An innovative and/or technology-based startup idea is required. The innovation content of the product or service must be understandable and must have new or improved performance features compared to the competition. A combination of known technical solutions that lacks an original technical approach, significant customer benefits, or sustained unique selling propositions is not eligible for funding.
The support provided under this program requires that a “proof of principle” have been performed for the planned startup at the least. Depending on the nature of the project, this means, for example, the existence of a lab sample with sufficient data (e.g. in the area of the healthcare sector) or a “mock-up” (in the digital sector, for example). The project should have progressed to a stage of development at which it seems plausible that further development up to the finished prototype can be completed during the funding period. The application also asks about initial considerations regarding the target market, potential competitors, and the benefit to customers as part of the startup concept. Depiction in the application and later review of implementation take place based on a milestone plan.
Support is provided to higher education graduates who have subject-specific technical skills and to people with supplementary skills that are necessary to realize the planned startup project (especially business administration skills).
Funding is provided exclusively to team startups with two to four participants each. It is, however, also possible for team members who do not receive funding to participate in the later implementation of the startup project. The founders must be the key knowledgeable parties within the project and must play a major role in drafting the business model, developing the product or service, and the later management of the business. They are also required to devote all of their time and energy to putting the project into practice. Side jobs and similar activities are only possible to a limited extent. The founders are required to show that they are present on site at the workplace provided to them at least 24 hours per week.
Founders must live in Berlin or, in isolated cases, in neighboring Brandenburg (commuters).
Founders are not required to have studied at or earned a degree from one of the four universities. The startup project must, however, be supervised by a scholarly or scientific mentor from Freie Universität Berlin, Charité, Technische Universität or Humboldt Universität in order to ensure both the subject-specific supervision and support and access to any technical infrastructure that may be needed during the funding period. The mentor must have a doctorate at the least and must be employed by the relevant university for the stipulated term of the grant.
Founders who have already submitted an application at a different higher education institution or who are already receiving or have already received a startup grant from a different higher education institution or the EXIST Business Start-up Grant are not eligible. This program also cannot be combined with the startup grant (Gründungszuschuss) from the Employment Agency (Arbeitsagentur). The business must not have been founded yet and must not have started operating on the market in economic terms.