Status Quo: Scientific Start-Ups for Sustainability

What do we know about sustainability-oriented start-ups from scholarship?

March 2020


Sustainability is one of the current megatrends across society. This trend has also been recognized by the incubators and transfer offices of non-university research institutions, and has been translated into sustainability-oriented funding programs (e.g. Fraunhofer Ventures). However, the content and strategies of these programs mostly draw from the body of knowledge of private start-ups, and do not consider the academic context of the start-up process.

This research project addressed this particular need for non-university research. By means of a systematic literature review, 22 scientific studies on sustainability-oriented start-ups from science and academia were identified and analyzed. As a result, the current state of research was systematized and clearly presented in four thematic clusters. This gives knowledge and technology transfer offices easy access to the knowledge relevant to them when designing methods for specific target groups.

Based on the insight that the state of research still leaves open far-reaching questions, the research project developed a catalog of questions for possible follow-up research. The inclusion of the innovation ecosystem in the sustainability-oriented start-up process offers particular potential for increasing sustainable transfer.


The results of the study were presented at the New Business Models Conference 2020 on 1 and 2 July in Nijmegen (Netherlands). The study is currently being prepared for journal submission.

Marc Karahan

Study Lead
TU Berlin