Clean Cities ClimAccelerator at a glance

Clean Cities ClimAccelerator

What is Clean Cities ClimAccelerator?

Clean Citites ClimAccelerator is a demand-led acceleration program focused on climate impact in urban areas by cleantech commercialisation. The accelerator is run by Impact Hub Vienna and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and is directly linked to Deep Demonstration of Healthy, Clean Cities of EIT Climate-KIC. Both cities, Madrid and Vienna, as problem owners bring in their respectives portfolios. Startups will receive up to €25k of financial support, business coaching and mentoring, access to demand owners, investor matchmaking, events and training. The program will help you to scale your clean-tech business, accelerating you to enter the european market successfully and lever investment.

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

There is no catch. NO equity at any stage of the programme. If you are eligible to apply and succeed in convincing us that you have the best technology solution to tackle a climate problem, you can access this financial support as well as all other benefits on offer. Stage 1: €5k, Stage 2: €20k.

How long is the programme?

The programme consists of three fixed term phases, after which you leave the programme and become alumni. If you apply for and are successful in completing each stage, we will have supported you for a period of 9 months.

What are the three stages?

We understand that startups move at different paces and that some products take longer to build than others. Nevertheless we have a rough idea what the focus would be per stage. You are more than welcome to move faster. In these stages, different objectives and type of support are given: Stage 1 – VALIDATION - 5K The first stage helps entrepreneurs translate pro-climate inventions into viable business models. Start-ups will work developing and testing a business model using an appropriate business model assessment framework, and present a plan for validating that business model by real-world customers. Stage 2 – DEVELOPMENT 20K The second stage helps entrepreneurs translate business plans into concrete value propositions and to develop a Proof of Concept in collaboration with a demand owner. It provides evidence of the validation of the business model by real-world customers and develops and presents a plan for developing products/services to market-readiness and achieving market entry. Stage 3 – IMPACT The third and final stage helps entrepreneurs translate validated business models into first transactions with first customers/ beneficiaries and/ or investors. Start-ups will pursue market entry with core product/service in beachhead markets and achieve a meaningful number of commercial transactions that validate the core value proposition and/ or attract capital to progress into the next stage in the business development.

Who is behind this programme?

The accelerator is run by Impact Hub Vienna and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in partnership with EIT Climate KIC. Both institutions are specialized in high added value services for entrepreneurs and are well connected with the municipalities of their respective cities. Both cities, Madrid and Vienna, as problem owners bring in their respectives portfolios. Impact Hub Vienna and Universidad Politécnica de Madrid are the accelerator managers. We are two institutions specialized in high added value services for entrepreneurs. We support the launch of impactful startups through incubation, acceleration and investment programs together with partners such as corporates, investors networks, European institutions, etc. We have supported the creation of nearly 800 startups on an aggregated basis.

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

If you are selected for this accelerator programme you will receive up to 25.000 euros equity-free funding for your startup. Other acceleration services offered by the accelerator managers are:

  • 9-months Accelerator programme
  • 1-on-1 Business Coaching/Mentoring
  • Startup Workshops & Events
  • Working in “Living Labs” with Cities
Grants and activities will be offered in a three stages model. Each stage has a preceding selection process.

I am not totally sure that my startup fits in any of the topics/challenges of the acceleration programme. Can I apply in this case? What should I do?

If in doubt, we recommend applying to the programme. Application takes some time to fill a form, but a) that is a good investment considering the benefits of being admitted to the program and b) that is a good exercise to expose your potential and business model to an international jury of experts. In any case, we guarantee your application will go through a very thorough, professional and respectful internal evaluation process.

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, they identify and support innovation that helps society mitigate and adapt to climate change. They bring together partners in the worlds of business, academia, and the public and non-profit sectors to create networks of expertise, through which innovative products, services and systems can be developed, brought to market and scaled-up for impact.

What are Deep Demonstrations?

Deep Demonstrations are the large-scale projects through which EIT Climate-KIC offer its ‘systems innovation as a service’ model to Europe’s most ambitious ‘challenge owners’ – i.e. the mayors, government ministries, industries and 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 a testbed environment and a source of innovation and learning that can accelerate change elsewhere, and provide policy inputs.

What are Healthy, Clean Cities?

Cities face an enormous challenge in becoming resilient, healthy places to live while 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 portfolios of joined-up innovations capable of unlocking wholesale transformation across all city systems – from mobility to waste, from 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. Where can I find more information about EIT Climate-KIC? If you want to know more about EIT Climate-KIC, please check this website: Where can I find more information about Deep Demonstrations? If you want to know more about EIT Climate-KIC, please check this website:

Open call

Who can apply to this open call?

