The start-up initiative SMILE of the International SEPT Competence Center at Leipzig University is a program to support entrepreneurship, start-ups and spin-off companies at regional, national and international level.

enlarge the image: A building of Leipzig University
SMILE Program, Photo: Leipzig University


Since August 2006, the start-up initiative SMILE of the SEPT Competence Center at Leipzig University has been working to establish the entrepreneurial spirit at universities and research institutes.

SMILE supports potential founders, start-ups and spin-off companies in a broad range of industries. The focus is on research and knowledge-intensive businesses in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare and technology, but also on promoting the segments of culture and creative industries, communication, sustainability and social issues. Young entrepreneurs, start-ups and existing companies who have entrepreneurial ambitions receive support in the form of individual and tailor-made approaches.

The initiative is involved in co-operations and regular joint activities not just within the participating universities and research institutes but also with academic partners, technology transfer centres, the private sector (banks, venture capitalists) and regional interest groups beyond the immediate network. SMILE is being supported by the European Social Fund (ESF) and Free State of Saxony.


SMILE places the learner at the centre of its activities and takes that as its starting point. The particular emphasis is on discovering the talents within the individual and developing them.

The SMILE qualification offer enables scientists, graduates and students to plan their own business and acquire complementary skills.

The SMILE start-up coaching provides support in all aspects of starting a business: product and business model development, marketing concept, sales planning and corporate financing.

At SMILE we check which funds are possible: Grants, equity participations, loans. Together we prepare the documents and forms, practice negotiating, contact the financiers, and evaluate their offers.


The SMILE team combines people with diverse entrepreneurial backgrounds, skills and experiences, who operate in a highly professional and flexible manner to bring the best ideas to the market. Since our initiative was established in 2006, SMILE has guided more than 600 start-ups in their steps of setting up a business.

enlarge the image: SMILE in Numbers, Picture: SMILE
SMILE in Numbers, Picture: SMILE


Here you can learn more about the SMILE projects at SEPT Competence Center in the area of promotion and development of entrepreneurship capacities.


The three Central German universities of Leipzig, Halle and Jena work closely together in the field of knowledge and technology transfer. With the joint project established here, the focus is to become a lighthouse project for the promotion of technology-based start-ups with internationalization potential and strengthening the international visibility of Central Germany as an attractive region for start-ups and innovations.

The joint project creates attractive cooperation opportunities that motivate international entrepreneurial teams and start-ups to settle in the region and bundles the offerings of the three universities for competence development in order to support start-up growth and market development abroad.


The central fields of action are linked in a "Triple-A" approach

  • Attract: Settlement of international entrepreneurial teams and start-ups in the region of Central Germany
  • Academy: Competence development for business growth and internationalization
  • Accelerate: Market development for start-ups through own hubs in East Asia


The Triple-A service addresses the following target groups:

  • Technology-based business activities with internationalization potential from the three universities and their networks
  • Born globals and start-ups desiring to internationalize their business
  • Entrepreneurial teams formed by international students, graduates or employees at universities/research institutions in the region of the Central Germany
  • Start-ups deciding to settle in the region of the Central Germany based on international research cooperation


Project Website

enlarge the image: Logos of project support institutions
International Startup Campus, Photo: SMILE


The primary target of MELES project is introduction to the curriculum items aimed at gaining knowledge and entrepreneurial skills. In the face of increasing unemployment may become a stimulus to select alternative career paths for young people by increasing their economic potential, independence and job satisfaction. The project is implemented in the departments that have just a little experience in teaching entrepreneurship or do not have all. Classes will be conducted in the target multi-disciplinary groups. Classes are designed to equip young people with the right skills, so that they consciously pursue new business opportunities, evaluate the risks of decisions in professional life and develop their interests.

The MELES project allows both students and teachers develop skills that have so far been neglected in the curriculum. Also allows for cooperation between higher education institutions, representing different fields of study. It also introduces unconventional and innovative methods of teaching, displacing the traditional approach to the teaching process. During the project are scheduled different summer schools for a group of 30 students from all partner's universities. This project is funded by the European Union.

Partners of the project:

  • Maritime University of Szczecin
  • Universidade de Aveiro - Portugal,
  • University of the Aegean - Greece,
  • Bialystok University of Technology - Poland,
  • University of Leipzig - Germany


Project Website

enlarge the image: Logos of project support institutions
MELES Project, Photo: SMILE


The first project's objective is to create a new type of educator, i.e. Academic Business Coach (ABC), who supports the business development of projects on the academia. Next objective is to improve the transversal competencies of students and academic staff of European universities in terms of creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.

It will be achieved through the development, testing and implementation of innovative methodologies of a/m competences under the name "ABC Methodology" (published as electronic HANDBOOK). It will be used by the ABC in the process of developing R&D projects initiated at universities, the results of which have a high potential for commercialization. During the project are scheduled different summer schools for startup teams, two from each partner university. This project is funded by the European Union.

Partners of the project:

  • Maritime University of Szczecin
  • Universidade de Aveiro - Portugal
  • University of the Aegean - Greece
  • Bialystok University of Technology - Poland
  • Leipzig University - Germany

Associated partner:

  • 6 Steps Ahead - Greece


Project Website

enlarge the image: Logos of project support institutions
MELES Project, Photo: SMILE


The digital age is entering every area of ​​our lives, including education at each level. Young people are more and more willing to look for knowledge on the Internet. Traditional lectures, paper textbooks and even e-learning materials are often not attractive to them. Generation Z, who is currently in high school and university education, is more likely to "talk" via instant messaging or chats, rather than having a conversation. The textual form of communication is also used to gain knowledge and develop skills. Young people prefer short texts, photos, games, stories and step-by-step instructions presented in a fun way. The MELES-BOT project is trying to meet this very strong trend.

