3 - Production and commercialisation processes

3.3 - Supporting the creation of technology-based spinoffs and start-ups


Innovation is a process which can take place at anytime and anywhere. For this reason, it is necessary that the parties involved perceive it as an ongoing activity rather than a simple knowledge transaction. The process requires a suitable ecosystem (business angels, venture capital, public policies for incentives, etc.) and above all, an entrepreneurial culture with values which focus on exploitation of knowledge coupled with a strong sense of cooperation. The role of Companies in supporting new technology-based business initiatives should be recognised as the cornerstone of the Innovation system.


Two models:

The Karlsruher Institut für Technologie and the University of Applied Sciences (Germany)

The innovation department of the Karlsruher Institut für Innovation Technologie (KIT) fulfils two main functions: firstly, it provides management support services to its researchers, covering issues such as the maintenance of patents, and research, marketing and technological surveillance contracts; secondly, it offers advice on business development, fostering the creation of spinoffs and making technological business incubators available to new entrepreneurs. The institution encourages its staff to set up new businesses by encouraging professors to combine their work in Companies and the University. It also supports the existence of Direct Labs, laboratories which work exclusively for one or various companies, hire research personnel, and create numerous spinoffs. The creation of these new companies is either driven by the university itself or by working in parallel with outside collaborators.

In 2010, it created 20 spinoffs, the most important being Celitement, a cement company created together with Schwenk, who were responsible for developing the ideas and providing information on the market and commercial strategies. The KIT on the other hand was responsible for research and technology, and provided space on campus to build an experimental pilot plant for the manufacturing of the new product. Once this phase has been completed another plant will be built offsite. It is important to note that the KIT is a shareholder of the new company. These types of agreements are long term and do not seek to generate immediate profits.

Similarly, the University of Applied Sciences (HSK) in Karlsruhe facilitates the creation of spinoffs by students and lecturers by providing them with financial support for the setting up of new businesses and permitting them access to the University’s well-equipped facilities.

KEIM: Karlsruhe Excellence Impulse

Started in Karlsruhe, the KEIM initiative for the support of start-ups was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, initially for six years, under the framework of the EXIST program. The KEIM is a successful initiative which has developed a reputation in the field of promotion and support of entrepreneurial activity, not only in Germany but also throughout Europe. The KEIM combines a practical perspective with a theoretical concept of new businesses, offering direct support in the implementation process whilst helping to create the best possible environment for the development of entrepreneurial skills among the people involved so as to facilitate the launching of a business opportunity.

Another important project in this field is the KREO network, which is jointly managed by the German government and the KEIM AG organisation. The network includes the partner regions of Karlsruhe-Pforzheim, Oxford, Rhône-Alps and Emilia-Romagna and supports all the aspects connected with start-ups. KREO partners have already been selected as Regions of Excellence by the European Commission within the framework of the PAXIS initiative.

KEIM also organises the Gate2Growth Incubator Forum which is funded by the European Commission and has over 100 members from 25 different countries.

Implementation process

Agents involved in implementation

This recommendation can be implemented by a company or a business association in collaboration with the University. Alternatively, it can be adopted by the Public Administration to assist in the systematic support for the creation of new businesses.

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  1. Conversations held with Dr. Lembach from the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie.
  2. http://www.hs-karlsruhe.de/servlet/PB/menu/1086994_l1/index.html Hochschule Karlsruhe-Technik und Wirtschaft.
  3. http://www.keim.de/ - KEIMforum.
  4. http://www.kit.edu/english/ - Karlsruhe Institute für Technology.