From Lab to Market Challenge

You have product or service ideas that can change the world?

That’s fantastic.

Every life-changing solution in chemistry, biotech and material sciences starts with a creative mind having an idea.

Register with your three-page summary for a chance to win attractive prizes.

Participate in our From Lab to Market Challenge, the biggest idea competition in chemistry, industrial biotechnology, material sciences. We’re excited to hear about your mind-blowing or even crazy ideas and how they will change the world.

Register for your chance to win 3,000 € in cash prizes, a feature in CHEManager and the opportunity to present in front of high-ranking people from academia, industry, capital market and politics. All you need is an idea for a product or business. If you could take your research out of your lab into the real world, what would you do?

Our challenge is aimed at students, researchers and alumni of universities and research institutions in North Rhine-Westphalia and is open to individuals and teams. The best ideas will be awarded prizes of 1,500 €, 1,000 €, 500 € (1st to 3rd place).

Some of the universities we work with:

Participating is simple.

The competition is divided into two phases: In the idea phase (Phase 1), teams describe their idea in the form of a three-page idea paper and submit it. Up to ten entries will be selected by a jury of experts for the next phase.

The subsequent concept phase (Phase 2) starts with workshops in which selected teams are supported by experienced coaches in developing their business models. The teams then specify their idea draft, expand it to a five-page concept paper and submit it again.

Again, a jury of experts will review and evaluate the sketches and nominate the winners. Prizes are awarded at a festive award event in June 2022 (exact date to be communicated soon).

Challenge Timeline

Terms of participation

Eligible participants: Students, PhD students, post-docs, research assistants, professors and alumni with a clear connection to a North Rhine-Westphalian University or research institution. Ideas and concepts may be submitted individually or as a team. If successful, a maximum of one proposal per participant or team will be awarded a prize.

Eligible proposals: Ideas must have been developed independently by participants and must not infringe the rights of third parties. Ideas that have received funding through EXIST or similar funding programs can not be considered. If you have applied for but not yet received funding, you may participate.

Submission deadline: For phase 1 (idea phase), fully completed proposals received by 11th April 2022 (23:59) will be considered. Incomplete submissions or submissions exceeding the specified scope cannot be considered. The submission deadline for concept papers will be communicated to all individuals and teams that proceed into the concept phase.

Publicity: Participants agree to present their idea at the award event and to participate in press work.

Legal: and its affiliates do not assume any liability for statements and behavior of jurors and other persons involved in the competition. and its affiliates will treat submitted ideas confidentially. The personal data of the participants will not be disclosed by the organiser to unauthorized third parties. The legal process is excluded. If none of the entries is deemed worthy of an award by the jury, no prize may be awarded. Participation in the contest implies agreement with the above conditions.


How exactly can I participate?

Fill in the registration form and submit a complete idea proposal in PDF format. The length of the proposal must not exceed three pages (DIN A4, font size 11) and it should cover the following key areas:

Person(s) involved – Please briefly describe the persons involved and their role.
Research connection and research background – Explain how the idea is related to your research or the university/research institution environment.
Idea description and innovation – Describe your idea and, if applicable, the technology or product innovation or innovative service.
Customer benefit and market – Please outline how potential customers might benefit from your idea. Also, if possible, describe which market you could enter with your plan.
Feasibility – Please provide a brief overview of the feasibility of your idea here: where are there development or research risks? What is needed for implementation?

Are there any exclusion criteria?

Yes, your submission will not be accepted if:
– The application form is incomplete.
– Important information is missing in your proposal.
– The conditions of participation have been violated.
– An EXIST application has already been approved with the idea.
– The idea has already been funded by any other grant.

Can I have my idea checked in advance?

No, it is not possible to have the idea or the idea paper checked in advance, as this would distort the competition.

How is my application evaluated?

Since there is an explicit call for ideas at an early stage of development, the maturity of the idea is not a decision criterion. The jury will make its decision based on the following criteria:

– Creativity and innovation
– Research relevance
– Customer benefit and market potential
– Chances of realization.

Is my idea safe?

Yes. All parties who learn about your idea are bound to secrecy.

Can I also participate as an individual?

Yes, both individuals and teams can submit ideas.

May multiple ideas be submitted?

Yes, multiple proposals may be submitted per participant/team, but a maximum of one proposal per participant/team will be admitted to the concept phase (phase 2).

Who will evaluate my ideas?

Our jury consists of several people who bring professional expertise in various fields to be able to judge all ideas professionally.

Does my idea have to lead to a product or may I also participate with ideas for services?

Both product and service ideas can be submitted.

Can I participate in other competitions with the idea?

Yes, participation in the From Lab to Market Challenge is independent of participation in other competitions. However, if the submitted idea has already won awards in other competitions or is currently being funded by public programs, participants must state this in their application.

I have already submitted an EXIST application with the idea. Can I participate?

No. Ideas that have already been processed in an application for an EXIST start-up grant or EXIST research transfer are excluded from participation, as the ideas competition is aimed at ideas in a very early phase.

What are the prizes?

The following prize money will be awarded:

1st place: 1,500 €
2nd place: 1,000 €
3rd place: 500 €

Does winning a prize come with further obligations?

At least one representative from each winning team must attend the award ceremony and present the idea to the public. The idea may be reported on by the organizers of the competition within the framework of public relations. Of course, no confidential information will be published and the rules of good journalism will be respected. The payment of the prize money is not connected to any further obligations. However, further development of the ideas is desired and will be supported even after the end of the competition.

Are there any other benefits besides the prizes?

Yes, all submissions are reviewed by experts. In each case, you will receive valuable feedback, important contact recommendations and support in implementation. The ten teams selected in the first stage will be coached by experts in a full-day workshop and get certification afterwards

Who is behind the competition?

The competition is organized by in close cooperation with the participating universities and research institutions.

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