opportunity for all GSI & FAIR researchers who not only see a scientific added value in their research, but are also open to new methods and competencies and want to make a concrete contribution to society.

The course of the Academy

HAFIS is carried out simultaneously at the participating centers GSI, KIT, HZDR and Jülich in runs of nine months. Participants have 30 working days over the entire period, i.e. about three days per month, to implement their own project. Cross-center milestone events ensure mutual exchange and networking. Local coaches accompany the participants in identifying and realizing the transfer projects. They also teach methodological skills during the project - whenever needed. External experts contribute their methodological or industry knowledge to the projects, thus ensuring a better understanding of the addressees or markets targeted there. Details

Why should I participate?

During the Academy, participants acquire valuable methods and skills, learn to recognize new potential for transferring their own research, and can thus make a concrete contribution to society with their research results - all according to the motto "Learning by Doing". Some transfer activities of these have the potential to bring monetary benefits (e.g., licensing income) and some can be realized during the Academy's lifetime. This can make a direct contribution to scientific work (e.g., doctorate) and increases recognition by colleagues and superiors as well as one's own attractiveness on the job market. Within the framework of the Academy, participants can realize (project) successes, try out their careers (e.g. start-ups), gain visibility with companies and receive personal recommendations. In addition, the departments benefit permanently from strengthened transfer competencies and increased visibility in the public eye. After the project, participants know access to support potentials within and outside the Helmholtz Association. A final certificate attests to participation in the Academy and can be used for positioning on career portals. Ultimately, the intrapreneurship skills learned and applied are also in high demand in the business world.

The goal of the Academy

The aim of the Helmholtz Academy for Intrapreneurship (HAFIS) is to strengthen entrepreneurial thinking and action among researchers in order to intensify transfer activities in the Helmholtz Association. For this purpose, the project-based academy is established in the four centers GSI, KIT, HZDR and Forschungszentrum Jülich, which equally enables researchers to identify and design innovative transfer projects and ensures the prototypical implementation of these projects. This is intended to promote the transfer culture in the centers. Empowerment has a culture-shaping effect especially when it is coupled with successful projects. Accordingly, participants should already be able to achieve success in the areas of knowledge and technology transfer as well as start-ups during the Academy run.


Intrapreneurship is understood here as entrepreneurial thinking and action that encourages researchers to recognize opportunities for transfer projects, to seize them and to mobilize resources for their implementation.

In contrast to the often practiced approach of qualifying researchers for transfer projects through comprehensive educational programs and focusing on subsequent independent implementation, the HAFIS approach focuses on project-based learning and practical implementation. To this end, the Academy starts with research results already achieved, existing skills and existing interests of the participants and supports project-based qualification, in which the participants discover potentials for transfer projects in their own research, develop concrete project ideas and can implement these prototypically. The central feature of the Academy is that the participants form teams in which they learn and test tools of intrapreneurship on the basis of their own projects, are motivated by achieved project results and develop an intrapreneurial spirit.

All employees of GSI and FAIR can apply for the Academy. HAFIS does not impose any restrictions on the professional orientation of the participants. This means that the format is open to all research topics and disciplines. However, in order to strengthen the effectiveness of an Academy, each HAFIS run will be placed under an overarching thematic focus (e.g. "Climate Protection CO2 Neutrality") that fits all participating centers.

Applications should be sent informally by e-mail to m.spreng@gsi.de and should include the applicant's own name, department, the name of his or her supervisor, and a brief justification for participation. Project ideas are not yet necessary, but can be developed during the Academy.

The HAFIS consortium consists of KIT (consortium leader), FZJ, GSI and HZDR. In person, the centers are represented by members of the transfer offices. The structure of HAFIS consists of five parties: The participants and the project teams formed from them, the supporting project mentors, an organizational team per participating center, a central Academy coordination, and an advisory board.

The project teams: The participants initially enter the Academy individually and, during the course, work with others to develop project ideas and suitable teams with approximately three to four members. This is intended to promote interdisciplinarity. As a rule, the members of a team are recruited from one Helmholtz Center. However, cross-center teams are possible and even desirable.

Project mentors: In addition, a project mentor is assigned to each project team for content support. This sponsor comes from the industry or is part of a target group that is important for the project (e.g. politics). This helps the team to better understand the addressees of their project and their (market) environment. Project mentors can be alumni of the respective center or employees of partner companies.

The organizing team: HAFIS is organized by decentralized academy teams at each of the participating centers. Depending on the number of participants, one to two coaches are established in these teams. They take over the supervision and empowerment of the participants. The coaches have experience in organizing and conducting workshops and bring along good knowledge of methods from the field of innovation management (e.g. design thinking, opportunity identification). The HAFIS teams at the centers are located in the respective transfer office and can involve relevant persons (e.g. from innovation management). This promotes close integration with existing offerings, mutual learning, and sustained support for projects beyond the Academy.

The HAFIS coordination: The HAFIS coordination organizes the exchange of experience between the coaches of the centers. Furthermore, the consortium partners also establish cross-center milestone events and other joint events within this framework. This supports the consistency of the Academy as well as learning from each other and ensures continuous improvement. In addition, HAFIS coordination takes over external communication and consortium leadership. Accordingly, project management, digital communication, and event management skills are needed here.

The Advisory Board: The responsible board members of the participating centers or suitable representatives form an advisory board with a member of the Helmholtz office, which meets annually. The advisory board supports the Academy and represents it in the Helmholtz Association.

HAFIS is financed 50% by the Helmholtz Impulse and Networking Fund as part of the "Transfer Campaign" funding program and 50% by its own funds. Applicants are the Helmholtz centers GSI, KIT, HZDR and the Research Center Jülich. The funds are provided for a period of 3 years, starting on 01.04.2023.