This post is also available in: Danish

Universities are becoming an increasingly important part of the startup ecosystem. Not just as a technology provider, but as a breeding ground for new, innovative startups.

We love the tale of the lonely genius who drops out of college to start a wildly successful company. In reality, however, a lot of successful startup-founders have a university degree before starting their business.

Universities are home to some of the world’s leading researchers and thinkers, who have access to cutting-edge technology and infrastructure. This provides a fertile ground for new ideas and innovation, and many university startups are founded on the back of research conducted at the universities.

University startups can be founded by students, faculty members or alumni of universities – or a mix of the three. They are an important part of the innovation ecosystem, as universities provide a unique environment for creativity, collaboration, and access to resources and funding.

In addition to access to research and technology, universities also provide a supportive environment for entrepreneurship. Most of the higher education institutions have included entrepreneurship and innovation in their curriculums, established entrepreneurship centres, accelerators, and incubators that provide mentorship, training, and funding to student and staff entrepreneurs. Most universities even allow students to do an internship in their own startup, train their entrepreneurial skills in a case competition, or work with innovative companies in a thesis project.

The universities also have technology transfer offices (TTO) that connect research results with the industry by commercializing inventions, facilitating collaborations and training researchers to create spin-out companies.

Another key component of the university startup ecosystem is the student body. Many universities have a large and diverse student population, which provides a talent pool of future employees, customers, and supporters for university startups. Furthermore, students are often eager to participate in entrepreneurial activities and are more likely to take risks and pursue unconventional career paths. Many of the student entrepreneurship initiatives are also run by passionate students.

Surrounding ecosystem

One of the biggest challenges for university startups is the limited experience of the founding team, who may not have the same level of business acumen and industry knowledge as experienced entrepreneurs or industry veterans setting out to start their own business.

A common student founder mistake is to get too caught up in developing the product instead of selling it. This can be particularly true, when your product relies intensively on research as is often the case with startups founded at universities.

However, a lot of initiatives spanning across universities, like Open Entrepreneurship, is set into place to encourage the commercialization of research opportunities.

The university ecosystem also provides access to funding through various sources such as grants, pitch competitions with prize money, investment vehicles, and networking events with angel investors and venture capitalists like Antler. These investors are often attracted to university startups due to the unique combination of intellectual property, technology, and talent that they bring to the table.

As an established company you can gain access to new knowledge from the universities through collaboration with students and researchers e.g. internship, research and development project, fund a professional ph.d. or license new technology via the TTO.

Danish universities by the numbers:

  • 8 universities
  • 165.000+ students
  • 2.000+ startups and pre-startups each year

The article is part of the magazine “The Guide – A comprehensive overview of the Danish startup ecosystem”, published by Heyfunding and

Read the full magazine here: