• Young founders sit in a modern incubator and work.

    "Society in particular benefits from high-tech start-ups" - university survey enters its third round

Brain City Berlin is the German capital of start-ups. Many young companies have successfully been founded through Berlin and Brandenburg based universities. In order to find out the economic importance of science-based start-ups, a total of ten universities from the region are now conducting a systematic survey of start-up entrepreneurs for the third time. The closing date for participation in the “Gründungumfrage 2020” is 15 March 2020. We spoke to Karin Kricheldorff, Head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin, who is  coordinating the 2020 start-up survey.

Almost half (43%) of the entrepreneurs who started out of universities in the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region feel they belong to the “digital economy”. Above all, they offer creative, knowledge-intensive services and consulting, are extremely internationally oriented and are still 84 percent rooted in the region. This was the result of a founder survey carried out by nine universities in the metropolitan region in 2016 - for the second time since 2014. The start-up survey is currently entering its third round. The survey, in which this time eight universities in Berlin and two in Potsdam are participating, focuses on the topics of sustainability, internationalisation and the importance of artificial intelligence in the context of company foundation. In addition, data on the number of employees, sales, equity capital and grants are recorded.

Gründungsumfrage 2020

  • Entry deadline: 15 March 2020
  • Participants: Entrepreneurs, alumni or other people who have used the start-up-services and the expertise of the participating universities to found a company or to become self-employed.
  • The bilingual survey is carried out online. Each of the universities listed uses its own questionnaire.
  • 10 universities are participating: Beuth Hochschule für Technik Berlin, University of Performing Arts Ernst Busch, Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft Berlin, Freie Universität Berlin, University of Applied Sciences Potsdam, Berlin University of the Arts, University of Potsdam, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Hochschule für Wirtschaft und Recht Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin.

The purpose of the survey is to record the economic importance of university start-ups in Berlin-Brandenburg. Based on the results, the consulting and service offer of the university startup services should also be improved. The results of the “Gründungsumfrage 2020” are expected to be available this summer. 

The survey is coordinated by the Centre for Entrepreneurship (CfE) at TU Berlin. The IHK Berlin, the Berlin state initiative “Projekt Zukunft” (Project Future) and the Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises support the project.

Karin Kricheldorff, Head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin on the Gründungsumfrage 2020

Mrs. Kricheldorff. For the third time, the CfE is conducting a start-up survey among companies who have set up their own business from a Berlin or Potsdam university. Why?

The aim of the start-up survey is to systematically record start-up activities at the Technische Universität Berlin and the other participating universities. Comparable data should enable a uniform picture of the academic start-up scene across universities in Berlin. For example, we want to keep track of which and how many start-ups emerged directly from the university - supported by our services, offers and the know-how that we offer at the TU Berlin in the area of start-up support. We also want to know whether the start-ups were able to assert themselves on the market in the long term in order to measure and present the economic power of science. The results also serve to optimise the consulting and service offering of the university start-up services.

What is the economic importance of knowledge-based start-ups for Berlin as a business location?

They are of great importance. The start-up survey, which we conducted among nine universities in Berlin and Brandenburg in 2016, showed that 84 percent of the companies surveyed started off in Berlin-Brandenburg. 653 startup companies employed around 22,000 people here in 2015. The total turnover of 605 of the companies concerned was just under EUR 3 billion in 2015. With a few exceptions, these were SMEs. A total of around 12,000 people were employed in nine large companies.

To what extent do universities like the TU Berlin benefit from successful start-ups?

We are not profit-oriented. In contrast to most incubators, we do not take any shares in the companies that result from our incubation process. It is important to us that the latest research results do not disappear in someone’s drawer but create added value. As a result of them entering the market as applications, products or services. In particular, society benefits from high-tech start-ups that make use of the latest scientific findings. Our teams demonstrate the innovative strength of science in terms of sustainable development.

The TU Berlin is considered as a start-up university: What measures do you implement to support young founders?

Our offers are aimed at members of the TU Berlin, i.e. researchers, alumni and students. We introduce and show starting a company as a career path and advise teams in the early phase of their  projects. Among other things, for business model development, financing and funding such as the Berlin startup grant, the EXIST startup grant and the EXIST research transfer.

Can you be more specific?

With their innovative, technology-oriented business ideas, the teams can apply for inclusion in our systematic, milestone-based start-up incubation process. Over a period of six to 18 months, the high-tech start-ups are continuously advised and trained in business to develop their products to market maturity. This includes office and laboratory rooms, our StarTUp School with workshops on entrepreneurial training, individual expert consultation hours with lawyers and investors, pilot customer projects with industrial partners, events dealing with financing strategy and investor contacts, the TU trade fair program as well as community events and networking with alumni -startups.

Which successful companies have recently emerged from the TU Berlin?

Startups from the TU Berlin have enormous economic power. The most recent startup survey showed, for example, that around 250 start-ups by alumni of the TU Berlin generated sales of around EUR 2.6 billion in 2015. The companies surveyed employed around 18,400 people. The successful teams that have been supported at the Centre for Entrepreneurship in recent years include Akvola, 3YOURMIND, Sicoya and Teraki.  However, successful companies such as AVM emerged from one of the first start-up centres at TU Berlin in the 1980s - they are the developers of the Fritz! Box.

What advantages does Berlin as a location offer start-up entrepreneurs?

Berlin has a unique position in the world as a start-up capital: The city is international and cosmopolitan, people from all over the world come to Berlin. Of course, this also includes those with innovative ideas that they can implement here. Among other things, due to the local start-up ecosystem with its very good general conditions and the good funding landscape.

Do you have a tip for graduates who want to start a business?

Take advantage of the support offered by the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the TU Berlin and contact us!

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