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Centre for Entrepreneurship, Innovation and SMEs (CENTIM)

Start-up Competitions

Competitions offer a great opportunity to raise funds, expand your network and even get feedback for your idea. There a plenty of organisations and foundations who sponsor competitions, please find below our top list with some national and European-wide start-up competitions. Our selection varies from business plan, elevator pitches, to green and social entrepreneurship competitions for current and recent student entrepreneurs. *they are all for free*

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University Innovation Challenge

The University Innovation Challenge celebrates innovative university research projects and start-ups from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There are six different categories of product, service or business model, the entry requirements in each case being that the idea has to either still be at the university research stage or have been developed by a start-up with a university background. In addition to mentoring and valuable contacts, the winners receive a valuable award that enhances their reputation and visibility in the market.

NUK Business Plan Competition (NUK-Businessplan-Wettbewerb)

The business start-up initiative NUK - Neues Unternehmen Rheinland e.V. provides useful knowledge about all aspects of setting up a company - free of charge . Around 200 volunteer consultants and coaches from the business world are available to the network for tips and advice. In the annual NUK Business Plan Competition every participant who submits his or her concept to the NUK Start-up Academy for evaluation automatically takes part in the NUK Business Plan Competition. 

EU Prize for Women Innovators

The EU Prize for Women Innovators is awarded to four incredible women entrepreneurs working to make the world a better place and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. The contest is open to women from across the EU and countries associated to Horizon 2020. Finalists are selected by a high-level jury of independent experts from across Europe, from business, venture capital, entrepreneurship and academia. 


The Founder Award NRW honours the great contribution made by founders to the growth of North Rhine-Westphalia through their innovations and entrepreneurial courage. The award is aimed at small and medium-sized independent companies and freelancers with headquarters in NRW, as well as people who have mastered a successful business succession, a start-up from unemployment or a professional re-entry. The total prize money is donated by NRW.BANK.

Founder Competition - Digital Innovations (Gründerwettbewerb – Digitale Innovationen)

Twice a year, the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy conducts the "Founder Competition - Digital Innovations" to find the most innovative founders in the digital sector. In addition to the prize money, winners can take advantage of a large network of experts and numerous funding opportunities. Together with the founders, work is done on the business model and individual coaching and mentoring is provided to meet the needs of the young entrepreneurs. 

IT Innovation Award of the Initiative SMEs (INNOVATIONSPREIS-IT der Initiative Mittelstand)

The Initiative SMEs is a community of interests consisting of industry experts, experts and scientists. As the voice of small and medium-sized enterprises, it also ensures that the companies and their innovative products and services are known to a broad public. Since 2004, the initiative has awarded the renowned IT INNOVATION AWARD once a year at CeBIT for particularly innovative products and solutions for SMEs - from apps to e-commerce and IT security to knowledge management.

KUER Start-up Competition (KUER Gründungswettbewerb)

The KUER start-up competition is the first industry-specific competition for the future-oriented industries of climate, environment, energy efficiency and resource conservation. Specially accredited KUER coaches, mentors, specialists, industry experts and angel investors will accompany you through all phases of your KUER start-up - from brainstorming and the preparation of the business plan to the company foundation and market launch, individually tailored to your needs. 

Cultural and Creative Pilots Germany (Kultur- und Kreativpiloten Deutschland)

On behalf of the Federal Government, the Association for Entrepreneurial Thinking and Action (u-institut) has been awarding 32 companies from the cultural and creative industries every year for ten years.

It is an award for companies, self-employed persons, founders and projects from the cultural and creative industries and their interfaces to other sectors. The cultural and creative pilots are accompanied by a network of very different personalities. 

Science4Life Venture Cup

Science4Life organises an annual business plan competition with a clear focus on the life sciences, chemicals and energy sectors. All participants are individually supported in the creation and optimization of their business plan. Science4Life pursues a consistent focus on the needs of the founders and considers the specific challenges in each of the individual industries.

Science4Life Energy Cup is tailor-made offer for teams from the energy sector.

Rhineland Pitch (Rheinland-Pitch)

The Rhineland Pitch was initiated in 2013 by the STARTPLATZ and is now the largest start-up pitch competition in all of Germany. The monthly competition gives start-ups the opportunity to present their business idea on a big stage. The winner of the Rhineland Pitch is usually determined by the audience via online voting. All start-ups, regardless of whether the idea has just been born or the 2nd financing round has already been completed, can apply for the Rhineland Pitch.

StartGreen Award

The StartGreen Award innovative start-ups in the field of climate protection and sustainability and gives them visibility on the German and European scene. Those worthy of the award are allowed to participate in the community through a public vote. The final pitch in front of a jury of experts involves cash and non-cash prizes. The event promotes the networking of sustainable and social start-ups, companies, investors, funding institutions and political pioneers for a sustainable economy.

STEP Award

The STEP Award honours innovative and fast-growing companies from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. As a future-oriented prize, the STEP Award will be awarded to growth companies in the categories Artificial Intelligence (AI), Energy Turnaround, Health Industry, Material Science and Mobility. In addition, a special New Work prize will be awarded. The aim of this award is to promote young companies in future-oriented industries and to give them important impulses for their successful development. The prize and the network of the STEP Award are intended to help applicants find their way to the decisive "STEP".


Initiated in 2001 by the Dortmund Economic Development Agency (Wirtschaftsförderung Dortmund), the start2grow competition is open to participants with a a technological or digital idea for an innovative product or service. The Economic Development Agency accompanies the start-ups from the business idea to the business plan to the successful company. Experienced coaches, a competent network, best contacts to investors, interactive events, high prize money and the business plan handbook support this way.

yooweedoo Ideas Competition (yooweedoo Ideenwettbewerb)

yooweedoo supports future leaders in founding ecologically and socially sustainable projects, organizations and companies. The yooweedoo ideas competition supports sustainable and socially entrepreneurial projects and start-ups with initial start-up capital. Project ideas are welcome on all aspects of sustainable development. Preference is given to projects that aim to achieve long-term benefits for society and establish financial and organisational structures that are capable of growth.

Ideenmarkt - Best of Start-ups in the Region (Ideenmarkt - Best of Start-ups der Region)

The annual ideas market "Best of Start-ups in the Region" is the highlight of the events and measures catalogue of the Bonn/Rhein-Sieg Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) and Synergie Vertriebsdienstleistung GmbH. Under the motto "From the idea to the company" potential founders with novative and creative concepts and business ideas can participate.