Innovation Challenge

Innovation Challenge

Calls for Sustainable Chemistry Innovations

The annual ISC3 Innovation Challenge is thematically oriented along a once-per-year selected focus topic. Start-ups globally are invited to contend for a total of 25,000 EUR in prize money with their innovative ideas that are revolving around the ongoing year’s focus topic.
They are assessed by a jury of international experts who score the Start-ups and choose the finalists. The finalists’ pitches and the award ceremony take place in autumn/winter.

The winners are awarded money prizes in three categories:

  • Best Social Impact for Start-ups that have a noteworthy impact on their community.
  • Best Regional Impact for Start-ups with an innovative solution to solving an issue that is particularly relevant to their region.
  • The overall Winner of our Innovation Challenge.

All the finalists receive a customized support of the ISC3 Global Start-up Service in form of pitch trainings and have the possibility to be featured as Start-up of the Month.

A banner announcing the topic of the ISC3 Innovation Challenge on Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture showing people on fields, biogas tanks and a tractor

Finalists Chosen

The ISC3 has selected 8 finalists who will compete for the Innovation Challenge 2023 Award at the ISC3 Investor Forum on September 28th 2023, live in Bonn, Germany. For more information please see our press release.

We would like to also express our deepest gratitude to our esteemed international jury of experts for their valuable time and collaboration in making this possible.

ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2023 - Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture

First application round is over!

Thanks to all applicants! We have received a large number of applications from all around the world. The eligible applicants for the second stage submissions have been informed and our international jury of experts is waiting for their innovative solutions!

The next deadlines:

Deadline for second stage submission: May 31st, 2023, 23:59:59 CEST
Jury Evaluation: June 1st – July 9th, 2023
Finalist announcements: after July 15th, 2023
Finalist pitch training: End of July to September 2023
Innovation Challenge Award Ceremony: September 28th, 2023 in the frame of the upcoming ISC3 Investor Forum 2023 live in Bonn, Germany

Further details will be announced here in due time. In the meantime check our upcoming events and our Global Start-up Service.

The ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2023 has the topic "Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture" !

We are looking for Innovators and their Sustainable Chemistry solutions that benefit Agriculture!
You are adressing this topic with your Start-up? Then apply for the next ISC3 Innovation Challenge and fill out the application form below.

The current fourth Innovation Challenge addresses innovators developing solutions in the field of Sustainable Chemistry and Agriculture with the following subtopics:

  • Fertilizers: efficient use of organic and inorganic fertilizers; avoidance of over-fertilization with potassium, nitrogen and phosphorus; supply and use of alternative fertilizers and further solutions for replenishing soil fertility and maintaining or re-establishing soil health (incl. CO2 sequestration)
  • Nutrient recovery in soil, plants, feedstocks, products, etc. (such as secondary nutrients in plants, e.g.)
  • Precision farming: use of digitalisation and automation for resource efficient farming; point application of fertilizers, pesticides, and water
  • Crop protection: production and use of natural biocides /biopesticides; benign substitutes for pesticides; biocide leasing as business model
  • Water: Intelligent water supply; water harvesting, avoidance of water contamination with fertilizers
  • Renewable energy and agriculture: use for desalination to provide fresh water; ammonia synthesis with green hydrogen
  • Valorisation of agricultural waste: circularity approaches in agriculture
  • Shelf-life extension solutions for fruits, vegetables, seeds, etc.
  • Solutions fostering reduced externalized costs (biodiversity loss, drinking water pollution, soil compaction, erosion, etc.)

Applications are organized in two stages and open from December 15th, 2023; 0:00 a.m. CET.
First stage application deadline by April 3rd, 2023, second stage application deadline by May 31st, 2023; 0:00 a.m. CEST.

Innovations targeting the development of genetically modified seeds, GMO crops etc. are explicitly excluded from the scope of this challenge.

Submission of proposals

The submission of proposals will follow a 2-stage procedure. First stage submissions include an online template which asks for a brief description of the innovation, the business perspectives and the innovators team. Eligible submissions will be invited to the second stage, in which more detailed information must be provided.

Eligible participants

Eligible are all innovators and entrepreneurs, i.e., persons owning or representing the proposed innovation, employed by organisations including research institutes, start-ups, small-medium sized enterprises, or comparable institutions active in the development and realisation of sustainable chemistry solutions. Enterprises participating in the challenge shall have a staff headcount not exceeding 50 (full time equivalent) and an annual turnover of max. 10 million Euro. Enterprises majority-owned by large enterprises are not eligible for the award, except for innovations leading to the creation of independent spin-offs.Proposals submitted by innovators and entrepreneurs from developing countries and tackling challenges in developing countries are considered as particularly important. Female entrepreneurs are specifically encouraged to submit a proposal.


The proposals will be assessed against the three main criteria:

  • Innovation level. Is the innovation unique, distinct, and truly original?
  • Business viability. What is the market potential of the innovation?
  • Is the idea commercially feasible?
  • Sustainability. What is the sustainability impact of the innovation?

What to expect?

Five finalists will receive:

  • Tailored support: access to Global Start-up Service Customised Support
  • Visibility: promotion of your innovation via ISC3 communication channels
  • Cash prizes: the overall Innovation Challenge Winner will receive a cash prize of 15,000 EUR.
  • The two separate categories “Best Social Impact” and “Best Regional Impact" are endowed with cash prizes amounting to 5,000 EUR each.


Launch of the new 2023 Innovation Challenge: December 15th, 2022
Deadline for first stage submission: April 3rd, 2023, 23:59:59 CEST
Deadline for second stage submission: May 31st, 2023, 23:59:59 CEST
Jury Evaluation: June 1st – July 9th, 2023
Finalist announcements: after July 15th, 2023
Finalist pitch training: September 2023
Innovation Challenge Award Ceremony: scheduled for autumn/winter 2023, date and location of the venue will be announced via

Past challenges

The ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2022 was looking for innovations in the field of Sustainable Chemistry and Waste. The second ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2020/2021 was dedicated to innovative Sustainable Chemistry and Renewable Energy solutions. The first ISC3 Innovation Challenge 2019/2020 called for innovations in the field of Sustainable Living and Building.

For more information on past challenges, you can check the press releases regarding the finalists, winners, and topics.