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The sixth round of the Cologne University Ideas Competition!

Do you have an innovative, creative, and forward-thinking startup idea but are unsure how to put it into action? We believe in your idea!

This is why the Startup Your Idea Contest is a perfect chance to make your idea come true. This year in collaboration with all Cologne’s Gateway universities – the TH Köln, the German University, Rheinische Hochschule Köln and the Cologne Business School!

Submit your idea and win

Regardless of whether your idea relates to a service or a product, or whether it is a non-profit idea or the social utilisation of research results: the best ideas will be awarded a generous prize! The finalists can also look forward to coaching sessions, workshops and an exciting final in front of a large audience.

Convince the expert jury now with your convincing idea sketch - a finished business plan is not necessary!

Closing date for entries: 14 October 2024

Final event: 23 January 2024

What is the Startup Your Idea Contest?

The contest is being organised for the sixth time by the Gateway Universities Cologne. The aim is to promote innovative, creative and forward-looking start-up ideas from all disciplines that are at an early and advanced stage of development.

How does the competition work?

The application phase begins in July 2024 and ends with the closing date on 14 October 2024. In December 2024, all applicants will receive feedback and the eight final teams can prepare for the grand final on 23 January 2025.

New this year: the ideas will compete against each other in two categories: Idea Level and Product Level. The ideas will be categorised by the expert judges from the Gateway universities.

Who can take part?

In principle, students from all universities can participate, but at least one student per team must be enrolled at the University of Cologne, TH Köln, the German Sport University Cologne, the Rheinische Hochschule Köln or the Cologne Business School.

We also welcome applications from employees, academics and alumni (max. 5 years after graduation) of the participating universities! With your idea you apply for participation in the grand final in January 2024.

Excluded from the competition are start-up ideas on the basis of which, by the submission deadline on 15 October 2023, already

  • founded a corporation (GmbH / UG)
  • commenced business operations
  • an EXIST application has been submitted.

If at least one of these points applies to you, participation in this contest is unfortunately excluded. In this case, please have a look at our C3 competition, which might be suitable for you!

How is it evaluated?

Your idea will be assessed on the basis of four criteria:

- The founding idea 30%

- Customers & competition 25%

- Expertise of the team 25%

- Potential & feasibility of the start-up idea 20%

Why should you take part?

In addition to valuable feedback from experienced jury members with many years of experience in entrepreneurship, you will have the opportunity to present your start-up idea to the public. At the same time, you will make new contacts and expand your professional network.

Last but not least, you have the chance to win big prize money with your start-up idea in both categories.

But it's not just the jury that awards a prize! With the Audience Award, the audience chooses their favourite idea in the final and awards it with €1,000 in prize money.

Special Ford Philanthropy Award
This year we are also pleased to offer a special cash prize of USD 1,000 - this is provided by Ford Philanthropy and applies to all submissions. 

What do I need to bear in mind for the two categories?

This year, the teams will compete in the final in two categories: Idea Level & Product Level. The ideas will be categorised by the jury based on the stage of development of the idea:

- Idea Level: a prototype** or, in the case of scientific ideas, a proof of principle** or proof of concept** may exist here

- Product Level: a so-called MVP* (minimum viable product) is available here.

Corresponding proof in the form of images, screenshots or visualisations must be provided if the development statuses mentioned are available.

Important: the application of an idea is based on the contest and not on a category. Each idea will be assigned to the respective category on a case-by-case basis.

Can I submit my idea in English? 🇬🇧

Yes, you are welcome to send us your idea in English! Please keep in mind that the final contest will be held in German. 

Register now!

Send us your innovative, creative and forward-looking ideas using the Gateway Idea Model Canvas template (as PDF). Fill in the application form and attach your certificate(s) of study. You can download the documents here.

If you are a scientist or employee, we need an official email and for alumni (up to 5 years after graduation) your degree certificate.

Send us everything together by email: syic@gateway-unikoeln.de

Do you have any questions? Please send us an email!

We need these documents from you:

Registration form
Template of the Gateway Idea Model Canvas filled out by you
Proof of your prototype / proof of principle / proof of concept / MVP (if available)
Scan/photo of study certificate(s) or service email or degree certificate (for alumni)
Contact details (optional)

That was the final in January 2024

Startup Your Idea Contest Finale

Startup Your Idea Contest Finale

Startup Your Idea Contest Finale

Startup Your Idea Contest Finale

Startup Your Idea Contest Finale

Startup Your Idea Contest Finale

Startup Your Idea Contest Finale

Gateway ESC

Exzellenz Start-up Center NRW

TH Köln

Deutsche Sporthochschule

Rheinische Fachhochschule

Cologne Business School