Claas Blume, Gründer von Clous GmbH
© Jan von Holleben

The era of the founder

Germany needs startup founders. But what do founders need? Ideas, and energy. Passion, and the power to persuade. Optimism – and optimal support too. Time and again, Fraunhofer has provided the support founders need.

Time to get started!

New impetus for the economy

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.

Founding a successful startup is rewarding!

© Fraunhofer / Jan von Holleben

Ampeers Energy GmbH

Sometimes, the market does not offer what is needed. Dr. Karsten Schmidt looked to Fraunhofer for a solution. His spin-off Ampeers Energy GmbH has what it takes to make the energy market more straightforward and profitable.

© Fraunhofer / Jan von Holleben

Arioso Systems GmbH

Can an earphone work as a gateway to the digital world? With an innovative microspeaker offered by the team behind the startup Arioso Systems GmbH, this may soon be possible.

© Fraunhofer / Jan von Holleben

Clous GmbH

Founders need courage and perseverance, especially during this pandemic. These were precisely the qualities demanded of Claas Blume and his company, clous GmbH.

© Lars Wehrmann/Cellbox Solutions, istockphoto

Cellbox Solutions GmbH

A global need in the medical field — and an innovative solution: That’s what has made Cellbox Solutions GmbH so successful.

© Jan von Holleben

ConstellR GmbH

A satellite the size of a shoe box: ConstellR is aiming to enable any farmer to get accurate weather data for their land — and help agriculture withstand climate change better.

Joseph von Fraunhofer Prize 2021

Spin-off Volterion GmbH

Redox flow batteries: A step toward the mass market

Redox flow batteries are perfect for storing large quantities of regenerative energy, but they have always been too expensive for the mass market. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT have now completely redesigned the heart of a redox flow battery – the stack – and have brought about a massive reduction in material usage and costs. The spin-off Volterion GmbH was founded in order to launch the new product on the market.

#WeKnowTransfer – successful transfer of ideas and innovations into the economy

Valuable technological knowledge and expertise is generated at the Fraunhofer Institutes each and every day. For over 70 years, Fraunhofer has been fulfilling its responsibility for the successful transfer of this knowledge and know-how to the economy and society by contributing to new products, services and processes. The successful commercialization of technology hinges on a broad and sophisticated set of transfer mechanisms,.

Technology transfer through spin-offs

Fraunhofer Venture

To advance the transfer of its scientific research findings and meet the growing start-up spirit in the Fraunhofer institutes, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft initiated its Fraunhofer Venture division. The aim of Fraunhofer Venture is to make innovations usable through spin-offs and lead them to economic value creation.