Pavlina Vujović looks after the international projects at the SCE
Photos: SCE

Start for Future: Innovations for Europe

As a Europe-wide cooperative, Start for Future has been promoting cooperation between universities, startups and public organisations for two years. Klaus Sailer and Pavlina Vujović from the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship (SCE), one of the founding members, explain what the alliance wants to achieve in the European start-up scene.

Munich Startup: Start for Future – what exactly is behind it?

Klaus Sailer, Managing Director SCE: Start for Future (SFF) is an alliance and entrepreneurship hub comprising academia, startups, industry and public organisations that aims to drive systemic innovation in Europe. For this, SFF connects regional ecosystems, such as Munich, Barcelona or Edinburgh, to then jointly support talent and startups, but also to enable co-creation and technology transfer between startups, companies, academia and civil society beyond their own ecosystem, for example through well-coordinated programmes and activities.

We are convinced that through the cooperation of many universities and ecosystems in Europe, we can think entrepreneurship further and thus also have a unique selling point with regard to China and America. To take these concerns to the next level, SFF has now officially established a new organisational form, namely a European Cooperative Society.

Munich Startup: Which organisations are included?

Pavlina Vujović, Head of International Projects SCE: There are already a number of colleges and universities and their associated incubators actively involved in the SFF Alliance, mostly from Europe but also worldwide, as well as medium-sized and large companies, research and development centres and public organisations representing regional ecosystems. More and more of these partners are now also becoming active members in the cooperative. EIT KICs, i.e. the industry-specific Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), are also already part of the cooperative, as is currently the case with EIT Urban Mobility. As drivers and co-initiators from the Munich ecosystem, the Strascheg Center for Entrepreneurship and the Munich University of Applied Sciences have been founding members from the very beginning.

Exploiting collaborative synergies

Munich Startup: What are the goals and visions of the cooperative?

Klaus Sailer
Klaus Sailer is Managing Director of the SCE

Klaus Sailer, Managing Director SCE: The main goal is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship on a European level. The cooperative strives to bring a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in Europe to the mainstream, and by that we mean to all corners of Europe. This is to be done in an open, democratic, systemic and sustainable way by fostering cooperation between universities and innovation actors.

By using collaborative synergies, we aim to create excellence through volume, i.e. by involving many actors. Therefore, the cooperative aims to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange between innovation actors in a common internationally highly networked ecosystem. The aim is to support joint efforts to further develop and commercialise breakthrough concepts and cutting-edge technologies.

Last but not least is the value-based approach. SFF should benefit us all. The overarching vision is to tackle societal challenges with entrepreneurial means and mindset. The SFF cooperative is committed for this to address societal challenges and increase the prosperity of the European population. Its focus on systemic innovation reflects its broad commitment to these goals.

Added value through co-creation

Munich Startup: Why is it worth becoming a member of SFF?

Pavlina Vujović, Head of International Projects SCE: Quite simply, there is an incredible amount to be gained through cooperation and co-creation. In this respect, SFF also offers diverse added value for the various partners.

The universities and incubators benefit from the shared resources and networks and can, for example, also make a good offer to startups and innovation teams that are not at all located in their own fields of specialisation by jointly using the enormous pool of experts and highly specialised coaches for the most diverse topics.
 For example, SFF offers academics, teachers and external corporate and network partners access to entrepreneurship and innovation training and MOOCs, as well as a joint research group. Teachers also develop courses together, agree on topics and content or conduct them jointly.
SFF offers students, talents and early-stage startups the chance to work together on their projects and innovative solutions and to realise them in the international founding team. For
this, they can draw on the entire SFF network for support and mentoring. We call this “from zero to hero” in our Open Incubation Programme.

It is a fantastic opportunity for all innovative companies and network partners to benefit from the expertise and resources of the university network and to work with the best and most innovative talents, startups and collaboration partners worldwide. At the same time, they can play a role in both defining the most pressing issues facing society as a whole and finding solutions through entrepreneurial activities. In the process, they learn to bring new disruptive and systemic innovation approaches into application through collaborations.

Concrete support for startups

Munich Startup: The cooperative is also intended to promote startups and offers opportunities for investment. How does that work in specific terms? Can you name some best practices?

Pavlina Vujović, Head of International Projects SCE: Startups get access to global experts and mentors and can, for example, visit an incubator in a regional ecosystem that is particularly relevant to their industry in order to build their own network there if necessary. In the last run of the SFF Open Incubator, one of Start for Future’s core programmes, we introduced new co-creation opportunities and mobility formats for startups to explore opportunities in the partner ecosystem with the support of the host incubator. We are happy to see that international startups find this format very attractive. This year, we had a Spanish startup as a guest in Munich that wanted to explore cooperation with German companies in the field of hydrogen and was also able to conclude a cooperation. The Italian startup Clearchain from our partner university Pisa was also successfully accepted into the SCE incubator and was able to benefit from the offers in the Munich ecosystem and especially the AI+ Munich programme. In this way, startups gain access to industry-specific companies but also to the investor networks of the SFF partners.

We also connect startups with later-stage partner offerings, such as the EIT KICs, and initiate promising co-creation processes. One example for this is the collaboration with the EIT Urban Mobility Venture Builder programme, which supports startups with innovations in sustainable mobility to further scale and fund EIT Urban Mobility. The collaboration with EIT Manufacturing works in a similar way. We regularly make our startups aware of these opportunities and create space for investors and business angels to present their offerings. This way we can have a much bigger impact and create a more effective roadmap for the development of startups. In this respect, SFF is the perfect door opener for all partners and a bridge between projects from the university environment and incubators towards further scaling.

Start for Future: Great response in a short time

Munich Startup: What successes can Start for Future already boast?

Klaus Sailer, Managing Director of SCE: After launching the initiative only about two years ago, we are positively surprised by the rapid growth and the great response we have met with. I was particularly pleased when last year, at the first Start for Future Summit, the then EU Innovation Commissioner and now Bulgarian Prime Minister, Mariya Gabriel, praised our alliance as a European best practice initiative for the implementation of the ‘New European Innovation Agenda’, i.e. the authoritative European directive that is to lead Europe back to its former innovative strength and technology leadership, or at least to catch up again. As Mariya Gabriel said, it is crucial for this to promote deep-tech innovation as well as to connect innovative regions, as SFF is doing.

Munich Startup: Where do you want the cooperative to go in the next few years?

Pavlina Vujović, Head of International Projects SCE: We currently have 53 partners in the alliance, and the number is growing rapidly. Of these, 18 partners were already officially founding members when the European SFF cooperative was established. But we have much bigger plans and want 1,000 colleges and universities from 500 regional innovation ecosystems with a focus on Europe to participate and be active in the cooperative by 2035. If we can do that, it is possible to support and kick-start one million startups and start-up ideas by then. Our next ambitious milestone on the way is 100 universities by mid-2025. We want to achieve excellence by engaging as many talents, innovators and startups as possible, thus making Europe the thought leader for systemic innovation and a liveable future. Of course, everyone is invited to join the SFF cooperative on an equal footing!