Article - Funding of SMEs

Young companies in the spotlight: our Start-up Nights


Entrance of the BMWi at Start-up Night! Aerospace

© BMWi/Maurice Weiss

The Start-up Nights! organised by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy are an opportunity for young entrepreneurs to introduce themselves to established companies, industry associations and institutional investors, and to build networks. Young companies can showcase their digital business ideas to large corporations and SMEs. In turn, these well-established companies can also make use of the opportunity to talk to innovative start-ups.

So far, the ministry has organised seven of these events – each dedicated to a specific sector or region. These have included the healthcare and energy industries, municipal services, social entrepreneurship, aerospace, and innovations from and for Africa. A Start-up Night for Africa which was not restricted to any specific sector was held in 2017, and another “Start-up Night! Africa” is scheduled for 20 March 2018. More than 140 start-ups have pitched their innovations at these events and taken part in poster sessions.

Looking for cooperation: brand new business ideas meet well-established companies

The Start-up Nights! offer both start-ups and well-established companies an opportunity to meet with potential partners. As part of each Start-up Night!, there is an exhibition allowing start-ups and well-established firms from a particular sector an opportunity to showcase their innovative ideas and products and to engage in networking. This makes it possible for the well-established firms to pick up on innovative ideas for their companies and for young entrepreneurs to benefit from other companies’ experience.

In response to the great success of the event in 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy will join together with the German–African Business Association (Afrika-Verein), the global network of German chambers of commerce and the ‘Lionesses of Africa’ women entrepreneurs network to host the 2018 Start-up Night! Africa on 20 March 2018. It will bring together entrepreneurs from Africa’s digital sector, German start-ups and established companies. At the 2018 Start-up Night! Africa, entrepreneurs from Africa can present new, innovative solutions that have the potential to be brought to market in G2018ermany. German start-ups are also given the opportunity to present their digital business ideas aimed at the African market.

The 2018 Start-up Night! Africa forms part of the Pro! Africa initiative launched by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Brigitte Zypries.

At the 2018 Creative Industries Start-up Night! on 27 February 2018, the winners of the 2017 “Culture and Creative Pilots in Germany" competition (in German) discussed the topic of "Creative Impact" with representatives from politics and business, speaking about the great potential of the industry for innovation, growth and change in the German economy.

The award-winning entrepreneurs presented their innovations and success stories in a unique exhibition.

The event also included the publication of the PHASE XI project. Eight teams conducted research at the interfaces between cultural and creative industries and socially relevant topics in 2017 and will now be showing the creative impact of one of the most versatile industries in Germany.

On 26 October 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy joined with Lionesses of Africa – an association representing African women entrepreneurs – to host the 2017 Start-up Night! Africa, bringing together entrepreneurs from Africa’s digital sector, German start-ups and established companies. At the 2017 Start-up Night! Africa, 16 digital start-ups from Germany and Africa presented their innovative business models to more than 250 guests. Further to this, 1,200 people followed the live stream of the event. The event was so successful that another Start-up Night! Africa will be held on 20 March 2018.

The 2017 Start-up Night! Africa formed part of the Pro! Africa initiative launched by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Brigitte Zypries. This initiative aims at attracting more investment for Africa and creating an economic partnership of equals. The goal is to spur economic development in Africa, ensure sustainable growth, and promote closer cooperation with and stronger involvement by the private sector.

You can see the recording of Start-up Night! Africa event at (in German).

You can find the programme here (in German) (PDF, 824 KB).

On 11 September 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy co-hosted a Start-up Night! Municipal Services together with the Association of Local Utilities (VKU) (in German). The event entitled “Long night of digital ideas” brought together innovative start-ups and long-established companies from the energy sector, water and waste-water management, waste management and municipal cleaning services, and presented experts and decision-makers from the sector with fresh ideas and unconventional business models.

You can find the invitation for the event with the programme here (in German) (PDF, 517 KB).

The healthcare sector is one of the largest economic sectors in Germany. Innovative digital ideas are driving change in the sector. At the same time, however, well-established and young companies are facing the challenge of making these new opportunities work in practice.

The Start-up Night! Healthcare, which took place on 30 May 2017, made it possible for stakeholders from the sector to work together to overcome some of the obstacles they face. This was an opportunity for well-established stakeholders to learn about innovative ideas, whereas the start-ups presenting their ideas were able to learn more about the specifics of the healthcare market. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also provided information about funding available to young companies in Germany.

You can find more information about the event and the schedule in the programme flyer (in German) (PDF, 903 KB).

The Start-up Night! Aerospace, which took place on 21 February 2017, brought together numerous industrial aerospace companies, including system providers and specialised suppliers, the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Aerospace Industries Association (BDLI), Germany's digital association (Bitkom) and advisors on the Federal Government's "Research and Innovation" programme. There was also a DRONEMASTERS Meetup and an exhibition showcasing innovations from the aerospace sector.

The Start-up Night! Aerospace targeted companies that are already active in the aerospace industry and also young companies which would like to work in the sector. The event presented an opportunity for start-ups from the manufacturing sector, big data, Internet of Things (IoT) applications, mobility and B2B solutions to present their ideas to an audience. They were able to do so in round tables, at information stalls, or in informal meetings.

You can find the programme here (in German) (PDF, 943 KB).

On 27 September 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the German Startups Association and Hilfswerft GmbH co-hosted a Social Start-up Night!. Participants in the event included pioneers and stakeholders from Germany’s social entrepreneurship scene. Discussions centred on the following two questions:

  • How can social entrepreneurship be integrated into corporate strategy?
  • What are alternative ways of responding to current challenges and what can we learned from then?

Social enterprises made use of this opportunity to present their solutions and their ideas for cooperation with established companies. The programme featured inspiring input and real-life examples, including examples of successful cooperation.

For more information, please consult the programme (in German) (PDF, 465 KB).

Digital change and the energy transition are two major challenges for the energy industry. They are also drivers of innovation and give rise to new business models. The Start-up Night! Digital Energy, which took place on 21 September 2016, brought together young and established companies with representatives of the digital energy industry for discussions about potential cooperation.

Following a welcome speech delivered by Brigitte Zypries, there were several rounds of pitches, which the start-ups participating in the event and also the established companies present used to introduce themselves to the audience. The start-ups made use of the opportunity to present their business models around digital energy, spanning from the actual generation of energy to distribution to sales, metering and the demand side. By the same token, the established companies attending the event outlined the areas in which they are seeking to cooperate with start-ups. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also provided information about its funding schemes for start-ups.

For a more detailed programme, please refer to the invitation (in German) (PDF, 553 KB).

The Start-up Night! Aerospace event of 3 November 2015 was designed to give start-ups from other sectors an opportunity to bring their solutions to the aerospace industry. The event was attended by technology managers of aerospace companies and by potential investors. In addition to this, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy presented its support programmes for start-ups and provided a platform for networking and dialogue.

You can find the programme here (in German) (PDF, 88 KB).

Press Release

  • 21/02/2017 - Press release - Aerospace Policy

    Minister Zypries on the 2nd Aerospace StartUp Night: "Bringing together startups and established companies creates new opportunities for both sides!"

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