Marlene celebrating the win
Category Start-up Stories
30 November 2022

HopfON co-founder and Management student wins 1st place at TUM IDEAward 2022

Tag Sustainability
Tag Entrepreneurship
Tag Prizes & Awards

HopfON co-founder and Management student Marlene Stechl wins 1st place at TUM IDEAward


With their successful idea of using hops as building material Management student Marlene and engineering student Thomas make the construction and agricultural industry more sustainable. Their start-up called HopfON won the 1st prize at the TUM IDEAward 2022.


The construction industry consumes enormous amounts of resources and is among the industry sectors with the greatest volumes of CO2 emissions, which means a high level of demand for alternative materials. This is why Marlene Stech, Master in Management and Master in Architecture, and civil engineering student Thomas Rojas Sonderegger are developing building materials made from hops.


The students discovered that the fibrous plant is an excellent starter material for acoustic tiles, insulation materials and construction panels. Growing hops in Germany could also reduce transport distances in material production and thus further greenhouse gas emissions. Since only a small part of the hop harvest is used in beer production, the discarded rest could be used for the new products.


In addition to the ecological benefits, the team also expects a cost advantage over its competition. The objective of HopfON is a product, which can be broken down into its component parts at the end of its useful life, making closed loop recycling possible. The founder team hopes to make both the construction industry and agriculture more sustainable.


“I started studying the Master in Management because I realized that even as a planning architect in a management position, it is important to master the principles of business administration and to manage your team. This aspect was missing in my previous studies. HopfON naturally opens a new door towards entrepreneurship. It's exciting to be able to apply what I've learned directly and thus learn something new every day”, says Marlene.


Their idea turned into a successful start-up. “In the next steps, we will continue to develop the material to then generate a product that complies with norms and standards in technical terms and exploits the potential of the hop plant. However, in order to have a major impact on a more sustainable construction industry through HopfON, we also need to think about how to place the product on the market. In both ascetics, the technical and economic side, we get a lot of help and great offers from TUM. Both from the School of Engineering, the Venture Labs, and from the School of Management, which is very broadly positioned in the field of entrepreneurship.”


For the tenth time, a large number of start-up teams competed for the TUM IDEAward. The finalists, selected by an expert jury, presented their ideas to an audience last week. The best ideas are recognized by TUM, UnternehmerTUM, the Center for Innovation and Business Creation, and the Zeidler Research Foundation, which funds the total prize money amount of 37,500 euros.