How to get financial funding?

Funding Opportunities for Knowledge Transfer

Even with a good idea, a highly motivated team and an initial plan, the funding needed to start your project is often missing. Many public funding programs are available to provide support for research projects on their way to innovation or a start-up. enaCom's team of coaches evaluate with you whether the application requirements for the different funding opportunities are met and help you with the application process. This page provides an overview of the various opportunities, programs and use cases.

Funding from the University of Bonn

© Lannert/Uni Bonn

Prototyping Grants

The University of Bonn awards prototyping grants to promote science-based and innovative start-up ideas. This supports start-up projects in the preparation, validation and development of marketable products or services.

Santander Innovation Grants
© Logo Santander Universitäten

Santander Innovation Grants

Santander Innovation Grants support start-ups at the University of Bonn in developing the market and consolidating their organizational structure. They are funded by Santander Consumer Bank AG as part of the 'Santander Universities' program.

© enaCom


One year of intensive support on your way to become a female founder - that's what a new program of Transfer Center enaCom offers, funded by "EXIST Women" from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action.


enaCom offers University of Bonn members interested in starting a business an initial individual coaching on the available funding opportunities. In all cases the University will act as applicants’ institution. Together we decide which programs, if any, are available for the start-up project.

We focus on the EXIST funding programs, which provide financial support for students and researchers to prepare an innovative technology or knowledge-based business project. enaCom start-up coaches assist the start-up team funded during the funding phase and takes over administrative implementation of the project.

Founder with his laptop sitting in a co working space. Sofa.
© colourbox

The EXIST Business Start-Up Grant is a funding program intended specifically for students (who have completed at least half of their studies), graduates (up to 5 years after graduation or leaving) and researchers who want to turn a start-up idea into a business plan. The funding program was launched by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) and receives co-funding from the European Social Fund. It provides funding for “innovative technology-based start-up projects” and “innovative knowledge-based services” that are based on research findings.

In addition to financial support, the founders can also receive coaching, take part in a one-day seminar for founders and develop a fully-fledged business plan. The company can be formed during the funding period. Applications for EXIST Business Start-Up Grants can only be submitted by universities and are prepared in close co-operation with the founders. Applications can be submitted at any time.

The EXIST Transfer of Research funding program provides support for “outstanding research-based start-up projects that involve expensive high-risk development work.” The program is funded by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology and receives co-funding from the European Social Fund. Unlike the EXIST Business Start-Up Grant, only founding teams (max. three researchers and technical assistants) receive funding.

An EXIST Transfer of Research has two funding phases. During the first funding phase (a term of 18 months), development work is performed “to verify technical realizability,” develop prototypes, prepare the business plan and finally form the start-up (in the legal form of a corporation). After 12 months up 18 months, an application can be submitted for Phase II of funding, which is provided in the form of a non-repayable grant of up to €150,000. Requirement:  The company must provide funds of its own.

Project applications can be submitted on an ongoing basis, but they are collected by 31.08., 30.11. and 31.03. and then processed further.

The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) uses the GO-Bio biotechnology start-up initiative to provide support for research teams in the life sciences that want to form a start-up. The BMBF funding program bridges the gap between the laboratory and the market, and is specifically intended for the early phase of a project. The GO-Bio funding initiative is aimed at research teams with young researchers who nevertheless already have research experience, people with several years of experience in corporate research and development and medical professionals with several years of clinical experience who want to form a start-up. GO-Bio funding is provided in two phases, each with a maximum term of three years. The total amount of funding for a project depends on the specific nature of the project.

The BMBF GO-Bio initial funding program provides support for the identification and development of early-stage research approaches in the life sciences that offer recognizable innovation potential. The aim is to develop the research results to a stage where the project can continue under other established funding programs that provide support for validation, start-ups and company co-operations, such as VIP+, EXIST Transfer of Research and GO-Bio. The starting point for GO-Bio initial funding is therefore a rough outline of an idea for utilizing the results, and does not require patented technology to be available for realization yet. Project outlines can be submitted once a year on February 15.

BMBF wants to increase the innovation potential of start-ups in the key research area of human-technology interaction. Funding is provided in two modules for projects that focus on the three topic areas of the HTI research program: intelligent mobility, digital society and healthy living.

Module 1 focuses on university innovations and aims to support innovative research and development work that increases the degree of maturity of existing results. The funding does not include the actual formation of a company. MTI projects that received funding but have already been completed and aim to form a spin-off for commercial realization of R&D results are also eligible.

Module 2 provides research and development funding for early-stage start-ups that have already been formed. Funding is provided for high-risk pre-competitive industrial research and development projects that are cross-technology and application-oriented and have a direct positive effect on the innovativeness and expected competitive opportunities of the start-ups involved. The following projects are eligible for funding: “tandem” projects with a “parent” university or research institute and its early-stage start-up, projects of a single start-up, and collaborative projects between one or more start-ups, other SMEs, universities, research institutes and other small and medium-sized companies. The project should be initiated by a start-up.

The High-Tech Start-Up Fund (High-Tech Gründerfonds, HTGF) is an investment fund that receives funding from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi), state-owned development bank KfW and private-sector companies. HTGF invests in attractive technology start-ups that can implement promising research results in an entrepreneurial manner. It supplies urgently required seed capital to technology-oriented start-ups, and provides management support and assistance it needs. HTGF is currently the largest, most active early-stage investor in Germany and is aimed at innovative early-stage start-ups in all industries. Investments are made in start-ups that are no more than three years old and have not previously received more than €500,000 in equity capital, silent investor capital or convertible bonds.

