From concept to company: Incubator project encourages the founding of innovative IT security start-ups in Bochum

The starting pistol for the “Start-up Incubator” project at the Horst Görtz Institute for IT Security (HGI) at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) was fired on 1 December 2017. The goal: to encourage the founding of innovative, IT security start-ups in Bochum and to actively support spin-offs. “Bochum has one of the most vibrant start-up scenes in IT security in Europe. Furthermore, an extensively developed local, regional and national network exists, made up of companies and other organisations involved in data security. This ecosystem offers the ideal conditions for what we hope to achieve with our project,” explains Prof. Dr Christof Paar, who leads the project in addition to holding the Chair for Embedded Security at the HGI.

Making technical ideas market-ready

Now the capabilities already present in Bochum are, for the first time, being brought together in a coordinated manner thanks to the “Start-up Incubator” project funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF). The incubator offers support at each stage of a start-up’s life cycle, from the preliminary concept through to establishing an actual company. The project is specifically interested in helping to develop technological ideas with commercial potential to a point where they are market-ready, working with interested students and researchers at the HGI to identify opportunities for new start-ups and accelerating the development of new security-related companies and improving their chances of success through the targeted provision of support.

From student to company founder

One of the Start-up Incubator’s most distinctive aspects is that it is not targeted towards entrepreneurs that have already decided to found a start-up, but the much larger number of students and doctoral researchers who have not yet had any thoughts in that particular direction. With around 800 students, the HGI at the RUB is the largest educational institution for IT security in Europe. It offers ideal conditions for bringing research and entrepreneurship together and helping students, on the technical side as well as in terms of business practice, to found a start-up and lead it to success.

Innovative project in a fine business location: Bochum

Germany’s research sector is excellent in international comparison, and start-ups are an ideal means for translating research findings into practical applications. This is a fundamental component behind Germany’s dynamic economic development. Prof. Paar: “We are incredibly happy to have received the support from the BMBF that allowed us to bring this innovative project to fruition here in Bochum, which gives us the opportunity to further strengthen the region’s reputation in the IT security sector and assist young people in establishing their own companies. This is why we have applied for multi-year funding from the BMBF.” In addition to the project in Bochum, start-up incubators were also established in Saarbrücken, Darmstadt and Karlsruhe. The BMBF is initially supporting the projects with a one-year grant of €500,000.