The aim of the project is to develop an educational chatbot to conduct an entrepreneurship course. The innovative BOT-learning educational method is based on the use of tools such as chatbot (virtual teacher) and chat (text or conversation with a real educator). This means using channels commonly used by GEN-Z and filling them with proven and useful content. Given the fact that there are many unverified sources on the Internet, providing verified knowledge is crucial.

The results of the MELES-BOT project fit directly into the mainstream of transformation of the education system, i.e. education 4.0, which uses technology-based tools and resources to implement the education process in a non-traditional way. Its goal is, inter alia, providing basic skills and key competences to pupils and students who will create the Industry 4.0 staff. The digital competences acquired by teachers will help educate young people digital skills.

MELES-BOT also gives equal opportunities in access to education. Thanks to remote access, all those who, for various reasons, cannot attend face-to-face classes will have equal educational opportunities. Remote access also plays an important role in crisis situations (e.g. in a pandemic) when direct classes are suspended.

The entrepreneurship course is just an example, but it is a very eloquent example as more and more students take part in such courses.

Our horizontal goal is not only to present this particular course, but to convince the academic community to use the BOT-learning methodology to run other courses in the future.

Partners of the project:

  • Veliko Tarnovo University – Bulgaria,
  • Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Finland,
  • Leipzig University – Germany,
  • Maritime University of Szczecin – Poland,
  • University of Aveiro – Portugal.

Associated partner:

  • University of Luxembourg – Luxembourg,
  • Northern Business School – Germany,
  • University of the Aegean – Greece.


Project Website

enlarge the image: MELES Project, Photo: SMILE
MELES Project, Photo: SMILE


The "Gründungsküche" is a joint project of SMILE at SEPT Competence Center and Egenberger Lebensmittel and promotes the development and marketability of new foods, food-based products from Leipzig and the region.

Project Partners

SMILE, SEPT Competence Center, Egenberger Lebensmittel, Burgenlandkreis, Unternehmen Revier, Metropolregion Mitteldeutschland, BMWi


Project Website

enlarge the image: Start-up Kitchen, Picture: SMILE
Start-up Kitchen, Picture: SMILE


The Arqus European University Alliance brings together the universities of Bergen, Granada, Graz, Leipzig, Lyon, Padova and Vilnius, seven longstanding comprehensive research universities with deep regional engagement in medium-sized cities.

Arqus is a multilateral alliance of internationalized institutions who share academic, scientific and cultural objectives, a common vision of the role of higher education and research and mutual fields of interest.

Action Line Entrepreneurial University and Regional Engagement

This Action Line Entrepreneurial University and Regional Engagement is coordinated by the Entrepreneurship Board, chaired by University of Lyon, and has the following main objectives:

  • Stimulating entrepreneurial mind-set and creativity
  • Reinforcing regional engagement
  • Building on complementary strengths and cross-sectoral collaborations

Overview of planned activities

1. Roadmap for Entrepreneurial University: transforming governance and approach to entrepreneurship at Arqus universities

2. Arqus Entrepreneurship Community: establishing a network of staff and mentors across Arqus, piloted by the Entrepreneurship Board

3. Common Course Itinerary: a three-level accessible and customizable entrepreneurship course (building awareness, practical tools and knowhow, and building real entrepreneurial ventures)

  • Engaged Community Challenge: a European SDG-based challenge, using the resources to build awareness on entrepreneurship
  • Virtual Company Creation Contest: an open-source contest to encourage participants already open to entrepreneurship to implement practical tools and knowhow
  • International Soft Landing for Young Entrepreneurs (ISLYE): a programme designed to host young entrepreneurs at partner academic incubators

4. From Brain Drain to Brain Gain: developing unexploited technologies into ventures with PhD graduates and attracting alumni back to Europe to participate in these enterprises

5. European Interns for SMEs: a common platform for sharing internship opportunities at start-ups and SME partners of the alliance to reinforce socioeconomic engagement

6. Arqus socio-economic network: connecting socio-economic partners (chambers of commerce, economic clusters...) through the Arqus Alliance to reinforce the exchange of entrepreneurial initiatives and innovation with each partner


Project Website

enlarge the image: Logos of project support institutions
ARQUS Project, Photo: SMILE


Development of an innovative technology demonstrator for the research of micro-circulation systems for food supply in connection with sustainable feed design on the basis of biogenic residual material of exploiting insects using the example of the shrimp (TEMIFUGA)


There are major sustainability deficits in many value chains, especially in non-domestic food production. Since the shrimp is one of the most sought-after fishery and aquaculture products in Germany and massive negative environmental impacts occur during breeding, it was chosen as a demonstration object. Alternatives in the feed production of quality products such as shrimp are in demand in order to react sustainably to the problems of climate change with practical action. In addition to shrimp, the project was extended to include trials with crayfish, as they are very innovative and have high market potential. Domestic crayfish are a great option from a regional point of view and the water for keeping them does not have to be heated, so they are more resource-efficient.

Project Goal

The project goal in the planned funding period is to develop small, decentralized, highly automated micro-shrimp farms as technology demonstrator. These micro-shrimp farms are to be developed in form of a prototype shrimp cabinet combined with aquaponics. Thereby sustainable value chains in food production shall be created. By the efficient use of biogenic waste materials, high-quality regional food can be produced. The planned approach of the “Inno-Team” consists of a combination of automation technology, feed design, light and nutrient recipes. The unique combination of three innovative approaches, which are absolutely new in the Saxonian corporate and research culture, corresponds exactly to the Saxonian objective of promoting innovation.

The project is co-financed from funds of the European Union and the Free State of Saxony under the “InnoTeam” program of the Saxon Bank for Reconstruction (SAB).


madebymade GmbH, SMILE (Working group “Greenhub”)

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