Responsible government entity: Corfo (Corporación de Fomento de la Producción [Production Development Corporation])
External partner: N/A
Target type of innovator: Technology-based start-ups from any country that can grow quickly and reach the market within two to three years and wish to be located in Chile
- This government-run incubator and accelerator provides non‑dilutive finance.
- Start-Up Chile has an international outlook and helps overseas applicants with relocating to Chile for the programme.
- It is not energy-specific, but has run dedicated calls for solar and energy efficiency management start-ups.
Summary of the types of support provided or enabled by the policy initiative
Type of support
Direct: Non dilutive grants via calls
Direct: office space
Indirect: infrastructure through a sponsoring entity
Direct: a wide range of accelerator services in-house
Direct: access to industry, investor and mentor networks, and a peer-to-peer cohort
Corfo, Chile’s government agency to promote economic growth since 1939, launched Start-Up Chile as its flagship programme for start-ups in 2010 at which time it became the first public business accelerator in the world. The purpose was to attract international entrepreneurs to connect with Chilean start-ups and raise the impact of the innovation ecosystem in Chile. It is a business accelerator and can provide grant financing as well as services. It is widely recognised as a leading government initiative globally, with a strong performance record. While it is not energy-specific, it has run calls for energy-only start-ups and, for example, supported the Chilean start-ups Endurance Electric, a provider of off-grid solar PV via a payment application, and Quempin, which helps industrial customers improve combustion efficiency. In addition, it has supported non-Chilean start-ups Aerial Power (formerly SolarBrush), an Anglo-German developer of a drone system for solar PV cleaning, and Seeder, which facilitates renewable energy projects in People’s Republic of China (hereafter ‘China’), among others.
Start-Up Chile selects applicants for grant funding via two calls per year for start-ups at three different stages of development. Each year the calls are adjusted to prioritise applicants from a specific thematic area or stage of development. For example, in 2020, it prioritised growth-stage start-ups with ready prototypes to try to boost commercialisation times in response to the economic setback due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Start-ups from any country may apply, but must move to Chile for the duration of the programme if selected.
There are around 100-200 recipients per year across three stages:
- Pre‑acceleration (technology readiness level [TRL] 1-3). Grants at this stage are CLP 10 million (Chilean pesos) (USD 12 000) for new ventures moving from a validated idea to an early-stage prototype (so-called “problem-solution fit”), with the possibility to win an extension of CLP 5 million (USD 6 000). The length of the programme is four months, with the possibility of a three-month extension.
- Acceleration (TRL 4-6). Grants at this stage are CLP 25 million (USD 30 000) for companies moving from a functional product to reach product-market fit, with a possibility to win an extension of CLP 25 million. The start-up must co‑finance 20% of the cost of the project (for female-led start-ups, this is reduced to 10%). The length of the programme is four months, with the possibility of a six-month extension.
- Scale (TRL 7-9). Grants at this stage are CLP 75 million (USD 90 000) for companies moving from an expansion stage to no further reliance on public support. The start-up must co‑finance 50% of the cost of the project (for female-led start-ups, this is reduced to 40%). The length of the programme is 12 months, with the possibility of a 2‑month extension.
At each stage, grants can be used only for eligible technology or business development costs.
Start-Up Chile provides office space to recipients at all stages of development.
When Corfo awards grants to start-ups, they sign an agreement with a sponsoring entity that is responsible for providing access to basic services and other technical facilities. The sponsoring entity, such as a potential industrial customer, is remunerated by the grant award and required to report certain results to Corfo and conduct due diligence assessments of the start-up’s business.
Start-Up Chile’s acceleration services include:
- an advisory team that meets with recipients each month
- workshops on various business services
- pitch training
- regular progress presentations to Corfo, invited experts and investors (so-called “Demo Days”)
- a “soft landing” programme for overseas recipients that includes visa application support.
Start-ups can receive up to the equivalent of USD 300 000 in acceleration services from Start-Up Chile. These include an advisory team that meets with recipients each month, workshops on various business services, pitch training and visa application support for overseas recipients. Start-Up Chile has also negotiated discounted external services, including cloud storage, software and legal advice among others.
Start-Up Chile manages five networks:
- investor (more than 50 venture funds and more than 50 angel investors from Chile and abroad)
- global (global connections with other accelerators, incubators, governments, embassies around the world)
- alumni (more than 5 000 alumni from over 85 countries).
Start-Up Chile also invites recipients to various conferences, workshops and networking events.
It also supports peer-to-peer networking between recipients in the same entry cohort who meet together each month.
Start-Up Chile has established the Female Founder Factor, a network of women in entrepreneurship and innovation to help close the gender gap.
Start-Up Chile has supported more than 2 200 new ventures in different sectors, and more than 5 500 entrepreneurs globally. It has provided more than USD 75 million from public resources. Since its launch, Chile has emerged as a start-up hub in Latin America for technologies with high potential for growth.
While Start-Up Chile has dedicated some calls to energy, the clean energy innovation ecosystem remains relatively weak. As mining, extraction of lithium and its upgrading (and other energy minerals) become more important for Chile, a greater focus on innovators in these sectors may be required to align the policy areas. In addition, for start-ups developing larger-scale energy hardware, the available funds and facilities at Start-Up Chile are insufficient to demonstrate technologies. To compete with Europe and North America as a location for growth-stage start-ups in extractive and energy sectors, Corfo has made USD 140 million available to cleantech and mining institutes and start-ups in northern Chile. Hydrogen technologies are a part of this programme.
To address gender balance among applicants, Start-Up Chile now requires 50% of pre‑acceleration recipients to be founded by women.
ATAMOS-TEC, a public-private laboratory for the development of PV systems for high-radiation areas established in 2018 with the support of Corfo.
Corfo’s development bank, which provides loan guarantees to start-ups.
Chile Global Ventures, the venture capital area of the public-private organisation Fundación Chile. Chile Global Ventures works with technology-based start-ups to grow and scale them at an international level. It has several programmes that can provide public (from Corfo) or private funding.
This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union as part of the Clean Energy Transitions in Emerging Economies programme. This publication reflects the views of the International Energy Agency (IEA) Secretariat but does not necessarily reflect those of individual IEA member countries or the European Union (EU). Neither the IEA nor the EU make any representation of warranty, express or implied, in respect to the article's content (including its completeness or accuracy) and shall not be responsible for any use of, or reliance on, the publication.
The Clean Energy Transitions in Emerging Economies programme has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 952363.