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Patricia Müller

CISPA sets new standards: A record number of startups as well as new offers for the entrepreneurial community

Technology transfer at CISPA has climbed to new heights in 2023, with a record number of startup being funded and innovative programs to promote structural change in Saarland.

CISPA Helmholtz Center for Information Security has made remarkable progress in growing its highly innovative technology transfer ecosystem. In 2023, the CISPA incubator supported more than ten new startups - almost as many as in the previous three years combined - bringing the total number of teams supported to over 30. Eight of these teams received generous funding, each amounting to a six-digit figure, from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the StartUpSecure initiative. As one of four competence centers for IT security research in Germany, CISPA evaluates startup projects and provides support in applying for funding.

In addition, four promising venture projects have been set up, which will be launched in the coming year. Other projects are currently being evaluated. These startups are of particular importance to CISPA, as they transfer scientific progress to the market via relevant products and business models, thus making a sustainable contribution to society.

Successful financing rounds and millions in funding

CISPA's performance in the area of support for startup projects is also reflected in the sustainable growth of the startups supported by the incubator. It is a great success for CISPA that four startups received significant investments from private investors in 2023. Kertos secured capital of four million euros (seed), while NetBird closed a financing round of 1.1 million euros (pre-seed). At the end of the year, CISPA startup veecle (seed round: €2.6 million) and CodeShield also announced the successful completion of financing rounds.

A special mention deserves the startup LUBIS EDA, which not only won several awards this year, but also successfully applied for funding from the EIC Accelerator. This makes it the first CISPA-supported startup to receive one of the coveted EU grants amounting to 2.5 million euros.

In total, the startups have received approximately 9 million euros in public grants and approximately 8 million euros in private funding in 2023.

New jobs and major regional economic effects

These new resources will not only ensure the continuity of the projects and companies, but also allow the startups to focus on bringing their solutions to the market and building and expanding their teams. The creation of new jobs and the resulting economic output make a significant contribution to social development. To date, the CISPA-supported startups have created more than 300 jobs, confirming the research center's role as a driver of structural change in Saarland.

A recent IHK study has underlined the efficiency of the innovation ecosystem and assigned high potential to the ventures from CISPA. From 2030, CISPA ventures are expected to have an annual regional economic impact of 133.4 million euros. The study estimates that by 2030, approximately 77 regionally based spin-offs will employ 2,150 people.

Promoting doctoral students and postdocs as founders

To promote new startup initiatives at the center, the CISPA Founders Fellowship was established in the field of technology transfer. The goal of the program is to introduce CISPA Ph.D. students and postdocs to entrepreneurship as an attractive career path. For one year, they can concentrate on developing their business idea as CISPA employees. The program is embedded in the newly created "Entrepreneurship" career track and enhances its offerings.

A dedicated venture capital fund for CISPA

With the launch of the CISPA Venture Capital Fund, the Center reached another milestone this year in cooperation with the international investment company Sustainable & Invest GmbH. Following a thorough review of the seven startups that have applied for an initial investment from the fund, the first investment is expected to be made in the spring of 2024. This private capital will enable a large number of CISPA startups to drive forward their visions and innovative ideas and successfully transfer CISPA's excellent research to industry and society.

„Despite many crises and a difficult market environment, this year has been almost entirely characterized by successes for us and our startups. We are very proud of this positive development and are determined to ambitiously expand our community and the resulting CISPA ecosystem. Our goal is clear: We want to become the leading startup center for cybersecurity and secure AI in Europe.“

Maximilian Wolf
Head of Technology Transfer