Clean Cities ClimAccelerator at a glance

Clean Cities ClimAccelerator

What is Clean Cities ClimAccelerator?

Clean Cities ClimAccelerator is a demand-driven acceleration program focusing on climate impact in urban areas and the commercialization of clean technology (cleantech). The accelerator is run by Impact Hub Vienna and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and is directly linked to EIT Climate-KIC’s Deep Demonstration of Healthy, Clean Cities. As the “City Hosts,” both Madrid and Vienna bring in their respective portfolio of innovations as developed through their participation with the Deep Demonstration project. These portfolios serve as the basis for the specific challenges of the accelerator. Start-ups will receive up to €25k of financial support, business coaching and mentoring, access to “challenge owners”, matchmaking with investors, events, and training. The program will help start-ups scale their cleantech businesses, accelerate a successful entry into the European market, and leverage investment.

Grant money with no strings attached? What’s the catch?

There is no catch! You do NOT need equity at any stage of this program. If you are eligible to apply and succeed in convincing us that you have the best technology solution to tackle a climate problem, you will get access to financial support as well as the other benefits of this program. Stage 1: €5k; Stage 2: €20k.

How long is the program?

The program consists of three fixed phases, after which you will become a program alumni. If you apply for and successfully complete each stage, you will receive a total of nine months of support.

What are the three stages?

We understand that start-ups move at different speeds and that some products take longer to develop than others. Nevertheless, each stage has a defined focus with specific objectives and types of provided support: (Note: It’s also ok if your start-up moves more quickly through each stage.) Stage 1 – VALIDATION, 5K The first stage helps entrepreneurs translate pro-climate innovations into viable business models. Start-ups will develop and test a business model using an appropriate business model assessment framework, and present a plan for validating that business model with real-world customers. Stage 2 – DEVELOPMENT, 20K The second stage helps entrepreneurs translate their business plans into concrete value propositions and to develop a ‘proof of concept' in collaboration with a ‘challenge owner’. This stage allows start-ups to gain experience with real-world customers and gather evidence on the validity of their business model. Start-ups can also refine their plans to make their products or services market-ready and prepare for a successful entry into the market. Stage 3 – IMPACT The third and final stage helps start-ups translate validated business models into first transactions with customers, beneficiaries, and/or investors. Start-ups will pursue opportunities to enter initial markets with their core products or services. The goal is to achieve a meaningful number of commercial transactions that validate the core value proposition and/or attract the capital necessary to progress to the next stage of business development.

Who is behind this program?

The accelerator is managed by Impact Hub Vienna (IHV) and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in partnership with EIT Climate KIC. IHV and UPM are both specialized in providing value-added services to entrepreneurs and start-ups. A key focus is supporting the launch of impactful start-ups through incubation, acceleration and investment programs together with partners such as corporates, investors networks, European institutions, etc. Altogether, the two organizations have supported nearly 800 start-ups.
IHV and UPM are well connected with the local governments and stakeholders of their respective cities. The cities of Madrid and Vienna, each with their own portfolio of innovations, as developed in the context of EIT Climate-KIC’s Deep Demonstrations projects.

Why should I participate in the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator open call?

If you are selected for this accelerator program, you could receive up to 25,000 euros, equity-free, for your start-up. Other services offered by the program include: 9-month accelerator program
1-on-1 business coaching and mentoring
Start-up workshops & events
Grants and activities will be offered in a three-stage model. Each stage has its own selection process.

I am not sure that my start-up fits any of the topics/challenges in this accelerator program. Can I still apply? What should I do?

Even if you are not sure, we still recommend that you apply for the program. Although the application process takes time, there are some immediate benefits: If you are accepted, the benefits of being part of the program are worth the time invested in the application. This is an excellent opportunity to present your (potential) business model to an international jury of experts. Regardless of the eventual outcome, we guarantee that your application will be evaluated in a thorough, professional, and respectful manner.

EIT Climate-KIC

What is EIT Climate-KIC?

