Home | Latest updates | Why Berlin is the place to be for circular economy ventures

Why Berlin is the place to be for circular economy ventures

In Berlin – a place that continually reinvents itself – another seismic change is beginning to get underway. The city with so many strings to its bow, not least its melting pot of creative inhabitants, state-of-the-art innovations and alternative culture, is spawning a new generation of entrepreneurs determined to drive the transformation towards a circular economy.

A transition to circularity means a switch from the ‘take-make-waste’ model that our current consumption habits rest upon, to one in which resources are reduced, reused, and repurposed in an endless circular loop. It’s a change that we at Impact Hub Berlin – since beginning dedicated work on our circular economy ecosystem in recent years, and having now opened our new circularity-focused space – take a keen interest in.

Berlin City

Taking circularity seriously

Berlin's local government already supports initiatives like the Circular City Challenge, which promotes innovative approaches to the circular economy. The Institute for Futures Studies and Ecornet Berlin also hope to contribute to Berlin's development into a circular city. Another key player is Circular Berlin, whose work includes advising the city’s authorities, community building, and developing knowledge, specifically in industries like construction, food, fashion, and materials. And Cradle to Cradle are another local pioneer bringing together businesses, science, politics and civil society to promote a circular system and educate others on the topic.

Academic institutions are also getting in on the action. The Department of Circular Economy and Recycling Technology at Technische Universität Berlin is not the only university department you can find working on the circular economy. Freie Universität has a working area on circular economy and mechanical engineering, and Humboldt Universität also offers lectures on the topic.

Being home to conferences like the Circular Futures Festival and the Zero Waste Festival Berlin, combined with a rich fabric of innovation-driven entrepreneurs, is transforming Berlin into a magnet for innovative, circularity-focused minds from around the world. In the month of May 2022 alone, you’ll find ten international conferences taking place in Berlin on topics such as sustainable agriculture, zero energy buildings, aquaculture management, sustainable clothing and energy sustainability. The city offers a range of accelerators, incubators and communities to support you in building your circular business.

Berlin's startup-friendly environment

As one of Europe’s most stable economies, Germany is an excellent choice when setting up a company. The prestigious quality standards ensured by government regulations furthermore ensure a deep level of trust and value for startups founded here. Berlin is a place for experimentation, trial and error, and passionate innovators who want to drive ground-breaking innovations – somewhere your dream of becoming an impact entrepreneur can feasibly become a reality. The city's location gives it good access to both Western and Eastern Europe and international appeal, and the reputation it has for attracting both young and ambitious graduates, as well as more seasoned professionals across a range of industries, make it an even more suitable place to grow a business.

The German capital ranks at the forefront in terms of risk investments in Europe, providing various financing opportunities from regional and federal governments, as well as from the European Union, and national and international venture capitalists (VCs). In 2021 alone, €10.5 billion were invested in Berlin startups, which amounts to around 60% of the venture capital invested in all of Germany. In total, 291 venture capital investors can be found in Berlin, with Cherry Ventures and Earlybird ranking among the leading VCs. There are to date 17 Berlin unicorns, such as Zalando, N26, SoundCloud, Delivery Hero and HelloFresh. Others like Flix Mobility, Grover, Infarm and Tier Mobility have built their success on sustainability credentials (and might better be classed as zebras).

Impact investing has also developed into a dynamic growth market with billions of investments. The market in Germany currently comprises approximately €2.9 billion, with loans from banks given for impact investments adding up to €831 million. With more than 3,000 Berlin startups founded in the past couple of years, the city has long been cited as Europe’s Silicon Valley. But perhaps Seaweed Valley could be becoming its more sustainable alter-ego?

In combination, the boom in interest in the circular economy among players across the corporate, governmental and entrepreneurial sectors in Berlin, alongside the city’s established reputation for nurturing high potential startups, make it hard to beat as a place to found your circular venture. If you’re interested in starting something circular, make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to hear when our Circular Together programme – supported by the Berlin Senate and the European Union – reopens for applications, or join one of our upcoming events.

Written by Carolin Hildebrandt.