Start-Up Research Network

Group of people with a PC an notebooks at a table are looking at a lettered board, where one of the group is explaining something
(© Matej Kastelic -

The Federal Government wants to make it easier for start-ups to access research funding and to establish them as stakeholders in Germany’s energy transition. Highly focused and dynamic, start-ups are capable of providing a considerable boost to efforts to transfer research findings to practical applications.

The network offers a platform for exchange that is open to newly founded companies in the energy sector and other stakeholders in this field. Start-ups are a key driving force for innovation on the pathway to realizing the energy transition. The Start-Ups research network offers new companies in the energy sector an opportunity to exchange ideas on research funding issues more easily, and also to network with established stakeholders in the energy transition who are active in the fields of research, industry, and politics.

New, creative small businesses are agile and open to experimentation. Collaboration with such companies paves the way for novel technology solutions and can open up new avenues focused on innovative products, services, and business models. The Federal Government’s 7th Energy Research Programme, adopted in September 2018, gives start-ups a more prominent position in energy research funding. Under the programme, they will receive increased support and easier access to research funding.

Start-ups as a catalyst in sector coupling, digitization, and regulatory sandboxes

Start-ups are often active in interdisciplinary research fields spanning various technologies, such as sector coupling and digitization, and they address important socio-economic issues. As part of regulatory sandboxes – a new funding format introduced by the Federal Government – start-ups can test and refine their innovative developments in practice.

The research network’s activities reflect the diverse nature of start-ups in the energy sector, while the widely different challenges they face are taken into consideration in research funding. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) held the first meeting of the Start-Ups research network at the end of 2018. The meeting focused on the start-ups’ experience, requirements, and ideas, particularly in relation to funding opportunities.

How can start-ups be more actively involved in project funding?

The first meeting of the Start-Ups research network established the following questions in relation to the network’s activities:

  • For newly founded start-ups required to contribute a certain share of their own funds, what options are available to raise capital?
  • For tech start-ups focused on capital-intensive hardware development, what funding options can be created for demonstration facilities and field tests?
  • For start-ups focused on non-technical innovations, for example new services and business models, what funding conditions are appropriate and legally possible to facilitate the dynamic nature of development required?
  • For start-ups from scientific fields, how can the existing framework for establishing new companies be improved in general? For start-ups originating from research activities, what incentives can be created to encourage researchers to found a company?

Preparations are currently under way to create a tailored funding format for start-ups in energy research. A follow-up meeting of the research network will be convened once these preparations have reached an advanced stage.

As of yet, no working groups have been set up within the Start-Ups research network.

Bioenergy Research Network
Energy Transition Construction Research Network
Renewable Energy Research Network
Flexible Energy Conversion Research Network
Industry and Commerce Research Network
Start-Up Research Network
Power Grids Research Network
System Analysis Research Network
Hydrogen Research Network