Fortune favors the bold
Web special Fraunhofer magazine 2.2021
There’s good news for Germany again: The economy is gaining momentum. In the final quarter of 2020, gross domestic product in Germany rose by 0.3 percent compared to the previous quarter, despite lockdown. Forecasts for 2021 are also encouraging, with the German federal government anticipating economic growth of 3.0 percent. While these figures should provide a boost for major companies, they are especially heartening for startup founders. After all, they are the ones who are most particularly behind the idea they are promoting, are passionate about their cause and follow their company though thick and thin to conquer the market. Startup founders often invest their own assets in order to make their dream of owning their own company a reality and to help their technology gain a foothold in the market. According to Statista, 78.4 percent of startups are financed at least partially by the founders’ own savings. In turn, the economy benefits from the courage and determination of these young entrepreneurs.
Many business founders come from academia, with 30.8 percent of startup founders in 2020 having a master’s degree and 18.5 percent having a bachelor’s degree, according to the German Startup Monitor (DSM). Young company founders do not just come from universities — the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft itself is also a “forge” for entrepreneurship. Despite the pandemic, 26 teams using Fraunhofer technology took the plunge and set up their own company in 2020. Their market chances are good: When compared with the results of the KfW Entrepreneurship Monitor, Fraunhofer spin-offs often generate significant turnover well above the average, and can gain the interest of investors faster too. For example, at the end of May, Austrian public real estate company Bundesimmobiliengesellschaft m.b.H. (BIG) got on board with Munich startup Ampeers Energy. With 7.3 million square meters of leasable space, BIG is one of largest real estate owners in Austria.
While there are other factors involved in the speed with which these startups reach the market, the support offered by the research institutions that prepare spin-offs for a successful market entry plays an important role. CTO of Fraunhofer spin-off ConstellR Marius Bierdel is enthusiastic about this form of support: “I find it incredibly valuable.” Fraunhofer Venture has had its own department in the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft since 2001. It is now marking its twentieth year as a one-stop shop for successful startups.
The startup aid offered by Fraunhofer has paid dividends. Some 97 percent of these spin-offs are still operating on the market three years after starting out. One of them is Volterion GmbH, which spun off from the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT back in 2015. The company continues to enjoy great success. On the technological level, for instance, the team has succeeded in making the production of stacks for redox flow energy storage significantly cheaper. As a result, the redox flow cells are now ready for the mass market for the first time, meaning they could become an indispensable element of the energy transition. On another level, the company has increased their visibility. The founders of Volterion have just been awarded the Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize.