Green Start-up


(1) Does our start-up fit in with the DBU’s Green Start-up funding? What is the prerequisite for participation?

In our Green Start-up funding, we support start-ups and start-up companies that develop solutions for the environment, ecology and sustainability in an innovative and economically viable way. Environmental sustainability is important to us in this regard, especially if it generates added value for society compared to the current situation.

(2) According to which evaluation criteria is an application evaluated?

A complete application is evaluated by the responsible department based on the following criteria: environmental relief potential, level of innovation, added social value, personal suitability and economic viability.

(3) Who is supported?

Green Start-up funding supports both start-ups that have already been established, usually no more than 5 years old, and start-ups that have not yet formally established themselves at the time of application, but then establish themselves when funding begins. Innovative spin-offs or start-ups from a still existing employment relationship are also supported.

(4) How do I apply for funding? What documents are needed?

Please register first in our online system. After registration, you will be asked to complete an online questionnaire. In addition, a work and cost plan must be prepared. Please use only the template provided for this purpose. Finally, the curricula vitae of the founders to be supported must be provided. Optionally, relevant documents (e.g. a pitch deck) can be submitted as miscellaneous documents.

(5) How do I find out whether I have a good chance of receiving funding from the DBU?

Once the application documents have been submitted, the departments initially evaluate the content exclusively on this basis – this is due on the one hand to the equal treatment of the applications submitted and on the other hand to the high number of submissions for Green Start-up funding.

(6) When should one apply for DBU Green Start-up funding and when for DBU project funding?

Green Start-up funding is aimed in particular at young companies that are at an early stage and still looking to establish corporate structures. If markets, customers and sales already exist, then it is also possible to apply for DBU project funding – this offers more possibilities in terms of type and scope, but generally requires the assumption of an own contribution.

(7) How is the funding disbursed?

Regular payments (usually quarterly installments) are planned from the date of receipt of the funding decision. The use of the funds must be proven to the DBU.

(8) Is the funding a loan?

It is not a loan. Funding is provided in the form of an earmarked, non-repayable grant.

(9) Until when can I apply? Is there a deadline for submitting the application?

You can apply at any time; you do not have to meet any specific deadlines. However, we advise you to apply early. You can expect several months before a funding decision is made and there is a lot of competition for funding.

(10) Is multiple funding possible? Can I submit an application even though I am currently funded by another programme?

In principle, multiple funding and parallel DBU funding to other funding programs are not possible. Please declare in writing and bindingly whether funding has been approved for a partially identical or similar project at other institutions or has been, is or will be applied for. We will then check on a case-by-case basis whether and to what extent we can support you. DBU funding after third-party funding has expired is allowed. Often, the founders of DBU-funded start-ups had previously received Exist funding from a university, for example.

(11) Does the support fall under the de minimis aid scheme (and what is it exactly)?

Yes, Green Start-up funding generally counts as de minimis aid. De minimis is a kind of “de minimis threshold” for business-related subsidies by the public sector. Under de minimis, a maximum of 200,000 euros may be accepted from a company within three tax years. In this way, the EU aims to avoid impairments of competition and effects on trade between member states. Please note: Not every grant is a de minimis grant.

(12) Do you have any restrictions on capital from silent partners or future capital from investors?

The participation of private investors is basically harmless for our funding. We primarily target start-ups that can take a significant development step towards sustainable business success with our support.

(13) What is the maximum length of the project period?

The funding period of the Green Start-up funding is regularly 24 Months. The DBU plans to support the start-ups both financially and ideationally over these two years.

(14) Should we describe the whole project in the application and apply for a percentage of it as funding or is it better to describe/apply for a sub-project?

If it is about a business start-up, please describe the start-up project as a whole. If a subproject can be split off, then consider applying for funding under DBU project funding.

(15) How is the activity as a founder/one’s own work in the start-up supported?

In order to enable full-time employment with their start-up, the respective founding persons (shareholders) can apply for funding of a “contribution to living expenses” of up to 2,000 euros per month for a period of usually 24 months. The amount refers to a full-time equivalent of 160 hours per month for each person; in the case of part-time employment, the corresponding fraction can be applied. Please justify part-time employment on the part of founding persons in the application documents. This support instrument is aimed in particular at companies where there is still too little or no revenue. The aim is to enable founders to concentrate on their start-up without having to work elsewhere to earn a living. If higher remuneration has been agreed in the company’s employment contract, the DBU may, in justified cases, contribute to these costs of the company up to the above-mentioned amount. The non-subsidized share must be proven to the DBU as own contribution. In exceptional cases, collaborating persons or other work performances can be promoted accordingly. Please note that in no case will an employment or employment relationship with the DBU be established.

(16) Should only the CV of one person (e.g. the person writing the application) or of all persons involved be uploaded?

Resumes of all individuals to be financially supported by the grant should be uploaded. The DBU does not specify how many founders may receive funding. The funding is generally aimed at persons with entrepreneurial responsibility (shareholders with operational activities in the start-up).

(17) Can more than one person be sponsored?

Yes. Teams with up to three founders can be effectively supported with the given framework conditions (up to 125,000 euros) – according to previous experience. The DBU does not specify how many founders may receive funding. The funding is generally aimed at persons with entrepreneurial responsibility (shareholders with operational activities in the start-up).

(18) When can overheads be claimed?

Overhead costs can be applied for if the founders or start-up owners incur employer contributions for social benefits (social security, health insurance, etc.). This is common, for example, in the case of a GmbH (limited liability company) if the managing partners have an employment contract. In other types of companies, such benefits can be paid voluntarily by the entrepreneurs. So it depends on the facts of the individual case here.

(19) Can I be sponsored if I am still in employment?

In principle, a full-time job in the start-up should be aimed for in the long term. In order to reduce risks, we also want to support start-ups that do not yet immediately “put all their eggs in one basket” by allowing the existing employment relationship to still be continued on a part-time basis. The possible utilization of personal subsidies is reduced accordingly on a pro rata basis.

(20) Can I also spin off from an existing company?

Yes. Combinations with or spin-offs from existing companies are possible in the case of particularly convincing concepts, e.g. in the course of a succession or generation change in existing companies.

(21) How does the DBU promote family-friendly start-ups?

By offering the option of part-time start-up, DBU also wants to support parents in their start-up. According to §15 BEEG, it is even possible to start a business during parental leave, during which you can work up to 30 hours per week. The possible utilization of personal subsidies is reduced accordingly on a pro rata basis.

(22) Can I take advantage of other funding measures instead of the Green Start-up funding at the DBU?

As an alternative to Green Start-up funding, start-ups can apply for funding in the same way as other SMEs, either on a funding theme basis or within the DBU’s open project funding framework. In both cases, non-material support is offered in addition to financial support.

(23) Can I be funded as an association or organisation?

No, not in the Green Start-up funding, but possibly in the regular DBU project funding.

(24) How long may the funding application be?

Please complete the application documents in our applicant portal (online questionnaire, work plan and cost plan) and upload the CVs. You can additionally upload supplementary information such as a pitch deck or explanations of the business model. We ask you not to exceed the maximum number of 20 pages.

(25) In which language may I apply?

Applications must be submitted in German.

(26) What obligations do I enter into when I receive funding from the DBU?

The acceptance of the grant obligates the founders, 1) comply with the DBU’s funding guidelines; 2) to concentrate his/her work with regular 40 hours per week (part-time proportionally analogously) on the project described in the grant application or the work plan; 3) to inform the DBU without delay if (a) the grant project is interrupted or terminated; b) the start-up is threatened with insolvency or bankruptcy; c) Circumstances arise that make the successful implementation of the business idea/business model/start-up purpose no longer achievable; d) circumstances arise that render the environmental or sustainable impact of the start-up as no longer achievable; or/and e) he/she receives funding from another source that is relevant under EU law.

(27) Does the funding fall under EU state aid law?

The funding activities of the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt fall under EU state aid regulations. The funding guidelines were therefore notified to the EU Commission. In practice, the classification of subsidies as aid means that the admissibility of subsidy projects must first be measured against the yardstick of European state aid law. Green Start-up funding is regularly granted as de minimis aid.

(28) What is the DBU aiming at with “non-material promotion”?

During the funding period, the founders are accompanied and supported by the DBU. The DBU organizes seminars (its own or from third parties) or similar formats in which the founders can exchange their experiences and results with each other or with others. The DBU organizes the integration of the founders into the competence network. The founders are also invited to other DBU events, such as the German Environmental Award ceremony or, if applicable, to the German President’s Week of the Environment in the park of Bellevue Palace. The DBU also supports attendance at other events/seminars/trade fairs for further entrepreneurial qualification.

(29) What is not promoted? What are the reasons for exclusion?

In the Green Start-up funding, the following are generally not funded a) Business models that serve to fulfill statutory mandatory tasks; b) Business models that do not benefit start-ups but other institutions (exclusion of institutional funding); c) Business models without implementation prospects; (d) applications aimed at purely investment support; (e) business models with an exclusive basic research orientation; and f) Business models for monitoring environmental impacts.

(30) What are the chances of being approved?

The approval rate for Green Start-up funding is currently just under 10 percent.

(31) I have already applied, but have not received any feedback yet. When can I expect it?

All applications that have received an upload confirmation after complete upload in the DBU online application system will be processed by DBU with high pressure in the order of receipt. Please feel free to submit applications at any time. The evaluation process is time-consuming, so delays may occur. Green Start-up funding is a competition in which the better, more promising application wins out over the other applications – even if they are very good themselves. In such a dynamic evaluation process, it is therefore only determined at a very late stage who will be promoted and who will not. We ask for your understanding that it may therefore take some time until you receive a response from us. We expect that you should have heard from us within three months of submission. We thank you for your patience, with which you measurably contribute to the acceleration of the process for all, and ask you to contact us only if the 3 months should have passed without feedback.

(32) How does the selection process work?

Applications are processed by the team on an ongoing basis. In the process, each application goes through a multi-stage selection process. The evaluation is based on criteria such as environmental relief potential, level of innovation, added social value, personal suitability and economic viability. After a successful first and second evaluation, an interview and a pitch usually follow.

(33) Can I submit documents later?

Incomplete application documents will not be processed by the DBU. However, if new information relevant to the decision-making process should arise in the course of the application process, corresponding documents can be submitted subsequently in prior consultation with the DBU.