Since the covid pandemic at the latest, everyone knows what danger viruses and bacteria can pose to health. However, very few people know that UV-C light is an excellent disinfectant. The Hamburg-based startup UVENTIONS is taking advantage of this fact for the disinfection of elevators and has already been able to win well-known partners for this purpose.
UVENTIONS was founded before Corona, in October 2019, and the founders brought a lot of professional experience with them. For example, CEO Daniel Ehlers, a business economist, worked for a consulting firm specializing in elevators and escalators for a good 14 years. CTO Axel Großklaus is a computer scientist who has developed hardware and software for various industries and is a cybersecurity expert. Also listed as co-founder is Christian Wessel, who is primarily active in a consulting capacity.
One problem Daniel Ehlers encountered again and again was inadequate hygiene in elevators. Regular cleaning is particularly appropriate in elevators that are used a lot, but that costs time and personnel, and thus money. In addition, there is hardly any filtering or exchange of air. This creates ideal conditions for viruses and bacteria to spread.
One of the natural enemies of microorganisms is ultraviolet radiation. UV light is also harmful to humans and, depending on the duration and intensity of irradiation, can lead to sunburn, cloudiness of the cornea and, in the worst case, skin cancer. In the case of viruses and bacteria, the effect is even more drastic: here, UV waves destroy DNA and the cells die. There are three types of UV light: A, B and C. For disinfection, UVENTIONS uses UV-C, the type with the lowest wavelength range.
UVPANEL is the name of the device that UVENTIONS has developed for emitting the UV light. It can be easily mounted on the ceiling of an elevator. It is then connected to the existing power supply. No integration into the elevator control system or other elevator components is required. A special feature of the UVPANEL is the sensor technology installed there, which plays a decisive role in controlling the UV-C light.
Even if short-term exposure to UV light does not yet have serious consequences for people, it should still be avoided. Therefore, monitoring with sensors ensures that no one is in the elevator when the desinfection is activated. An obvious solution would be a motion detector, but this would not notice if a person was lying motionless on the floor. Time-of-flight sensors are therefore used, which scan the elevator car with light pulses and register objects located there.
If the elevator is evidently empty, UV-C desinfection begins immediately, thus ensuring quasi real-time hygiene. As soon as a person enters the cabin, it stops again.The duration of a disinfection process is designed to eliminate even stubborn viruses and bacteria. So there is no continuous irradiation if the elevator is not used for a longer period of time. The process eliminates viruses and bacteria with almost 100 percent certainty, a figure that cannot be achieved even with the most thorough manual cleaning, certainly not as far as air contamination is concerned. In addition, the UVPANEL enables documentation of all disinfection processes.
The first working prototype was developed in 2021, and the UVPANEL was ready for the market in 2022. UVENTIONS had already attracted attention two years earlier with the UVBASE. The device, which resembles a drawer, uses UV-C light to disinfect all kinds of small everyday objects such as cell phones or FFP2 masks. Michael Westhagemann, then Senator for Economic Affairs, had it demonstrated during a visit in August 2020.
There was tailwind not only from politics. UVENTIONS was able to conclude a first round of financing as early as June 2020. A total of five parties, three companies and two private individuals were involved. In November, there was then funding from the InnoRampUp program of IFB Innovationsstarter GmbH. The startup finally announced another round of financing, this time in the millions, in February 2021. Three of the existing investors and IFB via the Corona Recovery Funds were again involved. A new addition was BraWo Capital GmbH.
So UVENTIONS was financially secure for the time being, and now it was a matter of finding suitable cooperation partners for the development and testing of the products. This was achieved, among other things, by participating in the Munich-based accelerator TechFounders. One of the supporters of this funding program is Miele Professional. Together with this company, UVENTIONS provided an initial proof of concept for automated hygiene in sanitary facilities. This involved testing both technical feasibility and market acceptance.
The cooperation with Miele Professional is an indication that the UVPANEL could in principle be used in many areas, such as toilets, changing areas or waiting rooms in hospitals or clinics and nursing homes. However, this has not yet been implemented in practice. At the moment, the focus is on elevators, where the application is particularly easy to implement. For example, the elevators in the town hall of Lüdenscheid have already been equipped with the devices for a few months.
A real milestone for UVENTIONS is the cooperation with TK Elevator, which became public in November 2022. The company, formerly part of the Thyssenkrupp Group, is one of the largest manufacturers and service providers of elevator systems. It operates in over 100 countries at more than 1,000 locations and employs over 50,000 people. The cooperation mainly concerns joint marketing and sales activities for the UVPANEL.
Thus positioned, the startup can now finally set course for growth. Production takes place in Germany, although individual parts have to be imported, which is why there have been supply bottlenecks in the meantime. However, this did not slow down the fundamentally positive development. The comment on Hamburg as a location is correspondingly positive: