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EXIST – University-Based Business Start-Ups

EXIST is a support program of the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BMWi) aimed at improving the entrepreneurial environment at universities and research institutions and at increasing the number of technology and knowledge based business start-ups.

The EXIST program is part of the German government’s “Hightech Strategy for Germany” and is co-financed by funding of the European Social Fund (ESF).

The EXIST program includes three program lines:

The EXIST program's three program lines

1. The EXIST program line "Culture of Entrepreneurship" supports projects at universities to build up an infrastructure for providing skills and support for technology and knowledge-based innovative ventures. In support of these activities, universities receive an allowance from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy over a three-year period.

The projects may include measures geared towards the following activities:

  • to establish a lasting “culture of entrepreneurship” at universities and research institutions,
  • to support consistent transfer of scientific knowledge into commercial output,
  • to promote the enormous potential of business ideas and entrepreneurial personalities at universities and research institutions in a targeted manner,
  • to increase the number and the chances of success of innovative business start-ups.

2. EXIST Business Start-Up Grant supports the preparation of innovative business start-up projects at universities and research institutions.

The grant aims to help scientists, university graduates and students developing their business ideas into business plans and to advance their ideas for products and services. To cover their living expenses, the entrepreneurs receive a grant between 1,000 to 3,000 euro per month, depending on their degree, for a maximum period of 12 months. In addition, they receive materials and equipment (worth 10,000 euro for solo start-ups and 30,000 euro for team start-ups), funding for coaching (5,000 euro) and, if necessary, child benefit of 100 euro per month and child. The university or non-university research institution offers them infrastructure during the pre-start-up phase and provides technical and start-up-related assistance.

3. EXIST Transfer of Research promotes technology-based business start-up projects in the pre-start-up and the start-up stage. EXIST Transfer of Research complements the broadly targeted EXIST Business Start-Up Grants with an excellence-oriented measure for high-tech start-ups.

The purpose of the first funding phase is to support research teams at universities or research institutes so as to enable them to provide proof for the technological feasibility of their product idea and to prepare the business start-up. The funding includes staff expenses for up to four staff members and 250,000 euro for materials and equipment. The average funding period is 18 months in the pre-start-up phase, in some cases even longer.

During the second funding phase, the newly founded technology-oriented companies can be supported with up to 180,000 euro to continue the product design, for instance up to the prototype realization and to be able to solicit external funding for their company.

Applications for all program lines are to be submitted to the respective university or research institute.

Contact addresses:

Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy (BWMi)

Division VIIC2 - KfW, Start-up Financing, ESF-Coordination
D-10115 Berlin


Project Management Jülich (PtJ)

Research Centre Jülich GmbH, Office Berlin
Zimmerstraße 26-27
D-10969 Berlin

Questions regarding the EXIST Culture of Entrepreneurship:

Ansprechpartner: Ralf Dolk
Fachbereich GTI 4 – Gründungskultur

Phone:  030 20199-411

Questions regarding the EXIST Business Start-up Grant:

Phone:  030 20199-411

Questions regarding the EXIST Transfer of Research:

Phone:  030 20199-411

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