EIT Climate-KIC is a Knowledge and Innovation Community (KIC), working to accelerate the transition to a zero-carbon, climate-resilient society. Supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology, EIT Climate-KIC identifies and supports innovations that help society mitigate and adapt to climate change. It also brings together partners from the business, academic, non-profit, and public sectors to create networks of expertise. These networks can facilitate the development of innovative products, services and systems, and support them as they are brought to market and scaled-up for impact.

What are Deep Demonstrations?

Deep Demonstrations of Healthy, Clean Cities are the large-scale projects through which EIT Climate-KIC offers its ‘systems innovation as a service’ model to Europe’s most ambitious ‘challenge owners’—the mayors, government ministries, industries, community leaders, and funders who have the means and mandate to tackle Europe’s biggest climate change challenges. EIT Climate-KIC’s eight Deep Demonstration projects act as test environments to develop innovations and lessons-learned that can inform policy and accelerate change elsewhere.

What are Healthy, Clean Cities?

Cities face enormous challenges to become resilient, healthy places to live, while also reaching net-zero emissions in just a few short years. EIT Climate-KIC is working with 15 of the most ambitious mayors, municipalities and city communities in Europe to design strategic portfolios of innovations capable of unlocking comprehensive transformation across all city systems—from mobility to waste, energy to health, and the built environment. The first cohort of partners includes Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Kraków, Križevci, Leuven, Madrid, Malmö, Maribor, Milan, Niš, Orléans, Sarajevo, Skopje, and Vienna. If you want to find out more about EIT Climate-KIC, please visit: If you want to find out more about Deep Demonstrations, please visit:

Open call

Who can apply to this open call?

Clean Cities ClimAccelerator is open to small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs; must be a legal person or entity) participating on their own or SMEs in the process of incorporation. If your project is selected for Stage 1, the company must be legally incorporated by the end of that stage. Only SMEs that are legally established in one or more of the EU member states will be eligible for the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator. SMEs from the rest of the world (i.e. outside of the EU) may apply, but if they are selected to participate in the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator, they must legally establish their company in one of the EU member states. All proposals must fully comply with the eligibility criteria described on this website.

How many start-ups will be selected each year?

We will select 30 start-ups to participate in Stage 1 of our acceleration program. These 30 companies will participate in all Stage 1 activities, receive a €5k grant, and develop their business models. For Stage 2, we will select 10-13 start-ups. These companies will validate their innovation and collaborate with challenge-owners. These start-ups will receive a €20k grant and participate in the activities designed for this stage. We made a strategic decision to concentrate on a small number of meticulously selected start-ups for this stage, because it involves intensive work collaboration with city councils, corporations, etc. We will also help start-ups gain visibility so that they can engage early adopter customers in their pilot tests or trials. Finally, five start-ups will be selected for Stage 3. These companies will receive support to scale-up and prepare for investors, in addition to other activities.

What type of projects is the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator looking for?

Ideal projects already have a market presence and a solid and committed team, and have high-growth potential. They must show market traction—expressed in terms of, i.e., users, potential customers, or real clients (sales)—as well as some pre-seed investment already raised from private or public investors. Ideal projects are seeking additional support to: scale their business globally, develop their business model over the next 12 months, and, most importantly, have a significant social / environmental impact. The more closely a project matches these criteria, the more likely it will be selected.

Is it important to show project maturity?

One of the selection criteria is the maturity level of the start-up. As this is an acceleration program, we believe we can best support start-ups that have already been ca. 1-2 years on the market, but do not yet have recurring customers. We support these early-stage start-ups with contacts, networking, training and mentoring, and access to corporations, cities, public institutions, investors, etc. Start-ups that already have recurring customers and access to second round investment will typically be too mature for this acceleration program.

Can I apply if our start-up is not yet a legal company?

We recommended applying as either an SME or an SME that is in the incorporation process, as only independently operating SMEs are eligible to receive grants under this program. That means, if your start-up has been incorporated, but you are still waiting for the registration number, you can already apply as an SME. If your company is still in the incorporation process when you apply and you are selected for Stage 1, we ask that the process be completed before the end of Stage 1. All selected participants must provide documentation to prove the legal status of their SMEs before they will be eligible to receive grant money at the end of Stage 1.