Clean Cities ClimAccelerator is open to SMEs (legal persons) participating on their own or SMEs in the process of incorporation (remember that if your project is selected to enter stage 1, at the end of the period the company must be legally incorporated). SMEs from all over the world may apply, but only SMEs legally established in any of the Member States of the European Union will be eligible for the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator. Non EU SMEs may apply, but in case they become a beneficiary of the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator they have to establish in one of the Eligible Countries (EU27). Moreover, to be eligible, your proposals have to fully comply with the eligibility criteria indicated on this website.

How many startups do you select each year?

We will select 30 startups in order to start in our acceleration program. This number of companies will receive stage 1 activities and grants and they will develop their business model. In stage 2, we will select 10-13 startups in order to validate their innovation and collaborate with challenge-owners. Our strategy is to concentrate in this small number of meticulously selected startups because it's necessary to work together with cities councils, corporations, etc. We will also do our best to help startups gaining visibility to engage early adopter customers in these pilot tests or trials. Additionally, this number of startups will receive other stage 2 activities and grants. Finally, in stage 3 we will select 5 startups in order to scale-up and prepare for investment. This number of startups will receive added-value activities. These activities will begin at the end of 2021 and will continue to be developed at the beginning of 2022.

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

The ideal project type would be high growth projects with an already existing market footprint and a complementary, solid and committed team. They will have to show market traction expressed in terms of users, potential customers or real clients (sales) as well as some pre-seed investment already raised from private or public investors. The ideal target projects are looking for additional support for scaling their business globally, looking to develop their business model in the next 12 months and, overall, with an important social impact. All these elements are desirable and recommended, but in any case they are mandatory. The more closely the projects match these criteria, the more likely they will be selected.

Is it important to show a project maturity?

The maturity level of the startup is considered in the selection process. This is an acceleration program, so we believe we can better help startups that are ideally 1-2 years in the market and away from having recurring customers. We want to support startups in earlier stages, with contacts, networking, training and mentoring and an approach to corporates, cities, public institutions, investors, etc. Startups that already have recurring customers and have access to second round investment they will normally be too mature for this acceleration program.

Can I apply if I don't have a company?

It would be recommended to apply as SMEs or as SMEs in the constitution process at this acceleration program because only SMEs participating on their own are eligible to receive grants. So if the startup has been incorporated and it´s pending the registration number, you can apply as an SME. We will ask you for the documentation to prove that you are an SME and to receive the grant at the end of stage 1 (only for selected startups). In any case, although you can apply as SME in the constitution process, if you are selected for stage 1, we will ask you to be incorporated as an SME before the end of stage 1.

Can one company submit two or more project ideas?

There is no limit to the number of applications you can submit. If you are working in two or more technologies or business models, you may consider submitting an application for each one of them. Please do not forget to fit with one of the exposed verticals/challenges.

If I am admitted to the program, will Clean Cities ClimAccelerator acquire any rights over my startup?

Clean Cities ClimAccelerator, their accelerator managers, public or private partners or EIT Climate-KIC as financial supporters do no not get any equity or any rights over the intellectual property of the startups in exchange of being admitted to the acceleration program.

Will you protect my intellectual property?

There is no need to because our application process does not require you to provide disclosed information or details of your proprietary technology. We will, however, ask for information that demonstrates your business progress, funding status, and market opportunity. This information is critical to help us evaluate your fit for the program.


What are the selection eligibility for startups?

We differentiate three main eligibility areas: About the team

  • The start-up is composed by a motivated team and the leadership team is already in place.
  • A dedicated team of minimum 2 persons is recommended.
  • Motivation and commitment to fully participate in the programme activities.
  • Fit with the EIT Climate-KIC programme: team will be asked to elaborate how they will engage and contribute to the Accelerator programme.
  • The team is capable of working in an English-speaking environment.
About the product
  • The product stage is ready for demonstration, initiating POCs/Alpha/Beta/pilot customers/paying customers.
  • A clear, scalable business idea
  • Have the potential to positively impact the environment through measurable indicators.
About the start-up
  • Have a breakthrough project related to new technology or service in healthy, clean cities with substantial climate impact.
  • A business model is already defined.
  • The start-up has already a legal entity not older than 5 years / Your company must be incorporated before entering the programme
  • Operating in one of the following verticals/challenges and fit with them: xxxxxx
  • Clear desire to globally scale the startup over the next 12 months.
  • Based in the European Union
Projects will have to show their potential to build new industrial value link-chains, as well as any partnership or commitment with a corporate or equivalent strategic partner.

