Institute of Economic and Cultural Geography Research Research projects
Business Plan-Competitions: Effects on Award Winners and Entrepreneurial Eco-Systems in Lower Saxony.

Business Plan-Competitions: Effects on Award Winners and Entrepreneurial Eco-Systems in Lower Saxony.

Led by:  Prof. Dr. Rolf Sternberg
Team:  Lennard Stolz
Year:  2022
Funding:  Förderprogramm Pro*Niedersachsen des Niedersächsischen Ministeriums für Wissenschaft und Kultur
Duration:  2019 - 2022
Is Finished:  yes


New business formations are an important determinant of the economic development in countries and regions. In the past decades an intensive political and scientific discussion on the topic of entrepreneurship was held. In particular on the political level there are attempts to strengthen local entrepreneurship and therefore the local economic structure. One way of implementing that policy of entrepreneurship are business plan competitions, which are often funded by public institutions (and in cooperation with the private sector). Many of these competitions underlie an explicit regional focus, e.g. some competitions may allow participants from across Germany, but award only local participants.

Yet, there is little known about the impacts of such business plan competitions, the presented ideas and the award winners. The gaps in research are especially related to the role of the competitions and the participants in so-called entrepreneurial ecosystems (EES). This approach of entrepreneurial ecosystems is quite recent and quickly became popular in entrepreneurship research and policy. The approach emphasizes that the development of new business formations and their regional effects are to be understood systemically. Many system elements such as financing or local politics may influence each other and help local new ventures to develop, survive or disappear from the market. Very little is known about the empirics of such entrepreneurial ecosystems. Not yet analyzed is the role of business plan competitions in entrepreneurial ecosystems. The project aims to close this research gap.

Funded by the promotional program Pro*Niedersachsen of the ministry for economiy and cultures Lower Saxony, the research project will analyze the impacts of business plan competitions in Lower Saxony in EES and conduct a national comparison. For the first time a longitudinal analysis of award winners at business plan competitions will be undertaken.

The project is pursuing four goals:

  1. Examining whether the competitions fulfill the implicitly assumed curative function, hence support the participants in improving their idea – or abandon it (Participation vs. non-Participation).
  2. Analyzing the selection function of the competitions empirically (awarded vs. non-awarded participants).
  3. Pursuing a rating of Lower Saxony’s competitions and award winners as a benchmark to the other german competitions (impact in lower Saxony vs. Impact in other federal states).
  4. Examining which role business plan competitions play within entrepreneurial ecosystems in selected regions and how one can optimize those influences for local foundations.


  • Stolz, L. (2023): Start-up competitions as anchor events in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: first findings from two German regions. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 105:1, 38-57, DOI: 10.1080/04353684.2022.2052739
  • Stolz, L. (2022): Enabling entrepreneurship at the regional level: An analysis of entrepreneurial ecosystems and their elements using a meta-analysis and an in-depth study of start-up competitions. Hannover : Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Universität, Diss., IX, 250 S. DOI: 10.15488/12861
  • Stolz, L.; Sternberg, R. (2022): Do the Winners Really Take It all? Exploring Entrepreneurial Learning in Start-Up Competitions. Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy, 5(4), 599-626. DOI: 10.1177/25151274211068191
  • Stolz, L. (2020): Startup Competitions and their Role in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: A Conceptual Attempt. Zeitschrift Für Wirtschaftsgeographie, 64(4), 233–246. DOI: 10.1515/zfw-2020-0009

Presentations to Scientific Audiences

  • Sternberg, R.: Diagnostics, monitoring and evaluation. Discussant contribution. OECD Workshop on Entrepreneurial Ecoysystem Benchmark (online). Paris, 13.12.2023.
  • Sternberg, R.: Entrepreneurial eco-systemsstrengths and weaknesses from a research perspective. Contribution to the Roundtable Discussion on “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems”. 61st ERSA Conference. Pécs (Ungarn), 25.8.2022.
  • Stolz, L.; Queißner, M.; Weiss, M.: A Meta-Analysis of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems and their Effects on Entrepreneurial Activity. 82nd Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management (4-10 August), Seattle, USA and Virtual Plattform, 04.08.2022.
  • Stolz, L.; Queißner, M.: Synthesizing the Evidence on Entrepreneurial Contexts: A Meta-Analysis of Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. 6th Geography of Innovation Conference (GEOINNO 2022). Bocconi University, Milan, 05.07.2022.
  • Stolz, L.: Die Rolle von Gründungswettbewerben in Gründungsökosystemen. "Gründungsupdate" Podcast des RKW-Kompetenzzentrum, 27.04.2022. Available at:
  • Stolz, L.; Sternberg, R.: Do the Winners really take it all? Exploring Entrepreneurial Learning in Start-up Competitions. 11th Summer Conference in Regional Science of the Gesellschaft für Regionalforschung (GfR). Braunschweig, 02.07.2021.
  • Stolz, L.: Start-up Competitions as Anchor Events in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems? First Indications from Two German Regions. AK Industriegeographie 2020. Online. 06.11.2020.
  • Stolz, L.: Startup Competitions and their Role in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems: A Conceptual Attempt. 24. G-Forum. Online. 02.10.2020
  • Stolz, L.: Zur Rolle von Gründungswettbewerben in Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. AK Industriegeographie, Naurod-Niedernhausen (Germany), 08.11.2019.
  • Sternberg, R.: Potentials of interdisciplinary perspectives on Entrepreneurial Ecosystems. Symposium "Temporal dynamics in entrepreneurial ecosystems", Hannover, 2.7.2019.