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“Our innovative snap-together system works like a Lego kit”

Chemnitz-based start-up LiGenium is bringing sustainability to the world of machinery and plant engineering. At the company’s site in Chemnitz, wood – a natural, renewable raw material – is transformed into products that include durable transport and delivery carts for the automotive industry. The use of wood offers huge potential for the future in a number of respects.

The four founders, Angela Grimmer, Dr Sven Eichhorn, Dr Ronny Eckardt and Christoph Alt – three engineers and a management expert, met through a wood research group at Chemnitz University of Technology. They had the courage to set up a company and their ideas are now revolutionising the transfer and logistics industry. Many large companies have previously tried to switch to using sustainable and resource-saving materials in automotive construction, but failed every time.

There’s a pleasant smell of wood on the production floor. Managing director Christof Alt explains the complex technical background and what makes their invention so special: the modular snap-together system. Every part is clearly identified and can be used by absolutely anyone. Because sustainability of the overall cycle requires a holistic approach, there are plans to use bio-based textiles in the production process in future, with synthetic fleece being replaced by flax. Cellulose and lignin, the adhesive found in wood itself, can be recovered from waste products that have already been recycled multiple times. 

Labelling the individual parts turns otherwise complicated systems into a giant Lego kit. Photo: Klara Charlotte Zeitz

David versus Goliath

The first few years were quite a challenge for the four founders. “We were ridiculed at trade shows. People just said ‘Good luck with that’. It was a bit like David and Goliath, hardly anyone believed in us at the start.” But they knew better. In the meantime they’ve won several important prizes, most recently on 8 July 2020, when they received the 20th Saxon Founders Award at the futureSAX innovation conference. Major clients, such as the Volkswagen Group, are now asking this young company to create innovative prototypes. “I’m afraid there are some projects we’re not able to talk about yet, but they’re very exciting,” grins Alt. “The advantage we have over others is 15 years of research-based expertise, continuous experimentation and detailed documentation, giving us a better understanding of wood across a variety of states and external influences.”

“We need a new vision of urban industry”

Sustainability and regionality are key issues for the four founders. Despite the small company’s rapid growth, they have no plans to leave their base in Chemnitz. “Life is good here, the natural environment is beautiful, our families are happy here and the city offers more room to breathe than places like Berlin and Leipzig,” says the young entrepreneur. And where would an innovative, dynamic company fit in better than in a city with 200 years of industrial heritage? “We’re happy to export to the whole world from Chemnitz.”

LiGenium’s founders: Christoph Alt, Dr Ronny Eckardt (left), Dr Sven Eichhorn, Angela Grimmer (right). Photo: LiGenium

Managing director Christoph Alt and his three colleagues have a shared vision: they want to create a new form of urban industry. The minimal health impact of the processing chain means that industry, housing and work spaces will be able to coexist in harmony again in our city centres. Factory on the ground floor, offices on the first floor and apartments above that. Wood makes it possible.

Here you can find out more about the Chemnitz company: www.ligenium.de