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What is Start4big?

Start4big is the first cross-sector open innovation initiative in Europe directed towards start-ups from all over the world and promoted by Aigües de Barcelona, CaixaBank, Naturgy, SEAT and Telefónica.

These companies have come together to create a digital platform and launch challenges to the global entrepreneurship community, aimed at attracting the top start-ups with whom to develop high-impact technological solutions.

Who do we look for?

Start4big looks for start-ups at an advanced stage of maturity *(minimum TRL of the product or service: TRL6)*, that have developed a functional prototype or have already launched a product or service in the market. The key objective of the program is to co-develop the participants’ products or services and adapt them to solve the most difficult business challenges relevant for the industries of the Start4big partners.

Is the competition open only for start-ups or can other business profiles participate as well?

This initiative is primarily directed towards mature start-ups from all over the world as the program’s main objective is to capture business ideas and/or innovative solutions that are not yet implemented in the mass market, and test them in real environments.

However, if an established industrial or technological company has created a new product or service through an innovation unit that meets the requirements specified above, it can be eligible for consideration. Nevertheless, the company will need to justify the novelty of the solution proposed. 

Why should I participate in Start4big?

Start4big is a unique initiative that gives start-ups the opportunity to present their solution before leading companies, notable innovators and key players in the ecosystem. For start-ups that meet the established competition requirements, the platform provides candidates with access to necessary resources and connects them with industry experts who can help further develop their proposed solutions.

What does Start4big offer that similar initiatives do not?

Start4big is not a talent incubator nor a mentoring program. It’s an initiative that seeks to find mature start-ups and co-develop technological solutions that can be launched in the market and improve the customer experience. 

Start4big aims to create a unique long-term collaboration model where two or more companies can work with promising start-ups to develop solutions applicable to various industries. Similar initiatives do exist, however, they encompass a smaller number of companies and/or sectors: IdealLondon – 3 companies from 3 different sectors, or EcoImagination – 1 company and 1 sector.

Moreover, unlike other initiatives, Start4big does not have any limits to the technologies or types of the projects that can participate in the competition, as long as they can solve the challenge. Likewise, there is no limit to the number of pilot projects that can be developed. Any project that demonstrates the ability to solve one of the challenges can participate in the program. 

How long does the competition last?

The competition is structured in six-month cycles called Innovation Waves. Each Innovation Wave begins with the launch of the business challenges to be solved and concludes with the announcement of the competition winners.

How many editions (Innovation Waves) are planned?

At this time, two Innovation Waves are planned per year, each of which will consist of four open challenges.

Who selects the challenges to be solved?

The Start4big partners propose the challenges that apply to their sectors based on the needs of their consumers and the needs of their markets.

Are the challenges associated with the needs of specific partners?

The challenges are based on the needs of two or more Start4big partners and correspond to specific use cases presented by each of them. However, the partners that will participate in the co-development of pilot projects are not predefined. The participation of any partner will be defined during negotiations with the winning start-ups and will depend on the solution proposed and the sectors involved.

Who makes key initiative decisions?

Key initiative decisions are made through strategic and operational committees composed of representatives from each of the Start4big partners. These representatives come from relevant departments such as innovation, customer experience or digital transformation, depending on the company.

Since the project is targeted at empowering a digital space to create synergies between the players in entrepreneurship and business ecosystem, there are no physical headquarters where the Start4big partners meet on a regular basis to make initiative decisions.

How are the start-ups chosen?

Once applications have been received, an international panel of judges will be tasked with analysing and evaluating the projects in accordance with the predefined evaluation criteria. After this assessment, the final list of winning start-ups will be announced.

How much does the participation cost?

Nothing. There are no costs associated with participation in the Start4big competition. The candidates must only register on our platform and complete the application form with the information regarding their start-up and the solution(s) they propose.

Who can I contact if I have a question?

If you have any additional questions and/or need help, please send us an email to or submit your question via the contact form on our website:

Application Process

Are there any restrictions to the technological areas of the Start4big candidates?

