Startup Factories

Startup Factories flagship competition

Through the flagship competition, up to ten excellence-focused projects are to be given the opportunity to establish cross-university ecosystems with an international reach and strong integration into regional and national value chains.

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Goal of the Startup Factories flagship competition

In the context of the Federal Government’s start-up strategy the Federal Government wants to complement the present EXIST-Potentials funding measure with the Startup Factories flagship competition. The aim of this is to significantly boost the number and quality of knowledge-based companies being founded.

The intention is to create cross-regional flagship Startup Factories with greater international visibility that:

  • Have strong ties with one or more universities, as well as possibly non-university research institutions, which excel at start-ups and demonstrate high potential with regard to innovation and talent
  • Through the creation of public-private partnerships contribute to strengthening universities and research institutions as a source of pioneering technologies and their transfer to commercial use via the founding of innovative companies
  • Are organised as a business, run as a business, are expected to be at least 50% privately funded in the future and which want to establish a business model with long-term viability
  • Are (co-)supported by the private sector and embedded in the regional start-up ecosystem
  • Act with a clear focus on output, evidenced, among other things, by the number of successfully launched start-ups with strong growth and the talent trained
  • Establish efficient transfer channels

This measure does not constitute the continuation of or a replacement for the EXIST-Potentials programme, which is coming to an end!

Process timeline

Flagship competition
Activation phase

Q2/Q3 2023

40 projects
Concept phase

Mid-February 2024, at the same time as the announcement of the 2024 federal budget

Publication of concept phase funding guidelines in the Federal GazetteMax. 15 projects
12 April 2024Concept phase application submission deadline
By the end of May 2024Selection process involving jury (jury session late May 2024)
1 July 2024Project funding for concept phase starts
Project phaseAutumn 2024Publication of project phase funding guidelines
28 February 2025Project phase application submission deadline5–10 projects
By April 2025Selection process involving jury (jury session in April 2025)
1 June 2025Start of project-phase funding

The project phase from 2025 onward is still subject to financing.

Process timeline

Activation phase

During the activation phase of the Startup Factories flagship competition, three workshops took place, run by Stifterverband on behalf of the BMWK and in collaboration with the project sponsor Jülich. Around 65 universities and networks from across Germany participated in the activation phase.

The activation workshops had the goal of raising awareness of the competition’s requirements, examining the status quo regarding start-up funding at the participating universities, and further developing the concepts created for Startup Factories with the aid of coaches. Along with networking and exchanging experiences with one another, the focus was on discussing success factors, challenges and good practices. Impetus provided by experts from universities, companies, family offices and the start-up ecosystem presented different organisational forms and perspectives with regard to working with private funders.

For all universities further developing the regional start-up ecosystem and interested in the flagship competition approach, key documents and presentations from the activation workshops are provided or linked at right.

The exact format, framework conditions and selection criteria for the concept and project phases will be announced following finalisation and publication of the guidelines. For initial guidance, the following principles have been agreed with the panel of experts.

Concept phase

  • Applications are submitted through universities or research institutions.
  • A maximum of 15 projects with a duration of up to nine months can be funded.
  • Funding is limited to 150,000 euros per project.
  • Guidance and support are provided through moderated learning and experimentation spaces (transfer of best practices, networking).

Project phase

  • Applications are submitted by a legal entity (Startup Factory). Applications submitted through a university and/or research institution are not accepted.
  • Five to ten projects with a duration of up to five years can be funded.
  • Each project can receive up to 10 million euros, supplemented by private funds of an equal amount.
  • Guidance and support are provided through networking and exchange formats.
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