First Ventures supports five promising startup projects with CHF750,000


Projects from HES-SO, HEIG-VD, HSLU and ZHdk have been awarded with CHF150k each by First Ventures, a programme of the Gebert Rüf Foundation which aims to increase the number of spin-offs from Universities of Applied Sciences.


Since 2018 First Ventures supports promising start-up projects from Universities of Applies Sciences. The newest selection demonstrates the high quality of the research at these universities but also the entrepreneurial mindset of the students. Applications for the next round are open. The deadline is 31 May.

Recently financed projects:

Project Circleg - affordable lower-limb prosthetics

Project Circleg develops affordable lower-limb prosthetics for amputees in developing countries. Today, more than 30 million people in need do not have access to such products. Compared to existing low-cost prosthetic solutions, the Circleg prosthesis has very high functionality for a still affordable price. This increases comfort and adds vital functions for daily activities like using a squat toilet or enabling a kneeling position. The design ensures that the Circleg prosthesis can be individually adapted. By using recycled plastic waste in combination with simple production methods, the Circleg prosthesis can be produced locally.

Project Circleg started as an industrial design bachelor-degree project at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) in March 2018 and is now evolving into social impact business. The first prototype of the Circleg prosthetic system exists and will be further developed during the next two years. 

Enertive - heat flux sensor for industrial processes

The mission of the Enertive project is to reduce industrial energy cost by identifying sources of heat loss with a new kind of heat flux sensor made from thermoelectric materials. The sensor itself will be able to work in extreme environments (100-900°C) and will be easy to deploy and reliable. The materials properties of the sensor will be used to self-supply power to the sensor, which then transmits its measurement data wirelessly. This allows to monitor heat without cables, a clear customer need for these harsh environments.

This project is based on the results of a diploma work at HES-SO Valais-Wallis. The aim of this project is to develop a prototype heat flux sensor. The sensor shall be easy to integrate and more accurate, enabling it to monitor, or potentially control, industrial processes in real time. Moreover, a market analysis is in progress in order to validate the business model and adapt the first prototype to the need of industrialists. 

Nivitec - drone system for avalanche rescue

Considering that under an avalanche the first fifteen minutes are crucial for survival, search time is of paramount importance. Bad weather conditions as well as the difficult progress of the intervention team on the ground can affect this key parameter. Nivitec develops a rescue system using autonomous drones to reduce search time and to increase the victim’s probability to survive.

The system which is based on the widespread avalanche beacon works autonomously allowing rescuers to launch it and then focus on other tasks – such as medical supply preparations or free first found victims from snow. Moreover, the solution will be able to manage the complex and well-known problem of multiple buried victims.

The main innovation lies in the development of an avalanche beacon research algorithm combined with commercial drones equipped with beacon transceivers. The project is based on two Bachelor theses at the School of Engineering of Sion. The Team is now working of a proof of concept system.   

IrisGO - reusable coffee cups

The problem of pollution caused by single-use coffee cups has sparked large. Starbucks, the largest coffee-provider in the world, alone uses 8000 disposable cups per minute. However reusable coffee cups are only used by small proportion of end customers as these cups have several disadvantages. The small opening limits the coffee enjoyment, refilling is cumbersome as it takes too long to open and close the cups and they are not lifestyle products.

IrisGO develops a cup which is perfectly suited for the refill-usage and enables an excellent drinking experience and is designed as a lifestyle product. The cup will offer the best possible drinking experience thanks to a unique seal. Another special feature is the planned interactive advertisement surface on the seal.

Together with the Hochschule Luzern (HSLU) the team will now work out the framework conditions for developing a functional prototype of the sealing system.

BREEZ - anti-pollution masks

Due to the high level of air pollution, a lot of people is Asian cities wear anti-pollution masks. BREEZ develops a trendy and fashionable anti-pollution mask composed of 2 elements: a high-quality filter structure with a valve to facilitate exhalation, and a personalized and interchangeable fabric design that can be (un)clicked onto this structure. The user can thus match his mask to his outfit, his personality or even his mood of the moment.

Several field studies with different stakeholders and a market study in Asia were carried out as part of the work for a master’s thesis at HES-SO Master Innokick. First prototypes have already be designed. The second version of the product will be developed thanks to the "First Ventures" award. In addition to product development, the intercontinental team is also working on several financing solutions, as well as various legal and commercials aspects. The aim is to begin the production of the mask during the summer of 2019 to guarantee that they will be up for sale in the 4 biggest cities in China in late 2019.