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Case Studies of Collaboration: Start-ups and Established Companies Accelerating towards Sustainability

Four people in a meeting, photographed from above © Thomas Dashuber
23 August 2021

Through our network at UnternehmerTUM, we bring start-ups and corporates together, creating win-win matches. Our accelerator TechFounders is a fantastic example of how they complement each other. Most recently, these partnerships have evolved to bring many environmentally-friendly products and services to the streets to drive sustainable development, one innovation at a time.

Companies in every sector are under pressure from above and below: consumers, stakeholders, and investors all demand actions and transparency for sustainability. Empty promises of change just don’t cut it anymore, and surely, you’ve felt this with your business, too. Increasingly, many start-ups offer solutions for businesses that want to move forward—to transform existing processes and products for the better, gaining resource efficiencies, or aligning with environmental and ethical values.

Founder teams often develop products and services that are more innovative, out-of-the-box, and a great addition to what companies already offer. In the field of sustainable innovation, there are many start-ups that help our economy shift towards a circular model, clean energy, and a more ecological food system, for instance. In our climate-tech start-up landscape, we’ve highlighted some trailblazers.

Case Studies: Matching and Making Progress

A joint pilot project is a great opportunity to see how well a product or service would fit the company’s offering and whether it generates the expected results. With a set budget and duration, you can test the technology, evaluate its quality, and determine whether the pilot project could transform into a longer-term partnership. This means you get a low-risk trial without the need for new hires, a long-time contract or a big investment.

TechFounders has years of experience and expertise in successfully connecting startups with corporates on joint pilot projects. Below you can find three examples of successful collaborations where a start-up innovation met the needs of an established company, transforming their existing services, products, or processes into more sustainable alternatives. Take a look at how they brought innovative ideas to life!

Team Pic OGATA original

ALDI Nord and ALDI Süd + OGATA

ALDI was looking to drive sustainable packaging, especially through new product design and renewable materials. The PaperJohn by OGATA is an innovative retail bag made from recycled paper. With its long straps, it can be carried like a backpack, leaving your hands free.

→ ALDI continued to cooperate with OGATA after the TechFounders program. Together, they launched sustainable shopping bags that are now sold in various ALDI stores across Germany.

Changers Daniela Schiffer Markus Schulz Markus S


DATEV eG and ADAC both were on a search for software, driving sustainable actions among customers and employees. The CO2 Fit App by motivates people to behave sustainably in a playful, competitive way. It measures user activities and calculates CO2 balances which they can redeem for tree plantings, donations, or valuable discounts and raffles.

→ provided a solution for both corporate partners to support employees and customers in making sustainable and responsible choices.

Fix First Sebastian

Miele + FixFirst

Miele was on the lookout for a more circular product life cycle and the concept of making products reusable. FixFirst offers an AI-powered software for household appliances that provides instant error analysis and connects users with local repair services, manufacturers, retailers, and insurance companies.

→ Together, the partners worked on extending the lifespan of household appliances instead of having customers buy new ones every time.

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