“Jugend gründet” (Young Founders) is an online competition aimed at fostering entrepreneurial spirit and creating enthusiasm for hi-tech in schools. Originally launched by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, it is open to schoolgoers throughout Germany. In 2006/7 the competition was organized and managed for the fourth time by the Steinbeis Transfer Center Business Development in Pforzheim.
For a whole academic year, broken down into two halves, schoolchildren work on their very own business idea and a complete business plan for a hi-tech product. They then have to found their own virtual company. Teams consist of up to six members. “Young people learn how to develop creative thinking on the one hand and entrepreneurial business skills on the other”, explains Barbara Burkhardt-Reich from the Steinbeis Transfer Center.
Their creativity and expertise certainly showed: the business plans ranged from medicines made from the poison of sea slugs to generating electricity from the weight of people walking over steel plates placed under floors. The 10 best teams from the 1200 entrants were invited to the final in Wolfsburg at the end of July to take part in a “Young Founders” investor fair. Their brief: sell their product idea to an expert jury made up of people from business, universities, the media and banks.
The winning team, selected for its creativity, the presentation and the underlying product idea, was Optilux from the Hansenberg boarding school in Geisenheim (Hesse). The schoolboys developed a streetlamp system based on LED technology that uses motion detectors and intelligent computer links between lamps to make sure that streets and roads are only illuminated when needed by traffic. The winning team won a trip to Silicon Valley paid for by Steinbeis to witness hi-tech industry first hand. Although only one team took home the first prize, all of the school children thrived on the experience of participating in the final and the year-long competition.
The “Jugend grundet“ education initiative is sponsored by Steinbeis, Lenovo, Palm Deutschland, Vodafone D2, METRO GROUP, Volkswagen, Phaeno Experimentierlandschaft, Deutsche Bahn, MLP, Westermann Publishing Group und vdi-nachrichten.