Can one company submit two or more project ideas?

There is no limit to the number of project ideas you can submit. If you are working on two or more technologies or business models, you can submit a separate application for each of them. Please do not forget that each project idea must fit one of the challenges.

If I am selected for the program, will Clean Cities ClimAccelerator acquire any rights over my start-up?

The Clean Cities ClimAccelerator, the accelerator managers, public or private partners, and EIT Climate-KIC as the financial supporter do no not get any equity or rights over the intellectual property of the start-ups in exchange for participating in the acceleration program.

Will you protect my intellectual property?

Our application process does not require you to disclose information or details of your proprietary technology, thus no additional protection for intellectual property are necessary. We will, however, ask for information that demonstrates your business’ progress, funding status, and market opportunities. This information is critical to help us evaluate your fit for the program.


What are the eligibility requirements for start-ups?

There are three main areas of eligibility requirements: The Team The start-up is composed of a motivated team and the leadership team is already in place.
A dedicated team with a minimum of 2 people is recommended.
Motivation and commitment to fully participate in program activities.
Fit with the EIT Climate-KIC program: Your team will be asked to describe how it will engage with and contribute to the accelerator program.
The team can work in an English-speaking environment.
The Product or Service The product is at a stage where it is ready for demonstration; there is an initial proof of concept/Alpha/Beta/pilot customers/paying customers, etc..
There is a clear, scalable business idea.
The product has the potential to positively impact the environment; there are measurable indicators.
The Start-up The start-up has a breakthrough project related to a new technology or service in healthy, clean cities and can make a substantial environmental impact.
A business model is already defined.
The start-up has functioned as a legal entity for no more than five years. The start-up must be incorporated or in the process of in corporation before joining the program.
The start-up fits with and/or operates in one of the challenge areas.
There is a clear desire to scale the start-up to a global level over the next 12 months.
The start-up is based in the European Union.
Projects will have to show their potential to build new links in industrial value-chains, and that they are open to entering into partnerships or commitments with a corporate or other strategic partner.

What are the criteria for selecting the start-ups?

The program selection process for the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator was designed to be fair, fun, and interesting for the applicants. Start-ups will introduce their project(s) using the online application form. From the submitted applications, those that meet the eligibility criteria will be evaluated by a jury. Short-listed candidates will then pitch their project in front of a jury of experts.
Selection criteria: Alignment with EIT Climate-KIC’s new strategy, Impact Goals & Deep Demonstrations.
Innovativeness: Implementation of the proposed solution includes a new technology, a new application of technology, a new business model, or a new process for resolving an issue.
Viability: Implementation of the proposed solution is feasible and there is a financial plan demonstrating financial sustainability.
Team: Team skills (based on the idea, “the more, and more varied, the better”); founders’ dedication to the project (based on the idea, “the more commitment, the better”).
Benefit for the climate / environment.
Technology and potential impact: The implementation of the proposed solution has the potential to make a positive, measurable impact on the environment.
Scalability: The implementation of the proposed solution can be scaled to benefit the lives of a greater number of people/companies. This should be based on proven experiences in the target market.
Traction: In terms of the product development stage (based on the idea, “the further developed, the better”).
Long-term perspective.
Fit with program challenges: Clear explanation about how implementation of the proposed solution will respond to one or more of the challenges.

Does the country of origin of the start-up matter in the selection process?

No, we do not give preference to start-ups from any particular country in the European Union.

Who will evaluate the applications?

The jury members evaluating the applications include: Public and private entities that are partners of the accelerator;
Entrepreneurs who have founded and scaled up innovative enterprises in the area of sustainability at the European or global level;
Investors (including those affiliated with banks, venture capitalists, business angels, crowd-funders, etc.);
Experts involved in the innovation ecosystem (universities, innovation hubs, etc.).

What are the steps in the selection process?

