•  Brain City Berlin,  Notebook in Berlin Start-up

    Academic start-ups strengthen Berlin's economy

Start-ups arising from research being done at Berlin's universities are of major importance for the region's economy. As the “Gruendungsumfrage 2020” shows, academic start-ups in Brain City Berlin had some €8.4 billion in revenue last year.


The transfer of knowledge between research and industry is an important driver of innovations and also an important economic factor. This is particularly evident in the case of academic start-ups and spin-offs. As the current “Gruendungsumfrage 2020” shows, start-ups spun off by Berlin universities created more than 62,000 new jobs last year. And they generated a turnover of €8.43 billion. This is four times the €1.9 billion the state invested in Berlin's universities in 2019. Almost two-thirds of the start-ups surveyed offer knowledge-intensive consultancy, creative, and ICT services. 15% of the companies are in the AI sector.

“Every euro invested in science and research is good for the whole of Berlin,” Michael Müller, the Governing Mayor of Berlin, has affirmed. “Our universities have developed into real think tanks, with creative minds from all over the world. They create an environment driving innovation, producing numerous start-ups, and also having a real pull on established companies. This is important for the creation of new jobs and the sustainable economic growth of our city." And Berlin's Senator for Economic Affairs, Ramona Pop, also emphasized that universities are now playing an important role in the start-up capital Berlin: "The promotion of start-ups at universities is delivering innovative and sustainable effects for the entire Berlin metro region."

10 Berlin universities participated

750 start-ups took part in the cross-university survey. 5,120 companies and small businesses were reached. Ten universities from Berlin and Brandenburg took part in the survey carried out for the third time this year: the Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin, the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, the HTW. University of Applied Sciences, the Berlin School of Economics and Law, the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, the Freie Universität Berlin, the Universität der Künste Berlin, the University of Potsdam, the Ernst Busch Hochschule für Schauspielkunst, and the Technische Universität Berlin. The survey and its evaluation were coordinated by the Centre for Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin. The survey took place before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and concerns company figures from 2019.

More results from the Gruendungsumfrage 2020

  • Internationalisation: Even if the majority (80%) of the companies surveyed were founded in Berlin-Brandenburg and are mostly still based here, many are internationally oriented: 29% of the start-ups participating in the study generate their sales in the European market, especially in German-speaking Europe. Outside of Europe, North America and Asia are particularly important sales markets.
  • Subsidies: 49% of the participating companies were supported by the universities in the start-up phase. 41% received grants from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Economics  (especially EXIST Business Start-up Grants), from the Investitionsbank Berlin Brandenburg, from the State of Berlin (Berlin Startup Scholarships), and from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency).
  • Financing: Almost a quarter of the companies stated that they had used equity capital. The start-ups raised between €250,000 and €2 million on average. The funds came from business angels, independent venture capital companies, and other private investors.
  • University Incubators: 96% of the start-ups supported by universities rated the funding programmes as playing a “very important” or “important” role in their getting started. For 87%, the opportunity to use the facilities, laboratories, and prototype workshops at the universities played an essential role in their eventual launch.
  • University ties: 70% of the companies continue to maintain contact with or cooperate with the universities that initially supported them.
  • Passing on knowledge: 76% of the start-ups surveyed would like to use their experiences to help the next generation of entrepreneurs (e.g. through mentoring, support in business model development, or as investors). (vdo)


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