InnoFounder Graduate is a grant associated with a 12-month pre-start-up incubation course helping recent graduates with an innovative business idea develop it to market or investment readiness.
The programme is organised by the Danish Innovation Fund, which invests in research, technology and innovation that can contribute to growth and society. The InnoFounder Graduate programme was created in 2015 to foster innovative entrepreneurship among young graduates by reducing the risks associated with the earliest stages of entrepreneurship, before the start-up is ready for investment of commercialisation.
The InnoFounder Graduate programme is open to aspiring innovative entrepreneurs (alone or in teams of up to three people) who have graduated from a higher education programme in the previous 24 months. The programme targets founders in the earliest stage of development, i.e. with a business idea requiring substantial development to be ready to be commercialised. Applicants submit an online application. Selected applicants are called in to pitch their project in front of a panel. Applications are evaluated on the innovativeness of the idea, potential value creation (e.g. value it brings to society), planned implementation and investment potential.
The programme runs over 12 months during which participants must work full-time on their project. Participants receive a monthly allowance of DKK 15 000 (approximately EUR 2 000) and a development grant of DKK 50 000 (approximately EUR 6 750) per founder in the team. The development grant can be used to cover costs related to developing the business idea (e.g. rental of equipment, consulting, prototype testing, traveling costs). The programme runs as an incubator. Participants are allocated office space in a co-working space (in one of five cities in Denmark). It offers a series of thematic workshops with Danish and international experts and a dedicated mentor supports each team for the duration of the programme. Participants have access to investors and other national and international ecosystem actors.
How did the programme adapt to the pandemic?
During the pandemic, application pitches were held virtually and additional financial support was made available. Participants finishing the InnoFounder course between January 2020 and March 2021 could apply for an extension to continue receiving their allowance for up to six additional months (the course itself is not extended).
InnoFounder Graduate supports about 40 entrepreneurs per year. An evaluation of the programme was conducted in 2019, focussing on 109 founders from 7 incubation cohorts between 2015 and 2018. Overall, the evaluation found the programme to be successful. Participants were satisfied (80% would highly recommend the programme) and most reported that the programme had made a positive contribution to the development of their product and business model. More than half of the participants also considered that InnoFounder had increased their ability to attract capital. Half of the participants had attracted further public funding by the end of the programme – typically grants around
DKK 500 000 (approximately EUR 67 500) and some participants also attracted private funding. 70% of participants had customers by the end of the course, and almost all had employees besides the founders (between one and three on average). Participating companies had relatively small turnovers at the end of the programme (as expected for a scheme focusing on the pre-start-up stage) but most expected significant and rapid increases in revenue, and three participants reported a turnover of more than DKK 1 million during the programme.
- Innovation Fund and Iris Group (2019), Brugernes vurdering af InnoFounders effekter – fra inkubationsforløb til le-vedygtige vækstvirksomheder - Udarbejdet for Innovationsfonden, marts 2019 [evaluation of InnoFounders], Innovation Fund, https://innovationsfonden.dk/sites/default/files/2019-05/brugernes-vurdering-af-innofounders-effekter-002.pdf.
- Innovation Fund (2019), “InnoFounder-forløb bringer unge iværksættere tættere på succes”, Innovation Fund, https://innovationsfonden.dk/da/nyheder-presse-og-job/innofounder-forlob-bringer-unge-ivaerksaettere-taettere-pa-succes
- Innovation Fund (2021), ”InnoFounder Graduate”, Innovation Fund, https://innovationsfonden.dk/en/programmes/innofounder/innofounder-graduate.
- Ministry of Higher Education and Science (2019), Innovation Fund Denmark – Report of the International Evaluation Panel 2019, https://innovationsfonden.dk/da/publikationer#accordion4731