FAQ Incubation Program

Do you have a question about applying for the RWTH Incubation Program? If you can’t find the answer below in our FAQ then please contact us. 

What is the RWTH Incubation Program?

The RWTH Incubation Program is a pre-seed stage start-up program, with a focus on deep-tech, run to support founders in Europe to get their start-ups off the ground.

The RWTH Incubation Program runs for the duration of 3 months and is designed to give start-ups the professional support they need to make their business model sustainable and ready for investment - all around our four Expert Hubs, supported by RWTH institutes and our strong partner network.

Among others, this program will help you to build your prototype, get your product to market, and secure additional early funding!

Whom are we looking for / what are the selection criteria for the program?
  • Motivated start-up teams with a clear deep-tech-focused business plan
  • One does not need to be a current student or researcher of the RWTH Aachen University to qualify for the program - all founding teams from Europe are welcome to apply
  • First pre-seed investment (e.g. EXIST, bootstrapped) or a remaining runway for at least 6 months
  • Full-time commitment from founders: we expect at least one representative of the team to attend all program workshops and meetings. Participation will take approximately 3-5 hours per week
Does the RWTH Incubation Program take equity from my start-up?

The RWTH Incubation Program does not take equity (or a financial share) of your business. The program is a publicly funded university program and supports early-stage tech-focused start-ups by connecting the vast RWTH research landscape with our broad corporate and investor network

Our vision is to build Europe’s leading tech incubator and to help establish the NRW region as the place-to-be for Germany’s deep-tech start-ups.

How does the application process work?

All applicants will be judged by our panel of experienced business leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs.
Stages in the judging process include:

  • Screening
    All applications will be screened by our expert panel and assessed based on a framework of pre-defined criteria. In some cases, start-ups will receive a phone call to clarify any open questions regarding their application
  • Selection Day Interviews
    Promising applicants will be invited to Selection Day Interviews and have the opportunity to pitch their start-up to our selection committee
  • Announcement
    Selected start-ups will be notified via e-mail
How does the Incubation Program work?

The program takes pre-seed-stage start-ups and supports founders, from valuable mentorship & coaching to a broad corporate network & the vast RWTH research landscape. The program aims to help start-ups establish market entry strategies, engage with corporate partners and investors, and overcome their largest, most complex hurdles.

The program is 3 months long and is executed in a hybrid format, meaning a combination of digital and live events, therefore no relocation is required.

The program curriculum is largely organized around four sprints, each addressing different topic clusters.
Throughout the program, start-ups will receive:

  • Support from mentors, corporates, RWTH institutes, VC and angel investor networks, and industry partners
  • Access to exclusive workshops with guest speakers
  • Free access to office space at Collective Incubator and digitalHUB Aachen
  • Networking opportunities and access to community events with VCs, angel investors, and industry partners
What will I learn?

During the 3-month program, you will receive ongoing support and encouragement from your mentors and coaches of the program. Through the program, you will:

  • Set business milestones and/or goals to achieve
  • Meet with your mentor(s) multiple times who will help with your start-up's growth by providing advice and insights based on their own founding experiences
  • Learn a range of relevant skills to apply to your business through workshops led by expert guest speakers. Skills may pertain to networking, fundraising and pitching, founder’s mindset, sales and performance, legal matters, scaling up, and internationalization, and more.
How many start-ups are selected?

Generally up to 12 start-ups are accepted into the program per application batch – however, this number is not exhaustive or set. There are two intakes per year:

Spring: January – April  (applications close in November)
Fall: August  – November (applications close in May)

How long is the Incubation Program?

The program is 3 months long and is executed in a hybrid format, meaning a combination of digital & live events, therefore no relocation is required.

How much commitment is required for the incubation program?

The Incubation Program requires a full-time commitment from the team: we expect at least one representative of the team to attend all program workshops and meetings. Participation will take approximately 3-5 hours per week.

How much does it cost to apply?

It’s FREE to apply and participate!

What happens when the Incubation Program finishes?

 In the final week of the incubation program, someone on your team will represent the start-up for a big industry event called Demo Day. At the event, one of the founders of your company will ‘pitch’ or present your start-up on stage to an audience of investors, business advisors, VCs, media, peers, students, and others.

After you leave the incubator, the incubation team can assist your start-up in finding co-working space and are on-hand for additional support or guidance if needed.

Once your start-up graduates, you will become part of our start-up alumni family and will be informed of future events and activities.

I want to apply! What are the main things I should think about?

Don’t feel you have to have a perfectly designed business plan or have all the answers before you apply. That’s what we are here for!

Most start-ups that apply to the Incubation Program are in their seed-stage and many have a partially formed product or model in place. The application judges do expect that the founders have already done extensive work on the idea and have a feasible business model. Ideally, you will have completed the following steps before applying:

  • Spoken to some people or potential customers about your idea
  • Received some valuable and usable feedback
  • Have a rough plan or an idea of what steps are required to bring your start-up to the next level
  • Have already secured first pre-seed investment e.g. public grants, EXIST
I’m a researcher or postdoctoral student. Can I apply to the Incubation Program?

The RWTH Incubation Program strongly encourages entrepreneurial researchers at The RWTH University Aachen to apply for the program.

Have more questions?

Book a 1:1 with us by emailing: incubation@rwth-innovation.de