What are the criteria for selecting the start-ups in order to participate in each stage?

Clean Cities ClimAccelerator program selection process has been designed to be fair, fun and interesting for the startups. Projects will be presented through the online application form. After completing it, those who meet the eligibility criteria will be evaluated by the jury. The specific criteria:

  • Alignment with EIT Climate-KIC 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 the issue
  • Viability: implementation of the proposed solution is feasible and there is a financial plan for financial sustainability
  • Team: team skills (based on the “more and more varied skills, the best”), founders’ dedication to the project (based on “the more committed dedication, the best”)
  • Climate Benefit
  • Technology and potential impact: the implementation of the proposed solution has the potential for a positive impact on its environment that can be clearly measured.
  • Scalability: implementation of the proposed solution can be scaled to benefit the lives of a greater number of people/companies. Based on the proven experience in the target market.
  • Traction in terms of stage of product development (based on “the more developed, the best”)
  • Long term perspective
  • Programme fit with exposed challenges/verticals: clear explanation about how implementation of the proposed solution will benefit one or more challenges

Does the country of origin of the startup matter in the selection process?

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

Who will evaluate the applications?

The pool of jury members who will evaluate the applications includes:

  • Public and private entities that are partners of this accelerator consortium
  • Entrepreneurs who have founded and scaled up innovative enterprises at European or global level in the sustainability areas
  • 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 for the accelerator programme?

Written applications are reviewed by evaluators based on a standardized set of criteria. As a first result, a pre-selected start-up will pitch in front of a dedicated selection committee: at least, 5 minutes pitch and 5 minutes Q&A. Online pitches will be reviewed by this jury (odd number of participants) and they will select the startups for entering in the accelerator programme. These steps will be replicated for each stage of the accelerator. That is, to start stage 1, this process will be followed, as well as to select the startups that will move from stage 1 to 2 or from stage 2 to 3.

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

We require not to submit any confidential or commercially sensitive information in the application process. In the final selection process, and in some specific cases, it may be necessary to share more information for a better understanding of the potential of a startup. In these cases, we will suggest signing a confidentiality agreement. On a different note, your personal data are protected by the Clean Cities ClimAcceleratorPrivacy Policy in compliance with the current EU legislation on personal data protection.


When do the selected startups receive the grants?

Startups selected will receive the grants at the end of each stage of the acceleration program (only for stages 1 and 2). The payment will be done in one instalment, subject to achievement of certain milestones. Startups must sign an agreement at the beginning of each stage so in order to receive the payment they must comply with the milestones that were set up. The dates might change depending on receiving the financing from EIT Climate-KIC (as financial supporter of this acceleration program).

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

To receive the grants in each stage, startups have to sign an agreement document which specifies the use of those funding. Personnel costs, expert services and other direct costs (travel, goods and services) can be included. Additionally, funds can be used as a travel budget to attend some accelerator activities (training, workshops, networking events, demo days and general business development activities). The timeframe to spend the money from grants is restricted by the acceleration program duration of the respective batch (exceptions may apply).

If I need funding for my startup and not training or mentoring, is this call adequate for me?

We believe we can better help startups that not only need funds but also need to consolidate their business model, good quality mentoring and training and proof of concept/pilot trials to demonstrate their innovations and potential. If you believe you are not in need of any coaching, training, developing prototypes with cities, you may rather look to other financial support schemes or to venture capital investors for your business project. In that case, we encourage you to do so!

What kind of services will the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator offer to startups?

Participate in our acceleration program is not just for the money! You would be able to participate in a 9-month programme, led by key world class professionals and entrepreneurs, which will include:

  • Connect with the European ecosystem of public institutions and private entities that are committed to clean, healthy cities
  • Specialized training in business models and sectorized in the field of cities
  • Mentoring and coaching by entities and institutions specialized in entrepreneurship and sustainability, providing continued support throughout the whole process
  • Possibility of pilot trials, prototypes, proof of concept with ecosystem organizations
  • Financial support: Up to 25.000 euros per selected start-up
  • Each start-up will receive as part of the training the Climate Impact Framework process
  • Get in touch with all the agents involved in the Deep Demonstration Healthy, Clean Cities: fifteen cities across Europe working to accelerate their transitions towards carbon neutrality and climate resilience
  • Networking events oriented to help selected startups in expanding their business and potential contacts
  • Be part of the EIT Climate-KIC network, the Europe's largest public-private innovation partnership focused on impact and cleantech ventures with more than 300 public and private partners, startups, entrepreneurs, alumni and investors in cities, climate change and sustainability
  • Visibility in channels and social networks / Global exposure
And much more! Therefore, if you want to learn from and work with the most recognized professionals within your sector, with first class mentoring support and interesting real financial support, Clean Cities ClimAccelerator is your programme.

