Under the banner of its “EXIST” programme for business foundations from higher education, the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology (BMWi) currently supports 15 regional networks and a range of individual projects. These aim to create a culture of independent entrepreneurship, to enable the rapid use of research results to generate economic value, to offer targeted support for founders and business ideas that demonstrate potential and to achieve a substantial increase in the number of innovative start-ups.

The task of the present project is to carry out a comprehensive ex-post evaluation of the third stage of EXIST, which continues the work of the two previous stages on “start-ups from science”. The programme itself was started in 1998. As EXIST III only began in mid-2006, the evaluation will span virtually the entire duration of the project. The success of the EXIST programme will be measured against the core aims listed above. One particular part of the evaluation will be to assess programmes that have received support in terms of the sub-goals formulated in EXIST III, partly because it is easier to establish whether these have been achieved. On the EXIST III level, projects and measures that receive support have to promote the generation and implementation of ideas for science and technology start-ups, provide accompanying advice and support, develop and introduce measures to qualify personnel and motivate potential founders, raising awareness of concrete opportunities to start a business.
To ensure that these aspects are adequately investigated, the evaluation is divided into four parts. The first part investigates the structure of the EXIST III competition and instruments. This involves document analyses and the use of logic charts to evaluate the conception of the programme as well as an assessment of how the programme is implemented on the operative level.
The second part situates EXIST III in the wider context of comparable programmes in other countries (France, England, Austria, the Netherlands and the USA) and analyse good practice on the international level.
The third part of the EXIST evaluation is an impact analysis, which focuses on the effects on start-up activities. Within the framework of a quantitative analysis, two telephone surveys of businesses will be carried out and a number of statistical procedures used to address the following questions: How do start-ups from higher education develop, compared to those of other firms in knowledge and research-intensive industries? How important a role do researchers and graduates play in EXIST regions and non-EXIST regions? And how has their status changed in the course of the EXIST programme? In addition, the project will look into the importance of science-based business incubators and whether this importance has changed because of EXIST. We will also investigate how businesses that received support under EXIST have developed compared to other, similar firms, in terms of survival, growth and innovative behaviour. As part of the impact analysis, individual guideline-based interviews will be carried out with “science entrepreneurs” (scientists who also have entrepreneurial experience), higher education management staff and the heads of university departments specialising in business foundations. These aim to investigate the extent to which EXIST helps stimulate a culture of setting up businesses.
The fourth part of this evaluation project will bring together the results of the previous parts as a basis to evaluate EXIST as a whole. Recommendations for the further development of the EXIST programme will be made.

Selected Publications

Monographs, Contributions to Edited Volumes

Egeln, Jürgen, Michael Dinges, Andreas Knie, Dagmar Simon, Holger Braun-Thürmann, Helmut Fryges, Helmut Gassler, Sandra Gottschalk, Romy Hilbrich, Daniel Höwer, Kathrin Schopen, Christian Rammer, Julia Schmidmayer and Franziska Steyer (2010), Evaluation des Existenzgründungsprogramms EXIST III, LLL:citation.label.volume 95, Baden-Baden.