AHEAD for Fraunhofer-Startup Tandems

AHEAD enables external startups and founders to benefit from Fraunhofer technology and bring innovative high-tech products to market!

The internal technology transfer program AHEAD powered by Fraunhofer Venture supports the commercialization of Fraunhofer technology and the promotion of startups & founders. Therefore, AHEAD acts as a venture building program that actively promotes Fraunhofer spin-offs and supports innovative projects between researchers and founders. For tandems (consisting of founders & an institute) AHEAD offers the opportunity to advance their tech transfer projects quickly and effectively.

Benefit from our AHEAD services and leverage our Fraunhofer technological competence!

At AHEAD we support you in finding the technological competence for your deep tech need and at the same time benefit from a one-stop-shop for tech ventures – with support in team, business, product and IP-strategy development combined with our strong network and funding sources.

Thus, in case of a successful application you will receive: 

  1. A project budget for the joint project *
  2. Team, Business, Product and IP-strategy Workshops
  3. Individual Coaching Sessions
  4. Access to our support network (including Fraunhofer Venture and the Fraunhofer Technologie Transfer Fonds (FTTF)**)


We regard you and your Fraunhofer research partner as one team. And we require this team - or at least 50% of it - to be present during all mandatory AHEAD elements.

PHASE 1: The main objective of this phase is to explore:

1.   whether a close collaboration with Fraunhofer makes sense for both sides

2.   what intellectual property needs to be in place to achieve a licensing deal

3.   pre-negotiate this very deal

4.   pre-define the cap table.

Please note: our AHEAD structure offers you highest flexibility, so that you are able to go through this phase in 6 weeks, or it can take up to 6 months.

PHASE 2: Execute your plan, let Fraunhofer care about the technology and intellectual property, as well as finalize all contracts and agreements. We will support your joint project with for up to 1,5 years during this phase.  


Fraunhofer Startup Tandems who would like to benefit from the AHEAD funding must fulfill certain requirements in order to participate in the Tech Transfer Program:



1. Technology transfer should be the goal of every AHEAD project

A contractual commitment to a Fraunhofer Institute, based on license agreements, should be the goal of every AHEAD project between a Fraunhofer Institute and an external company.
Thus, the following aspects need to be considered:
- The Fraunhofer Startup Project must build on existing Fraunhofer IP
- The Fraunhofer Technology must have reached at least TRL level 3
- Pure know-how transfer cannot be funded
- The aim of the project should be a license agreement

2. Participating startups should be based on Fraunhofer technology in the future

The future business activities of the company must be essentially based on Fraunhofer property rights that have been developed in the context of research and development work within the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.
Thus, the following aspects need to be considered:
- The results of the AHEAD project should be essential for the company's future business activities.
- The Fraunhofer technology should influence the core product or the core value proposition

If you have any questions regarding these requirements, you can contact us at any time!

Further Information


Our funding goes to your research partner at the Fraunhofer institute and not to the startup. We expect you to invest your time and expertise into our collaboration. Most  technologies that you will get in touch with have been significantly funded by Fraunhofer already and the researchers you will deal with are top experts in their fields that are paid by AHEAD in order to collaborate with you. This also means that we won’t reimburse your travel costs for attending our workshops and events. The purpose of our funding for our Fraunhofer colleagues is to explore and assess the feasibility of a tech transfer with you as well as executing on a concrete technology development plan that results in a licensing deal with your venture. In case you have difficulties to fund yourself, please talk to us.



As mentioned, our aim is to transfer intellectual property that is owned by Fraunhofer to your venture (in most cases via a licensing deal). In some cases, you will bring your own intellectual property with you. This, of course, will stay yours and a Non-Disclosure Agreement will make sure that you can openly talk and all parties are legally safe. We will assist you throughout the AHEAD program in clarifying with your Fraunhofer institute(s) “who owns what”.



Fraunhofer is a complex organization, but we will make sure that you do not need to cope with all of it. Nevertheless, there are two major stakeholder groups that you should be aware of:

  • Fraunhofer institute: Your R&D partner and the driving force in the negotiation process (e.g. licensing contract, cap table). You are going to collaborate with researchers who are top experts and happy to interact with you on a regular basis. Those are the ones primarily benefitting from the AHEAD funding. However, department heads and especially the institute’s directors are the decision makers for relevant issues.
  • Fraunhofer headquarters: Fraunhofer Venture is a department of the Fraunhofer HQ and the ideal moderator between different stakeholder groups. You should make use of that role and our experience. If anything is unclear, please come to us.



*For the project budgets to be won, it should be noted that the budget is made available to the institute via "internal cost allocation" and is not paid to the startup.

** The FTTF invests in startups that are essentially based on Fraunhofer Technology


Florian Ascherl

Contact Press / Media

Florian Ascherl


Mobile +49 151 26251699

Chinyere Wirthmüller

Contact Press / Media

Chinyere Wirthmüller


Phone +49-89-1205-4539