The fund provides up to € 1 million in equity as seed capital for start-ups. Up to another € 2 million are available for further funding rounds. In addition to equity capital, the High-Tech Start-Up Fund also assists the founders with know-how and a strong network.

The Gründungsstipendium NRW grant (start-up grant provided by the state of North Rhine-Westphalia) offers you the opportunity to get your innovative business idea off the ground and become part of North Rhine-Westphalia’s regional start-up community. The Ministry of Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action, and Energy of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (MWIKE) supports every founder who is planning to set up a business, or has just started this process, by providing a monthly grant of € 1,200 for a maximum of one year to support them in taking their first steps into the world of entrepreneurship. You will also be given the opportunity to exchange ideas through start-up networks and receive guidance from individual coaching.

As part of the “StartUpSecure” initiative, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports start-ups by students and academic staff in the field of IT security.

The Cube 5 team advises and supports founding teams and start-ups throughout Germany with the application and accompanies them throughout the entire process. Research teams from German universities or start-ups in the fields of IT security and cybersecurity can apply for “StartUpSecure”.

Entry into “StartUpSecure” can take place in two funding phases that are not dependent on one another:

The aim of the development phase (phase I) is to present the technical feasibility of a start-up idea and to develop a business plan (“proof of concept”). Funding phase I assumes that the company has not yet been founded (entry in the commercial register).

The founding then takes place in phase I. In the founding phase (phase II), the focus is then on the market launch of the product or service. A concrete business model and corporate concept should demonstrate market maturity, which ensures successful implementation (“proof of technology”).

Innovation Funding

Universities are pioneers of technological progress in many areas. The EC and German federal and state governments support them with special funding programs for research and innovation, technology transfer and field- and industry-related funding initiatives for research and development (R&D). This allows academic innovators to continue being innovative in the long run and help shaping Germany as a country of innovation.

The funding programs, however, are not just about providing financial support for researchers. Many programs also support national and international networks of innovators, knowledge transfer to the business sector and commercialization of technical improvements or innovations.

Symbols of innovation
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Proof of Concept (PoC) funding is used to verify the market potential of an idea. The European Research Council (ERC) does not provide PoC funding for research activities. It is provided to further develop ideas in respect to innovation readiness, commercialization or market readiness. PoC funding is only intended for researchers who previously received an ERC grant (StG, CoG, AdG, SyG). The ERC grant must still be ongoing or has been completed less than a year before. The seven-page application establishes direct contact with the ERC and provides a description of the idea, innovation strategy, work plan and budget.

The grants provide a maximum of €150,000 for a period of up to 18 months for topics in all research areas, with 100 percent funding of direct project costs, plus 25 percent overhead for indirect costs.

Knowledge transfer funding options are intended to support work on scientific questions in collaboration with an application partner (commercial enterprise or a non-commercial, non-profit institution) in the pre-competitive area. The aim is to apply the scientific findings and results generated by basic research. The projects are also expected to provide an impetus for pursuing new scientific questions in basic research.

ZIM is a nationwide funding program that is open to all technologies and industries. ZIM provides support for companies to continue developing their innovative strength and competitiveness, thereby contributing to their growth and helping to create and protect jobs. SMEs and research institutes that work together receive grants for ambitious research and development projects that lead to new products, technical services or better production methods.

Technical innovation and good market opportunities are critical for approval of funding for R&D projects. ZIM is tailored to the needs of small and medium-sized companies. ZIM also provides support for international partnerships, both in co-operation connected to projects and networks.

Research in universities often produces exciting new findings that have the potential for practical applications. VIP+ funding (Validation of the Technological and Social Innovation Potential of Scientific Research) bridges the gap between initial basic research results and practical applications.

VIP+ provides up to €1.5 million in funding for research and development work in projects lasting up to three years. Funding is available for all topic areas and is intended for university researchers, among others. Applications can be submitted at any time.

VIP+ funding allows researchers to check and demonstrate the innovation potential of research results and develop potential areas of application. This creates a basis for further development of research results to create innovative products, processes or services. VIP+ funding is therefore concerned with more than just research questions, and serves to bridge the gap to future utilization or application.

Interessierte und Mathematiker im Austausch
© Lannert/Uni Bonn

Promoting dialog with society

Some funding lines specifically promote scientific dialog, projects in the context of science communication or citizen science projects. University students or researchers who want to build a bridge to society and engage in dialogue with the general public are invited to apply for funding. The focus here is on communicating complex research content to a non-expert audience as well as involving members of the public in research.

Calls for proposals for scientific dialog and research with society

The Science Years have been the key BMBF events since 2000 to raise awareness of science and research among the public and engage in citizen dialogue. A new motto of every Science Year triggers a series of events, campaigns and contests throughout Germany which make researchers enter into a dialogue with people around the country and which serve as a proving ground for innovative formats of science communication.

The Hochschulwettbewerb is a project of Wissenschaft im Dialog (WiD) and has been held annually since 2013 as part of the respective Year of Science for students, doctoral candidates, postdocs and young researchers from all disciplines. The competition is supported by the German Rectors' Conference and the Federal Association of University Communication and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Every year, the university competition promotes special projects by young researchers who try to communicate research and science in an interactive and understandable way in an innovative and creative manner. An expert jury selects the 15 best communication ideas from all applications and rewards each with 10,000 euros to implement their project. They will be supported by WiD in all communication and project management work. In addition, the winners will receive workshops and further training opportunities in science communication and will be accepted into the university competition alumni network after successfully completing the competition.

Contact Start-up Grants

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Vesna Domuz

Start-up Coach
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Alexander Küsshauer

Start-up Coach

Contact Innovation and Science Dialog Grants

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Florentin Joscha Schmidt

Innovation Scout
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Daniela Treutlein

Innovation Scout
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