A total of 49 universities from all over Germany took part in the second round of the competition. Twenty-seven of them were invited to develop a university-wide comprehensive strategy for promoting start-up companies. An independent expert jury evaluated all of the submitted proposals and selected the best ones.
“We are very pleased that our strategy for developing a University Entrepreneurial Network convinced the jurors,” said Prof. Dr. Peter-André Alt, the president of Freie Universität Berlin. “As one of the first German universities of excellence, we already had the best experiences working in networks. Together with Charité, we will now build an entrepreneurial network.”
Since 2009 Freie Universität Berlin has been working closely with Charité, the medical school that is jointly operated by Freie Universität and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, in developing support for company start-ups. Under the umbrella of the University Entrepreneurial Network, this cooperation will now be taken a step farther and be extended to other partners.
Steffen Terberl, the team leader of the division for knowledge and technology transfer at Freie Universität Berlin and the project manager of the new project, described the planned steps and objectives: “We aim to create incentives for professors to view knowledge and technology transfer as a central pillar of their work, in addition to research and teaching. With a modern, partly online-based teaching and learning platform, we wish to enable students and scholars from all disciplines to acquire entrepreneurial skills. We aim to concentrate our efforts particularly on research-based start-ups in the health care industry, information and communications technology, and the media and creative industries.” According to Teberl, these fields are also of particular importance in Berlin-Brandenburg's innovation strategy. An additional aspect of the strategy is to convince alumni with entrepreneurial experience and other business partners to invest capital in a seed fund. These funds would be used to provide seamless financing for spin-offs in the early stages.
The conditions at Freie Universität Berlin and Charité are already quite good for developing a strong entrepreneurial culture. In national rankings comparing the German universities with the best environment for business start-ups, Freie University moved up from the 27th place in 2005 to currently seventh place. In attracting funding for individual start-up projects through the EXIST program of the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and the High-Tech Startup Fund, both Freie Universität and Charité are in the top group nationwide. For example, a total of 60 start-up projects at the two institutions have received EXIST start-up grants from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology, and 85 companies have been formed with start-up capital since 2006.