Stage Two 2023
RWTH start-up IonKraft successful at Stage Two
Largest competition for university start-ups with over 3.8 million euros in prize money. Aachen start-up takes home five prizes.
On 19 October, the European start-up community gathered in Berlin for the third time for the grand finale of Stage Two, the largest pan-European competition for early-stage university start-ups. Under the patronage of the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck, about 50 start-ups from over 20 countries took to the international stage to present their innovations to more than 100 investors in order to win one of the investment, cash, skills and accelerate prizes. Compared to the previous year, the prize money had once again increased significantly to a total of over 3.8 million euros.
“Today’s Stage Two event is the result of a project with RWTH Aachen University that received EXIST program funding. Since its launch three years ago, Stage Two has developed into an outstanding startup event with international visibility beyond Europe. This is the place where impact-driven entrepreneurs in particular present themselves and discuss challenges and possible solutions for the future. It is great to see that in such a short time a leading international event for university-based startups has emerged from Germany, bringing together startup entrepreneurs and also the universities from all over Europe. […] I am delighted to be patron of this year’s Stage Two because we in Europe don’t need to play second fiddle to other innovative regions around the world. However, this isn’t just an issue for government, but also for science, business and startups themselves. This is why Stage Two is such an important event,” explained Robert Habeck in his opening speech.
Positive trend in investment readiness
What started as the first pitch contest of its kind in 2021 has thus become the largest and richest competition for early-stage start-ups from leading universities across Europe within three years. The positive trend in investment readiness sends a clear signal to the start-up ecosystem - not only within the Stage Two community, but also far beyond the borders of Europe.
"The excellent research being conducted at Europe's universities today forms the basis for tomorrow's innovations. The multitude of current crises once again highlights the need to question existing structures and processes. Given the complexity and urgency of these challenges, it is all the more important to transfer knowledge and technologies from universities to industry and society at an early stage. Stage Two 2023 has impressively shown what is possible when we bring together the most innovative minds in Europe: Europe not only has the necessary knowledge, but also a strong and vibrant ecosystem to launch disruptive solutions and actively shape the world of tomorrow," said Prof. Malte Brettel, co-initiator from RWTH Aachen University.
Aachen Team IonKraft successful
One of these solutions has its roots at RWTH. The Aachen team IonKraft has developed a plasma technology that can be used to make plastic packaging recyclable for barrier applications. The RWTH start-up is thus making an important contribution toward circular economy. Many chemical products have high demands on their packaging. The packaging must be very tight and chemically resistant. Therefore, multi-material packaging is often used, which is often expensive and difficult to recycle. The team led by Dr Montgomery Jaritz and Benedikt Heuer has developed a chemically resistant plasma coating that achieves the same barrier properties as multi-material packaging and is also fully recyclable. This also convinced the investors on site. IonKraft made it to the finals and took home various prizes: Stage Two Innovation Award, 800K HTGF investment, 250 STS Ventures investment prize, 100K Earlybird investment prize and a problem solving workshop.
The initiators from RWTH Aachen University and HHL Leipzig are pleased about the immense support from politics, industry, venture capital and science and are looking forward to Stage Two 2024.
Winners of STAGE TWO 2023
Stage Two Innovation Award
- 1st place (Jury Voting), €20k by Siemens and Problem Solving Workshop by McKinsey & Company: IonKraft (RWTH Aachen University)
Stage Two Movement Award
- 1st place (Audience Voting), €30k media budget by DvH Ventures and Problem Solving Workshop by McKinsey & Company: GEMESYS (Ruhr University Bochum)
- HTGF investment prize, €800k: IonKraft (RWTH Aachen University)
- Redstone investment prize, €750k: HospiChef (WHU)
- Atlantic Labs investment prize, €400k: GEMESYS (Ruhr University Bochum)
- b2venture investment prize, €400k: Intuitivo (NOVA)
- Onsight Ventures investment prize, €350k: Puresurf (University Graz)
- xdeck investment prize, €300k: HospiChef (WHU)
- STS Ventures investment prize, €250k: IonKraft (RWTH Aachen University)
- Fund F investment prize, €200k: Matrix Health & Care (Imperial College)
- Peak investment prize, €150k: Accuselect (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
- Earlybird investment prize, €100k: IonKraft (RWTH Aachen University)
- ROI Ventures investment prize, €50k: Accuselect (Erasmus University Rotterdam)
- Premium Access to PatentPlus Innovation Platform: Aestuarium (Maastricht University), Apheros (ETH Zürich) & Noriware (University St. Gallen)
Tech for Good Award by Value for Good: socialbnb (University of Cologne)
EIC Readiness Workshop by Zaz Ventures: Biomotion (TU Vienna) & Magmatic (INiTS)
- FoodTech Bootcamp by FoodLabs: Aestuarium (Maastricht University)
B2B Sales Bootcamp by UVC: Caplyzer (KTH Stockholm)
Fast-Track to Armilar IC Meeting: GEMESYS (Ruhr University Bochum)
Fast-Track to SquareOne IC Meeting: Noriware (University St. Gallen)
Fast-Track to Contrarian Ventures IC Meeting: Vuala (University Cambridge)
Stage Two is the largest pan-European competition for the best start-ups spinning out of leading universities. The annual competition is organized by RWTH Aachen University and HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management. Stage Two convenes visionary minds from across Europe on and off stage: Under the motto "For Our Beyond", the best start-ups from European universities compete against each other in front of high-profile investors and industry experts in Berlin at an exclusive pitch competition and networking event. The finals in Berlin are preceded by a local university round (Stage One), in which the Entrepreneurship Centers of the participating universities select their best start-up, which then compete at the international level. The main event is embedded into a growing international community of start-ups, universities, corporates and VCs. Besides the stage action, the Stage Two community promotes the continuous exchange of knowledge and best practices between participating universities in regular roundtables in order to harness the full innovation potential of Europe. Stage Two was initiated as part of the EXIST-Potentials initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action and is also supported by various corporate partners.