Academic Startup Competition


The Academic Startup Competition (ACS) offers selected academic startups the chance to showcase their business projects to an audience of international investors and businesses. Succesful applicants are introduced to innovation ecosystems, and receive help in developing a network of peers, experts, and mentors.


Selected startup entrepreneurs participate in a unique series of workshops, promotion track and peer-to-peer learning to help the their founders to accelerate the growth and scalability of their business.

The competition itself consists of four stages. 

  1. Applications (open from August until September). 
  2. Pitchday (October): From all applications, 20 are selected to participate in the CES Unveiled program, including pitch training, workshops and matchmaking. These startups pitch in front of a jury. 
  3. Promotion tour (November): The jury selects the 10 best startups, which are highlighted individually through an online campaign.
  4. Incubator program (December): The academic entrepreneurs participate in a unique program led by the Consulate of San Francisco, to help them grow their business and build a community. This offers participants an opportunity to get in contact with customers, investors or experts, and gain insights into the US market. 
  5. ImpactFestival (January): During this second event day, entrepreneurs will meet with peer-entrepreneurs, and ACS alumni.

The Association of Universities in the Netherlands (VSNU), with support from the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.


Eligibility requirements:

  • An academic startup with the ambition and potential to be disruptive and scale internationally within the coming 5 years. In the case of biotechnology, biomedical or medical projects, the company needs to be on the market within 7 years.
  • A successful transfer from science/technology developed at a Dutch University, University Medical Center, KNAW or NWO institute;  
  • Maximum 3 years in incorporation; and
  • Registered at the Chamber of Commerce.

Academic Startup Competition Ambassadors contribute to the competition by spreading awareness about the competition through their networks. The ambassadors open potential doors for participants, provide feedback, give insights and assist throughout the competition.


Global Entrepreneurship Network
United States
Global Entrepreneurship Network
United States