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Team building and first steps

Summer semester 2020: As part of the "Technology Business Model Creation" module at TU Braunschweig, a group of students investigates business models based around a solution for recycling solar modules. After completing the module, the group talks to founder Dr Jan-Philipp Mai about his career and founding start-ups. In addition to Fridolin Franke, Jan Bargel is also part of the group and sparks fly. Tasks were distributed: Fridolin is responsible for finance and business development, Jan-Philipp for sales and strategy and Jan for technology. The name was also already decided: SOLAR MATERIALS - raw materials from solar modules, for solar modules. The young team quickly applied to the Start-up Academy for Growth and Innovation (W.IN for short) in Braunschweig, whose MO.IN programme helps new ideas for seven months to develop their visions into a functioning and solid business model; a network and process-accompanying coaching.

The pitch deck was convincing and SOLAR MATERIALS was accepted into the programme. Before this programme got underway in October 2020, however, the business model was continuously developed further and the technology was awarded a proof of concept on a laboratory scale. This technology development by no means happened by itself - three university institutes supported SOLAR MATERIALS and tests were carried out with over half a dozen industrial partners.

Gründungsteam Solar Materials
Gründungsteam Solar Materials

Founding and own hall in Magdeburg

In November 2020, Fridolin, Jan and Jan-Philipp also received active support from Luisa Schulze and in February 2021, Solar Materials received the start-up grant from NBank. After the aforementioned proof of concept was achieved in the laboratory, everything was immediately prepared for the foundation and on 9 June 2021, SOLAR MATERIALS GmbH was officially founded and the company moved into its first office in the Gründervilla. The technical development was accompanied by a DBU research project on the recovery of the precious raw material silver from 22 August 2021 to 23 November 2023. In the background, a large number of discussions were held with potential investors for the first round of financing before the company was officially founded. On 5 October 2021, the time had come: bmp, which invested funds from the RKF III of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, closed this financing round.

This was followed by a move to Magdeburg, where a hall with office space was found at the HIT Campus, the current headquarters of Solar Materials. It started with four offices and 200 square metres of hall space - now there are 12 offices and 400 square metres of hall space!

Begutachten eines defekten Solarpanels
Defekte Solarmodule

The first automated recycling plant

Aufbau einer Recycling Anlage
Platzierung von Solarmodul auf der Anlage

At the end of September 2021, Solar Materials joined the EIT Raw Materials Accelerator and went through all three phases of this programme over time. On 11 October 2021, the first patent application was filed, which has already been granted in Germany, and the money from the financing rounds was used to build the first pilot plants and carry out module-size tests. The partners for plant construction were BZT Sondermaschinenbau and ROVAK GmbH, and from January 2022 to December 2022, Solar Materials also conducted a research project (Efficient recycling of solar modules through computer-aided and data-driven process optimisation (RESCUE)) with the Fraunhofer CSP, which was funded by IB Sachsen-Anhalt.

The second financing round was closed in February 2023: bmp was involved again, this time together with First Imagine and Katapult. The first automated recycling plant will go into operation in 2023.

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