A Breath of Fresh Air in the Construction and Building Industry

A Steinbeis project brings together startups and established enterprises in the construction industry

Forward-thinking startups meet traditional players in the construction industry – a combination offering plenty of potential, as demonstrated by the GROUNDBREAKERS initiative. Launched by the Steinbeis Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the aim of this initiative is to act as a startup incubator across two sectors: construction technology () and property technology (proptech).

Turning the goals of the GROUNDBREAKERS initiative into actions: As part of the 2022 Solar Decathlon competition, students from the HFT Stuttgart merged the materials of major construction companies with ground-breaking concepts to add new features to an existing building at the University of Applied Sciences. Their idea won first prize in the Building Technology & Building Physics category. © HFT Stuttgart


The construction industry continues to grow and currently processes more than 70% of all raw materials mined in Germany. Extracting natural resources can have a major impact on the environment. It thus plays a significant part in global warming.[1] As much as 38% of global carbon emissions are attributable to buildings (through both their use and their construction).[2] To achieve the UN’s climate goals, it’s therefore crucial that we not only rethink the processes of construction and the building industry, but also how materials are used. It’s also key to ensure innovative ideas are quickly integrated into existing processes.

GROUNDBREAKERS – paving the way for startups

One startup that has come up with a novel idea in this area is alcemy. Founded in 2018, alcemy is committed to decarbonizing the concrete value chain, since the concrete industry alone accounts for roughly 8% of global CO2 emissions.[3] Its aim is for greater volumes of clinker-efficient cement and recycled concrete to enter mass use. The high levels of carbon emissions caused by concrete are attributable to its traditional clinker content. Substituting clinker with low-carbon materials fundamentally changes the material properties of concrete.

To produce materials that are nonetheless as stable as conventional concrete, alcemy has developed an AI-controlled system that ensures the composition of this building material is both precise and uniform. This has already made it possible to process five million tons of cement, resulting in a carbon footprint reduction of over 80,000 tons.

But how does a startup like alcemy reach out to seasoned and established partners in the construction and building industry? This is where GROUNDBREAKERS, an initiative launched by the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, comes in. Its aim is to bring the two sets of stakeholders together to make it possible for ideas to be tested and implemented even more quickly. “Companies in the construction and building industry don’t exactly have a reputation for being flexible or quick. This is mainly due to the multifaceted nature of the challenges they face, tight regulation, the complexity of raw material supply chains, and the chronic shortage of skilled workers,” says Steinbeis entrepreneur Professor Dr. Patrick Planing. It’s precisely here that the agility of startups comes in. They are not yet ruled by administrative structures and are flexible enough to adapt systems to new requirements. This is best achieved by joining forces with experienced partners that are keen to open up to innovations and new ideas in the fields of contech and proptech. The Steinbeis GROUNDBREAKERS project thus provides access to audacious ideas, resources, and know-how. At the same time, it enables large and medium-sized companies to link up to innovation and sustainability.

“But also, startups derive benefit from networking with one another, as well as the access they gain to the research expertise offered by universities,” explains Patrick Planing, whose Steinbeis Enterprise is based at the HFT Stuttgart, where he also lectures in business psychology. “The HFT’s focus on building physics, architecture, and computer science makes it the ideal partner. Among other things, we provide support to startups like alcemy conducting research into new and sustainable building materials.”

The role played by Stuttgart as a hotspot for the construction and building industry

As a location, Stuttgart offers many advantages to the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship – as well as the work being carried out for the GROUNDBREAKERS project. Known as the “city of architects,” Stuttgart is home to a variety of leading companies and research institutes in the construction and building sector. It also offers three renowned training institutions in the field of construction and architecture: the University of Stuttgart, the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design (ABK Stuttgart), and the HFT, which is a University of Applied of Sciences. Events taking place in the state capital, such as the International Building Exhibition in 2027 (IBA’27), are also an ideal breeding ground for harnessing innovative concepts. Such events are also an opportunity for the region to establish itself as a hotspot for proptech and contech startups.



Prof. Dr. Patrick Planing (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Transfer Center Innovation and Entrepreneurship (Stuttgart)

Christine Kraus (author)
Communication and Coaching
PLAN G | Start-up Center of the HFT Stuttgart (Stuttgart)

Matthias Schöttler (author)
Innovation manager and startup coach
HFT Stuttgart (Stuttgart)

[1] https://www.bmuv.de/jugend/wissen/details/nachhaltigkeit-in-der-baubranche-eine-grossbaustelle-1
[2] https://www.quarks.de/umwelt/darum-brauchen-wir-eine-bauwende/
[3] https://www.handelsblatt.com/unternehmen/energie/klimaschutz-klimakiller-beton-so-will-die-deutsche-zementindustrie-co2-neutral-werden-/26652040.html