Sustainable Startup Program

After my fantastic experience with Sustainica, I had the opportunity to lead and represent the Sustainable Startup Program. This research assignment is funded by the Europäische Fonds für regionale Entwicklung (EFRE.NRW) and supports underdeveloped regions with structural problems in North Rhine-Westphalia. Our three-person team aims to create a startup incubator focusing on sustainable business practices for entrepreneurs in the creative- and digital sectors. The goal of EFRE.NRW is to help integrate disadvantaged groups (for example, women, refugees, unemployed and older people) and create a suitable living environment in its cities and districts. A more robust overall economic growth and a better quality of life for all citizens – especially since all regions are connected in a community like the European Union (EU). Hence the term ‘cohesion policy’.

As a Project Lead for the Sustainable Startup Program, I was responsible for the R&D team. Our assignment was to recommend a program to support aspiring entrepreneurs and startups in digital and creative sectors in socially and economically sustainable ways. Our work was funded by the European Union, which ran for a total of two years. The concept of the program, which we developed, focused on the Triple-I principle; Inspiration, Ideation, Implementation, and offered a framework with, among other things; an e-learning curriculum for participating entrepreneurs, workshops on strategic management principles, and finally, a pitch event to complete the 6-month process. We conceptualised this comprehensive ecosystem, including office space to support entrepreneurs in their build-up phase (pre-startup and startup) and their ventures’ further development (growth stage). A blog entry about the project is in the link below.

This exciting research assignment gave me practical and theoretical experience in the startup life cycle, the importance of business model design, and the challenges entrepreneurs face. I was responsible for building a stakeholder network that consisted of mentors, investors, Governmental Organisations and corporations. We developed a series of workshops, such as the importance of the Business Model Canvas and CSR and worked together with renowned partners. I also organised a study trip to Berlin—one of Europe’s leading startup capitals—to interview a dozen successful incubator and accelerator programs.

It’s great that the EU supports innovative initiatives with the ‘European cohesion policy‘ (2014-2020) with almost a third of the entire EU budget. The long-term goal is achieving intelligent, sustainable and inclusive growth within the EU.

Official poster of the initiative.

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