The objective of Start4big is to solve the business challenges, using any technology that can make a difference. For this reason, we do not restrict the technological areas of the participants.

How many start-ups can participate in each challenge?

There’s no limit to the number of participants per challenge. If the partners are interested in more than one solution presented for the same challenge, they can begin negotiations for pilot projects with any of them. The opportunity to enter into these negotiations will depend on the solution’s novelty and the project’s relevance to the challenge as well as the industries of the Start4big partners.

Can any member from my team apply?

Yes! Anyone who is a part of your start-up can register on our platform and explain your project.

Which documents are needed to apply to Start4big?

In order to participate in the competition, you must register and complete the two application forms on the Start4big platform. You will also need to fill out and attach a separate document to the second form, describing your solution in more detail and justify its potential to become a future pilot project with the Start4big partner(s).

Which language is required to complete the application?

English is the only language accepted for the registration and application processes. Forms completed in any other language will not be considered by the Start4big judges.

Can I apply to two or more challenges during the same Innovation Wave?

Yes! You can apply to as many challenges as you like, as long as your project can provide a real solution to the challenge.

I applied but was not selected. Can I apply again?

Yes! You can apply to the competition as many times as you wish, provided that your project offers a real solution to the challenges presented.


Does Start4big have a physical workspace?

Not at this time. Start4big knows that innovation can happen anywhere in the world and is not necessarily restricted to a physical workspace. For this reason, our initiative is not linked to any permanent location, and seeks to break geographical boundaries by widening the scope where innovation is created and shared. 

Moreover, Start4big leverages the innovation infrastructure in Barcelona provided by the partners in order to organize occasional activities related to acceleration, mentoring, networking and events.

Why was Barcelona chosen as a place to launch Start4big?

Barcelona is one of the primary talent and innovation ecosystems in Europe and is supported by the Catalan capital, thus making an ideal location for to launch Start4big. This ecosystem also includes ties to important businesses, entrepreneurship and investment opportunities, research and innovation centres, a cosmopolitan society, and many other agents that make up an attractive and accessible professional network. 

However, Start4big is not linked to a specific physical space since it has a global scope and targets at empowering the digital environment.

I don’t live in Barcelona or in Spain, can I still take part in the initiative?

Yes! Start4big is a global initiative and there are no geographical limits. The initiative seeks to expand the innovation ecosystem and encourage international start-ups from all over the world to participate.

Will Start4big provide me with a physical space to work with the partners?

During the negotiation stage, the partners involved in the co-development of a pilot project will decide, together with a winning start-up, which resources, spaces and infrastructure will be provided for working on the prototype.

Evaluation Process

What is the evaluation process like?

Each project will go through three consecutive stages of evaluation specified below: 

  1. Evaluation by external judges: The external judges are innovation and technology experts who are not a part of the Start4big partner companies and are specialized in specific technological areas in which the Start4big challenges are framed. These judges are responsible for evaluating the solutions proposed by the participants and the candidates’ potential to develop pilot projects with the partners.  
  2. Evaluation by internal judges: The internal judges are experts from each of the Start4big partner companies that, due to their direct relationship with the partners, have expert knowledge of the challenges facing their industries and the possible resources needed to solve them. Therefore, they will determine whether the solution proposed by the start-up can be implemented within their respective companies.
  3. Pitch days: Candidates who successfully make it through both rounds of evaluations will become Start4big pre-finalists and will have the opportunity to present their projects during Pitch days: one-to-one sessions where each pre-finalist will be able to explain the solution proposed and describe the pilot project that could be co-developed with the Start4big partner(s). 

A panel of expert internal judges will be present to ultimately decide which start-ups have the greatest potential to successfully co-develop a pilot project. There is no limit to the number of start-ups that can be selected as the winners of the Start4big challenge, i.e. there can be as many winners per challenge as the partners decide.


What are the benefits if I become a winner?

