As Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft stands for development and innovation. Since the late 1990s, the organization has offered its employees support not only during actual research work, but also afterwards when introducing the innovation to the market with help from Fraunhofer Venture. They also offer support for external startups. We wanted to learn more in our interview…
Please tell us about yourselves.
In order to promote the transfer of scientific findings into society and to account for the growing entrepreneurial spirit of the Fraunhofer Institutes, the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft founded the Fraunhofer Venture department in 1999. The current Fraunhofer Venture team includes 22 employees.
Fraunhofer Venture helps Fraunhofer employees commercialize their technologies, from a rough first idea all the way through to a validated business model or optimized business plan. A crucial part of the support it provides also includes drafting contracts and searching for financial and cooperative partnerships.
Supporting external founders
Who do you support: just Fraunhofer spin-offs, or external entrepreneurs and startups as well?
Until recently, the focus had been on supporting internal startups. Our two projects sponsored by BMBF, “VentureConnect” and “TechBridge,” made it possible to open up our Fraunhofer networks to external founders and SMEs starting last October.
“VentureConnect” aims to further increase the collaboration between the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and SMEs, while also considering the needs of both sides and establishing the necessary transfer infrastructure.
The “TechBridge” initiative brings external technology startups together with Fraunhofer researchers and Fraunhofer IP.
How do you support startups, in concrete terms?
Our range of offerings includes all of the support and consulting services that are required before, during and after the startup phase.
The mission of the “Fraunhofer Venture Lab” is to make entrepreneurial thinking and behavior perceptible and applicable in the very first stages, while also accompanying researchers on their path to becoming intrapreneurs or entrepreneurs. Numerous offers have made it possible to establish processes and methods that sustainably strengthen the entrepreneurial and startup culture, while also supporting projects from the first idea through to a validated business model. In addition to workshops, events and network activities, we established the (FDays®) accelerator program. It is custom-tailored to the special requirements at Fraunhofer and gives employees the tools and resources they need to systematically develop their first business models.
Moreover, the “Fraunhofer supports entrepreneurs” initiative (Fraunhofer fördert Entrepreneure – FFE) provides financial resources for Fraunhofer institutions. These resources make it possible to take existing research results and make them market-ready, and they can be used to refine business plans.
In addition, management specialists in the “Fraunhofer supports management” program (Fraunhofer fördert Management – FFM) provide support for founders.
A focus on individual support
What do you focus on when working with startups?
Individual support for each team is very important to us. For example, we provide support as needed in the form of workshops and individual coaching. Startups also have access to our network.
“To be successful, a startup needs to… ”
… have a good combination of team members in terms of both expertise and personality.
The biggest mistake: technology infatuation
What is the biggest mistake a startup can make?
The biggest mistake we have observed in our high-tech projects has been that many potential founders are infatuated with technology. To counteract that, we help our teams look at their projects through “market glasses” early on. That gives them a detailed understanding of market needs, which then allows them to fine-tune their market offer.
Our technologists also receive support from external “business designers” who provide the necessary economic expertise.
The trend of the year is… !
What makes the Munich startup scene so special?
A focus on tech, B2B, collaboration between universities and companies, expert qualification programs for talented people…
Last but not least: whom should startups contact if they would like to meet up with you?
Our website lists all of our team members along with their research areas. Feel free to contact us.