Mann auf Balkon

Ten start-ups for more sustainability.

BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt’s RESPOND accelerator programme supports young start-ups worldwide with the ideas and innovations to meet the most pressing challenges of our times – balancing profit, impact and sustainability.

The founders of the initial cohorts come from Austria, France, Belgium, Nigeria and Germany. The five-month accelerator programme RESPOND launched in early 2020 is supported by UnternehmerTUM, one of Europe's largest centres for business creation and innovation.

The ten start-ups chosen are pursuing business ideas for a just and sustainable world in line with the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda and its 17 sustainable development goals. They show that commercial success and a commitment to positive social and ecological change do not have to be in contradiction with one another.

It is no coincidence that the BMW Group Foundation’s accelerator programme is focused on the start-up ecosystem. “We firmly believe that start-ups, in particular, have the agility, creativity and dynamism needed to bring about positive change,” says Dr. Heba Aguib, head of RESPOND at the BMW Foundation Herbert Quandt

She is referring to companies like Brickify, founded by Oluwamayowa Salu from Nigeria. His company recycles plastic waste to make water, fire and heat-resistant paving stones that can then be used to build roads and inexpensive houses. The bricks fit together like Legos, requiring no additional materials for building. Salu’s business idea is driving sustainable construction in rapidly growing cities, especially in Africa and Asia.

Each of the ten start-ups focuses on one of the sustainable development goals, also referred to as “global goals”: The clean-tech start-up Kraftblock is bringing a modular thermal energy storage system based on recyclable granulate to the market. Made of Air converts CO2 into building materials to offset climate change. Plan A runs an AI-based software solution that creates CO2 emissions analyses for companies.

“Technology and impact far too rarely considered together.”

The Foundation views the connection between technology and impact as a major lever for change. “But technology and impact are far too rarely considered together,” as Aguib points out. “Yet it is precisely this capability that will make them more competitive in the future.” The Foundation aims to bridge this gap with the RESPOND accelerator. 

To scale the start-ups’ business models internationally, the BMW Foundation is working with high-profile mentors and investors from its global Responsible Leaders Network, as well as with UnternehmerTUM for operational implementation of the programme. “The business creation centre has a strong international network and plenty of experience with high-tech start-ups,” says Aguib.

Through its accelerator, the BMW Foundation also supports the BMW Group’s commitment to the goals of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030. The company, which has made sustainability and resource efficiency the focus of its strategic direction, sees itself as an active driver of social change.

Network of over 1,800 leaders worldwide

The RESPOND programme consists of intensive workshops and coaching on the topics of sustainability, impact and responsible company management. The founders themselves also become part of the BMW Foundation's Responsible Leaders Network of more than 1,800 leaders worldwide, all committed to positive social change. 

The accelerator programme culminates with the Demo Night on 13 October in the BMW Welt Double Cone. More than 250 investors, industry and media representatives are invited to the pitch finale, which will be held virtually in some cases, due to Covid-19.

Further information on the accelerator programme can be found at >>