The main objective of Start4big is to create impact. Therefore, we provide our winners the opportunity to make the first step and test their technology and business model in real environments with the support of the Start4big corporations. This model implies clear collateral benefits for the start-ups, as the partners involved will provide key resources for the pilot development, such as:

  • Access to the market associated with their large commercial network.
  • Tangible assets such as infrastructure or aggregated industry data.
  • Possibility of co-financing the development of a pilot project. 
  • Access to the first-hand industry and market knowledge.

At Start4big, we believe that each project and each start-up is unique. Therefore, we will evaluate the collaboration model for each pilot specifically in order to maximize the probability of success.

Will there only be one winner per challenge?

No! All start-ups that meet the defined criteria and have passed both rounds of evaluation will be considered to develop pilot projects with the Start4big partners. For this reason, there is no set number of winners per challenge.

How much investment will each pilot project receive?

There is no budgetary limit. The terms of the collaboration will be defined during the negotiations between each winner and the companies involved. The total sum of investment will depend on the project’s potential, novelty and the needs for its development.

Does Start4big provide financial support for subsistence, flights and accommodation necessary to attend the internal events?

Start4big does not guarantee to cover the costs associated with traveling to Barcelona for internal events.

Who will have the rights to the solution developed?

All legal matters and questions concerning intellectual property relating to the pilot to be developed shall be defined during prior negotiations between the start-up and the partners involved.

Is there a transfer of intellectual property?

Actions regarding intellectual property developed during the pilot project will depend on the specific terms established during the negotiations between the start-ups and Start4big partners involved. The presentation of the projects shall not imply any transfer of industrial or intellectual property rights unless expressly agreed otherwise.

What are the next steps if the partners are interested in my project after the Pitch days?

If your project is selected as a finalist after Pitch days, you will receive the opportunity to begin negotiations with the interested Start4big partners to determine the viability of the possible collaboration. During this process, the terms and conditions of the collaboration will be established and the future pilot will be defined in order to organize the pilot kickoff. 

Can I bring in another contributor to develop a pilot?

Yes! You can bring another contributor, but the terms and conditions of his/her participation will be defined during negotiations with the Start4big partners involved.

Do the winning start-ups need to be in Barcelona to develop a pilot with the partners?

It’s recommended that the winning start-ups be present in Barcelona during the pilot development as that would facilitate the communication and all the related processes, however, physical presence in Barcelona is not mandatory. The development of the pilot project can be organised at locations where the involved partners have an operational base associated with the product or service to be tested. Each case will be studied and negotiated specifically in order to establish the best conditions.


How does Start4big communicate with the global community of start-ups and entrepreneurs?

Start4big uses its own communication channels as well its network of experts and ambassadors in order to communicate with start-ups from all over the world.

In order to attract mature start-ups and top talent, Start4big relies on program ambassadors, i.e. technology experts, investors, researchers, entrepreneurs and professors from the best universities and companies that have significant connections in the innovation ecosystem.  These connections provides visibility for the initiative and helps to find the best talent in the most relevant networks.

Which channels are used to launch the Start4big challenges?

Our innovation challenges are launched through the Start4big competition platform that manages applications and communication with the participants. This platform is used to launch challenges for each new Innovation Wave.


What are the Start4big judges and ambassadors/associates responsible for?

The primary responsibility of a judge is to evaluate the projects related to their fields of expertise, while that of an ambassador/associate is to recommend at least three start-ups with the potential to solve the proposed challenges. Anyone who has a relevant profile and is interested in working with Start4big in one of these capacities receives a guide that outlines the requirements, level of involvement, functions and benefits of the collaboration with the initiative.

How can I be an ambassador, a judge or an associate of Start4big?
  1. By being directly contacted by the Start4big team. We proactively search and contact those whose professional profile suggests that they may be able to fulfil the required roles.
  2. By sending an email to asking to take part, or through filling in the contact form at Once your request is received, the Start4big team and the partners of the initiative will deliberate on whether your profile meets the requirements, and will notify you if you’ve been accepted for the role.
  3. By being recommended by another judge or ambassador/associate. Once the recommendation is received, the Start4big team and the partners of the initiative will deliberate on whether your profile meets the requirements, and will notify you if you’ve been accepted for the role.