EXIST Business Start-up Grant is a support program of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and is co-financed by the European Social Fund. It supports young founders for one year while they further develop their business idea and found a company. For a general overview check their website.
EXIST Business Start-up Grant supports students, graduates and scientists from universities and research institutes who want to turn their business idea into a business plan. Up to 3 start-up team members can receive financial support. The teams mostly consist of graduates and students in the last half of their studies.
The teams may consist of min. 2, max. 3 financially supported team members (additional unsponsored team members are fine).
- Max. 1 student in the team
- Max. 1 team member with an apprenticeship (no studies) or who has been out of university for more than 5 years
The start-up projects should be innovative technology or knowledge based projects with significant unique features and good commercial prospects of success. Moreover, the company may not be officially founded when applying for the grant. The following factors increase the probability of a successful application: A unique selling proposition (USP), prototypes, knowledge on the market and relevant competitors, proper business model, letters of interest (LoI) by potential customers, long-term perspective of the business going forward, committed start-up team covering the most required competencies, etc.
- The grant covers personal living expenses:
- Entrepreneurs with a doctorate receive 3,000 EUR/month
- Graduates with a university degree receive 2,500 EUR/month
- Students receive 1,000 EUR/month
- Child benefit: 150 EUR/month per child
- Materials and equipment: worth up to 30,000 EUR for start-up teams
- Coaching: 5,000 EUR
- The maximum period of funding is one year.
In order to apply for the EXIST grant, the start-up team needs to find a supporter at a university or at a research institution (e.g. RWTH, FH Aachen, Fraunhofer Institute). Typically, the support consists of a mentor (the professor) and a coach who challenges the start-up idea and helps the team to write the business plan, which is the main document of the application. In the end, the incubator (e.g. Gründerzentrum at RWTH) decides whether an idea has a chance of success and can be submitted .
All applications for the EXIST grants have to be in German (EXIST Business Start-up and EXIST Transfer of Research).
Exception: Only applicants for EXIST Start-up Germany-Israel can apply in English.
It is not necessary for the EXIST grant to have the German nationality. Also international/mixed teams can apply for the EXIST grant by the German government as long as all team members have a residence and work permit for the entire funding period (12 months).
Teams can also bring co-founders from abroad to Germany/Aachen if their start-up is successful and wins the grant.
Expenses which can be funded include costs for material, prototypes, licenses, software, business trips, IT infrastructure (e.g. PC, laptops), project and start-up related services by third parties, but no direct start-up costs (e.g. notary’s fees) as well as no direct company related expenses (e.g. preparation of contracts and agreements, license agreements).
In this case, a conversation with the university or research institution should be sought. Afterwards, the Project Management Jülich must be informed in writing by the university / research institution about the exit of the former team member and about further steps planned (e.g. compensation by a new team member, cuts in the grant amount, etc.). Then the Project Management Jülich checks if the project can be continued under the new conditions. It should be noted that a change of founders is only possible until up to six months after the start of the project.
If you have more questions related the EXIST Business Start-up Grant you can check their FAQs section.