A wealth of ideas in a former bank: The Reach Euregio Start-Up Center: research, teaching and consultancy on entrepreneurship

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An eco-friendly pesticide, sustainable edible coffee cups, handrails from the 3D printer or so-called neuro-feedback as a therapeutic aid for ADHS patients: the range of start-up projects that have arisen at the University of Münster and its cooperation partners is large. What they all have in common is the "tailwind" which the start-ups experience in Münster, from the initial idea through to commercial viability. The REACH EUREGIO Start-Up Center has been supporting people within the German/Dutch border region since 2019 - i.e. people interested in getting a start-up going - and helping them to realise their projects.

The idea behind the Start-Up Center at Münster University is to strengthen the transfer of scientific ideas into business life over the entire start-up process. Around 1,500 square metres - almost half of which is co-working space - are available for the purpose. "In just eight months we transformed a former bank building into a modern Start-Up Center," says Ninja Schmiedgen from the REACH management. "That can only succeed in teamwork - and we got a lot of support from the administration, from the Facility Management and from the Central purchasing." All teams can now develop ideas and design protypes in an in-house Design Thinking Lab. They present their projects a few rooms further along, in a pitching area with a rostrum and presentations equipment. Ten coaches give support to the start-up teams - with over 150 such teams having been looked after so far. There are also ideas competitions, podcasts and videos to awaken the entrepreneurial spirit in the new target groups.

"The transfer of knowledge is a major aim which our University has," says Rector Prof. Johannes Wessels, "because this is how society profits directly from the latest research findings which make everyday life easier." At the same time, the University promotes start-ups as a career opportunity for graduates. "We want to encourage students to discover entrepreneurship as a career option instead of taking the traditional pathway of settling for a job in a company," Wessels adds.

For anyone wanting to get a start-up going, the Center offers not only consultancy but also structured programmes. The idea behind the incubator at REACH, for example, is to help promising ideas on their way. In a period of six months, it assures intensive supervision for ten young start-up teams in each cohort. In 2020 the Start-Up Center supported a total of 74 teams, 15 of whom established a start-up in the same year. The aim is to have 40 start-ups per year by 2024. In the "START-UP transfer.NRW" programme, Münster University was the most successful university in the eleventh round of the competition.

"When I came to Münster eight years ago, I saw that there were a lot of initiatives here related to start-ups," says Prof. Thorsten Wiesel, REACH project leader. "We don’t see ourselves as competing with them - on the contrary, we need to become stronger together." This is why REACH and its cooperation partners create networks and organise regular meetings, workshops and events in which the members of the start-up eco-system in the region can exchange experiences and resources. A wide range of lectures and seminars enables students, researchers and company representatives to implement start-ups - from the development of business models to innovation and technology management. Collaborating with start-ups and companies, the focus is not only on economic aspects but also on legal, psychological and social sciences-related factors. The researchers regularly exchange views in a domain of their own: ESC@WWU FuL (FuL = Forschung und Lehre = research and teaching).

Anyone who already has an idea relating to a start-up, or who wants to get one going but isn’t yet sure about the right product, is very welcome to come to REACH’s advisory services and workshops - all free of charge. Very likely, the "missing half" can be found in the network.

REACH Euregio Chair: On October 14, at 4 pm, the University of Münster and the University of Twente in the Netherlands will, for the first time, be awarding the REACH Euregio Chair to successful people who have established start-ups. The award is presented to honour practical men and women for their entrepreneurship and innovative ingenuity. The keynote address will be held by the former president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. A livestream of the address can be accessed at www.reach.euregio.de.

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