Applications will be reviewed by evaluators based on a standardized set of criteria. Next, short-listed start-ups will pitch in front of a jury: each start-up will have at least 5 minutes to pitch and 5 minutes for Q&A. Online pitches will also be reviewed by the jury (odd number of participants). The jury will then select which start-ups will be invited to participate in the accelerator program. These steps will be replicated at each stage of the accelerator. That means that the selection process for Stage 1 will be repeated to see which start-ups will continue on to Stage 2. From the pool of Stage 2 participants, the process will be repeated to see which start-ups move on to Stage 3.

Does the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator guarantee the confidentiality of the information provided in the application process?

We do not require start-ups to submit any confidential or commercially-sensitive information during the application process. In the final selection phase (and in some specific cases), it may be necessary for an applicant to provide additional information so that we can get a better understanding of the start-up’s potential. In these cases, we recommend using a confidentiality agreement. With regards to your personal data, the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator Privacy Policy describes how we protect your data in compliance with current EU legislation on personal data protectio


When do the selected start-ups receive their grants?

Selected start-ups will receive their grants at the end of each stage of the acceleration program (Stages 1 and 2 only). Start-ups must sign an agreement at the beginning of each stage, stating that the funding will only be paid out once the agreed upon milestones are met. The payment will be made in one installment, subject to the achievement of the specified milestones. The exact payment dates will be determined together with the EIT Climate-KIC (the financial supporter of this acceleration program).

Are there any restrictions on when and what the grant funding can be used?

To receive the grants in Stage 1 and 2, start-ups have to sign an agreement that specifies the use of that funding. Personnel costs, expert services, and other direct costs (travel, goods and services) can be included. Funds can also be used for travel to attend accelerator activities (training, workshops, networking events, demo days, and general business development activities). The timeframe to spend the grant money is restricted to the duration of the acceleration program in which your start-up is participating (exceptions may apply).

If I need funding for my start-up, but not training or mentoring, is this call right for me?

We believe that we can best help start-ups that not only need funds, but also support in consolidating their business model, good quality mentoring and training, and proof of concept/pilot trials to demonstrate the potential of their innovations. If you do not currently need these kinds of support, then we encourage you to look for other financial programs or venture capital investors for your business project.

What kind of services does the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator offer to start-ups?

Participation in our acceleration program is about more than just money. This 9-month program is led by world-class professionals and entrepreneurs, and offers accepted start-ups a variety of support services:
Connections with an ecosystem of public institutions and private entities in Europe that are committed to clean, healthy cities;
Specialized training in business models, with a focus on urban development;
Mentoring and coaching from entities and institutions specialized in entrepreneurship and sustainability; continued support throughout the entire process;
Opportunities to run pilot trials, try out prototypes, test proofs of concept, etc., with relevant organizations;
Financial support of up to 25,000 euros per selected start-up;
Start-ups will receive training in the Climate Impact Framework process;
Contact with the stakeholders involved in the Deep Demonstration Healthy, Clean Cities: 15 cities across Europe working to accelerate their transitions towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience;
Networking events to help selected start-ups expand their business and potential contacts;
Become part of the EIT Climate-KIC network, Europe's largest public-private innovation partnership focused on impact and cleantech ventures. The network consists of more than 300 public and private partners, start-ups, entrepreneurs, alumni, and investors in cities, climate change, and sustainability;
Visibility in diverse communication channels and social networks with global exposure.
And this is only the beginning! If you want to learn from and work with highly recognized professionals in the sector, while receiving first-class mentoring and substantial financial support, Clean Cities ClimAccelerator is for you.

How will Clean Cities ClimAccelerator monitor the progress of the start-ups?

In order to properly monitor a start-up’s performance in each stage, an individual Working Plan for each start-up will be defined together with the assigned mentor at the beginning of the program. The plan will include measurable KPIs that will then be used to evaluate progress at each milestone. The maturity of each start-up will be taken into consideration during this process.

My start-up has already received funding from another source and/or we have submitted other requests for public/private support. Can we still apply?

Yes. In this respect, there are no restrictions as long as the agreed upon Working Plan and milestones for each stage are not negatively affected, and you can attend all of our program’s activities.


Are all activities included in the acceleration program compulsory?