How will Clean Cities ClimAccelerator monitor the progress of the startups?

In order to properly monitor the startups’ performance at each stage, an individual mentoring plan per startup will be defined at the beginning of the Program, together with the assigned mentor, establishing the KPIs to be evaluated in the different milestones and depending on the maturity of each selected startup.

My startup has already received funding from another source and/or we have submitted other requests for public/private support. Can we apply in this case?

Yes. We do not impose any kind of restrictions in that respect as long as the Working Plan and milestones for each stage are not negatively affected and you can attend all the acceleration programme activities.


Are all activities included in the acceleration process compulsory?

Yes, all activities included in the acceleration program are compulsory. You can only miss an activity as long as there is an important justification. This justification must prevent any member of the startup from attending the event/training/activity.

Are all startups/projects required to attend the training activities?

Yes, your startup/project is unique and so are your training needs. The accelerator team and mentors will help identify your needs and those of your team, providing the necessary tools, guidance, contacts and training that will ensure the experience is of maximum benefit to your project.

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

Yes, if your startup is admitted to the acceleration programme, you will have to sign an EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator Grant Award Letter. This document includes the details of the acceleration programme: duration, project description, authorized purposes to which costs may be allocated, grant payment periods, key deliverables, etc. Additionally, it includes terms and conditions related to reporting, intellectual property, confidentiality and data protection, branding and publicity, etc. This document will be sent only to the startups selected in each of the stages.

Who are the mentors? How are the mentors assigned?

Mentoring and coaching is one important feature of our accelerator programme. These people have been in charge of entrepreneurial and business projects, so they have wide experience and contacts. They may be available for the startup on request. They can provide technology support and market information and insights and, when possible, they would help startups to start a pilot or proof of concept with city councils. Mentors are appointed by the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator considering the needs of the startup business project. If the relationship with the mentors does not work, we kindly ask entrepreneurs to inform us and we would take care of it. We also encourage mentors to let us know if this situation occurs. In our program, mentoring must be a fulfilling experience for mentors and a valuable resource for startups.

What can I expect from a mentor?

Our mentors are experts in their field. They have wide experience, knowledge and interesting contacts for your startup. They will do their best to guide and advise you on how to develop your business and make your expansion and growth most successful. They will evaluate your business concept, product-market-fit, customer approach, team, financial and economic issues and they will challenge your project but always help you look at things from different angles. Thanks to the mentors, you will learn in a practical way and it will allow you to develop your project quickly. Our tip: spend as much time as possible with the mentors and coaches.

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

Our global network consists of many different people including researchers for R+D+I developments, city councils, international corporations, potential partners, clients, and European investors. Based on your individual needs and the current situation of your startup, mentors will introduce you to their contacts. They will evaluate if your company is ready to start these business conversations in the market. Likewise, they can provide help with your fundraising strategy or customer approach.

If my startup is admitted to the acceleration program, will I be requested to move to another country?

No, it is not necessary to move from where you are. Given the current health situation, stage 1 activities will be run in an online format. For the rest of stage 2 and 3 activities, it could only be required to attend some event or meeting organized by the accelerator managers in Vienna and Madrid. In this case, travel and accommodation expenses may be included as an eligible cost in the startup grants.

Are all activities included in the acceleration process covered by the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator?

Yes, all the activities included in the acceleration program are free of charge for selected startups. You will only have to pay travel and accommodation costs related to some in-situ events (you will be informed on time). In this case, these are eligible costs under justification/invoices and it will be covered as part of the grant.

Where will the Clean Cities ClimAccelerator results be published?

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


How is the program structured in case travels are not allowed in order to participate in face to face events due to the current Covid-19 situation?

We will be offering fully digital, virtual workshops, networking events and demo days that can be joined via video-calls and networking tools. For stage 1 (two months), we currently plan with 100% remote accessibility for all input sessions, workshops and events.

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

Of course! After the program, you will be part of our Alumni Network and the EIT Climate-KIC Community. We will support each other with ongoing knowledge, networking, open events and info exchange. Your fellow startups, mentors and the acceleration team will remain close to you and your company. We will keep promoting your development and successes. We love keeping our alumni close and hearing from them.

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