The University Innovation Challenge (UIC) is open to student research projects and start-ups. The only criterion is that the research project participants or start-up founders need to have a university background.



Registration and online application

Research projects and start-ups have until 6 September to enter in one of the six award categories.


Assessment and screening by UIC science partner

The entries in each category will then be screened by TechQuartier, our science partner, and the best projects in each category determined according to the selection criteria.


Jury appraisal

On 1 October, our high-calibre jury will meet to decide the two finalists in each category. These will then have the opportunity to present their innovations live at the award ceremony.


Award ceremony

On 13 November, the University Innovation Challenge winners will be decided at the Casino building of Goethe University Frankfurt. There will be multimedia presentations by the two finalists in each category, followed by a live vote.


The submitted projects are assessed on the basis of various scientific criteria. In the ‘start-ups’ section, projects are primarily assessed and selected based on their business model and on evidence of their innovation’s market success. In the ‘university research projects’ section, meanwhile, the primary focus is on innovation and the (planned) translation of research findings into a business model.


Future Engineering

Successful engineering is the key to global leadership in manufacturing. We’re looking for future-ready solutions that, via digitisation or artificial intelligence, will help make Industry 4.0 a reality.

Future Materials

New materials are the wellspring of technological progress in key industries such as medicine, IT and civil engineering. We’re looking for innovations in manufacturing, processing and using new materials that will supplant existing industrial practices and processes.

Future Intelligence

In the coming years, artificial intelligence will bring fundamental change both to the economy and to society. We’re looking for innovations in which AI is already being used to support and enhance processes, services and products.

Future Finances & Commerce

An important theme in the economy’s digitisation, the trend towards cutting out the middleman has reached the banking and insurance sector, with Blockchain technology and platform solutions now transforming finance and commerce. We’re looking for innovations that will drive the modernisation of these industries and open up new possibilities for customers.

Future CONNECTIVITY for Sustainability

The interconnection of data, systems and devices offers previously undreamt-of possibilities for rethinking the way we tackle social issues. Intelligently interconnected systems can reduce traffic, optimise resource management and simplify diagnostics and prevention – in short, they can play a major role in helping to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In order for this to happen, we need university research and industry to work hand in hand, using intelligent connectivity to jointly find solutions to society’s most urgent problems.

Future Life Science

Can eternal life be achieved via technological progress? It’s a pertinent question for medicine and pharmaceuticals today. Digitisation, new diagnostic procedures and the intelligent analysis of large volumes of data have optimised the health sector in countless ways, thereby improving patient care. We’re looking for forward-thinking innovations in pharmacology, biotechnology and medical engineering.


The University Innovation Challenge is open to student research projects and start-ups. The only criterion is that the research project participants or start-up founders need to have a university background.

For start-ups, that means at least one founding member of the team has to have studied at a university or other higher-education institution within the past five years. In addition, the start-up must have been founded after 1 January 2014. Please note that start-up teams who haven’t yet set up their own company but plan to do so in the near future can also apply.

For university research projects, at least one member of the project team has to currently be affiliated to a university or other higher-education institution. This can be a student or an academic staff member of the university or higher-education institution.

There are six different categories for project submissions: Future Engineering, Future Materials, Future Intelligence, Future Finances & Commerce, Future Connectivity for Sustainability and Future Life Science.

The participating organisation can only enter in one of the six aforementioned categories.

Entering the University Innovation Challenge is free of charge; there is no fee for participants.

Where appropriate, our scientific partner reserves the right to assign a project to a different category from that originally specified.

If you are nominated as a finalist, you will need to take part in the UIC award ceremony (13 November). Please ensure that a member of your management team or one of your project leaders will be available to attend in person on this date.

By submitting an application, you agree that Handelsblatt GmbH and its partners may publicise your participation in the University Innovation Challenge by way of a brief presentation featuring images, logos and contact details. Participants agree to grant Handelsblatt GmbH and its partners the necessary rights to use such material.

Handelsblatt, its partners and the jury members reserve the right to exclude project submissions that are considered to be unsuitable or do not to meet the application criteria.

Application documents will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. Should participants nonetheless require a written confidentiality statement, this can be requested by sending an e-mail with the name of the participant and the project to [email protected].

The judges’ decision is final.