Yes, all activities included in the acceleration program are compulsory. Your start-up can only miss an activity if there is a very important reason, which prevents all members of your team from attending the event/training/activity.

Are all start-ups/projects required to attend the training activities?

Yes. Your start-up/project is unique and so are your training needs. The accelerator managers and mentors will help you to identify your team’s needs and provide you with the necessary tools, guidance, contacts, and training to ensure that your experience with this accelerator program is of maximum benefit to your project. Thus, it is very much in your own interest to ensure that you can attend all training activities.

If my start-up is admitted to the accelerator program, will I have to sign a formal agreement with EIT Climate-KIC? What is the content of that agreement?

Yes, if your start-up is admitted to the accelerator program, you will have to sign an EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator Grant Award Letter. This document covers all aspects of your participation in the program: duration, project description, authorized purposes to which costs may be allocated, grant payment periods, key deliverables, etc. Additionally, it includes the terms and conditions related to reporting, intellectual property, confidentiality and data protection, branding and publicity, etc. Start-ups will only have to sign this agreement after they have been selected for a specific stage of the program.

Who are the mentors? How are the mentors assigned?

Mentoring and coaching is an important feature of our accelerator program. Mentors are professionals who have run entrepreneurial and business projects, and have a wide range of experience and contacts. They may be available for the start-up on request. They can provide technological support, market information and insights, and, when possible, help start-ups to launch a pilot or proof of concept with the city council. The Clean Cities ClimAccelerator assigns mentors based on the needs of the start-up and its business project. If a mentoring relationship does not work out, we kindly ask entrepreneurs or mentors to inform us so that we can make new arrangements. It is very important to us that this is a fulfilling experience for mentors and a valuable resource for start-ups.

What can I expect from a mentor?

Our mentors are experts in their fields. They have a wide range of experience, knowledge, and potentially useful contacts for your start-up. They will do their best to guide and advise you on how to develop your business and successfully manage your expansion and growth. They will evaluate your business concept, product-market fit, customer approach, team, and financial and economic issues. They will also challenge your project and help you to look at things from different angles. Working with mentors will help you learn in a practical way and develop your project more quickly. Our tip: Spend as much time as possible with your mentor!

Will the mentors introduce us to potential clients and investors in their network?

The extended network of this accelerator consists of many diversely qualified individuals, including researchers for R+D+I, city council members, representatives from international corporations, potential partners and clients, and European investors. After evaluating your start-up’s readiness, mentors will introduce you to their contacts based on your individual needs and the current situation of your start-up. Likewise, they can also help you with your fundraising strategy or customer approach.

If my start-up is admitted to the accelerator program, will I be requested to move to another country?

No, it is not necessary to move from where you currently reside. Given the current pandemic situation, Stage 1 activities will be run in an online format. For some Stage 2 and 3 activities, it may be necessary to attend some events or meetings in Vienna and/or Madrid. In this case, travel and accommodation expenses can be taken from the start-up’s grant(s).

Are all activities organized by the acceleration program covered by the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator?

Yes, all activities of the acceleration program are free-of-charge for participating start-ups. You will only have to pay travel and accommodation costs for those events that require in-person attendance. You will be informed of such events ahead of time. In this case, these costs can be taken from your grant money (appropriate documentation of the expenses will be required).

Where will the results of the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator be published?

The results for applicants of the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator will be notified by email. A list of start-ups will be made available on the ClimAccelerator Healthy, Clean Cities call page too.


How will the program activities work if travel is restricted due to COVID?

We will be offering fully virtual workshops, networking events, and demo days that can be joined via video-call and online networking tools. For Stage 1 (two months), we are currently planning digital formats for all input sessions, workshops, and events.

Can I stay in contact with the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator even after the program has ended?

Of course! We make it a point to keep our alumni close and encourage ongoing communication. After the program, you will be part of our alumni network and the EIT Climate-KIC Community. You and your fellow start-ups, mentors, and the acceleration team will continue to support each other with an ongoing exchange of knowledge and information, networking, and open events. We will also continue to promote your development and success.

Still have questions?

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