Four new First Ventures projects ready for the next steps


The first ventures program goes into the next round with four innovative projects from four different Universities across Switzerland. Besides financial support of up to CHF 150K, each team will receive a tailored coaching program.


Launched in 2018 by the of the Gebert Rüf Foundation, the First Ventures program provides students from Universities of Applied Sciences with the required resources to help them transform their ideas into a business. The objective is to increase the number of spin-offs from such academic institutes with an annual budget of CHF 1.5 million. The next submission deadline is 15 May 2020.

In the recent selection round, the following projects made it into the program.

Rise Up!: HE-Arc Neuchâtel – HES-SO
In Switzerland, more than 40’000 people are suffering from myopathy, multiple sclerosis, post-polio syndrome and age-related paraplegics - more than 1.5 million are seniors, and this number is anticipated to rise to 3 million in 2030. While their wheelchair eases mobility for the patients, it does not help them to get up when they fall. More than 400'000 cases of falls are reported every year in Switzerland. The Medtech startup Fair&Square, founded by a team of engineers in August 2019, is developing Rise Up!, a medical device specially designed to help elderly and disabled people get up autonomously after a fall.

The device, which is currently in the prototype stage,  is configured in the form of a that can rise, using medically approved telescopic cylinders from the ground. Rise Up! is designed for use at home and hospitals. Although the project is still in the early stages, the startup has already gained visibility and received funds from winning awards such as the HES-SO innovation challenge.

Ethafa: SUPSI – University of Applied Science and Art of Southern Switzerland
Founded in 2017 by Leyla Tawfik, Ethafa is an educational kit and a tablet application that allows for teaching programming and electronics to kids between 10 and 12 years through stories. The kit consists of 5 programmable hardware units – the “characters” that can be assembled and then used to interact with the tablet application. The tablet application engages the kids in interactive stories featuring challenges that require problem-solving and programming skills to be solved.

The Ethafa project was designed to be integrated into the experimental classes organised by organisations that develop innovative educational programs for the improvement of the education system in Arabic speaking countries. During the pilot classes, the product will be evaluated and expanded with local stories. The project will lead to an Edtech company producing creative educational contents, digital applications, and services that are developed, manufactured and distributed by an open network of Edu-tech partners and organisations.

CH+ Games for Democracy – Zurich University of the Arts
Since 1979, the voting participation during Swiss elections has remained below 50%. During the national elections 2019, it was at 45%. In our daily lives, politics gets lost in the noise of entertainment media and easily usable consumer goods. In Project CH+, entertainment is used to dissolve the "entertainment bubble", which is surrounding many people in their free time.

Parties and politicians try to grab people’s attention with catchy slogans, impactful illustrations or nice photographs. The CH+ app contextualizes this information on the user's mobile device. Motivational mechanics from the game world are used to improve the user's experience, to encourage them to explore politics in a playful manner, and to help them stay informed. The novelty in the approach lies in the perspective of motivational design from the entertainment industry.

In an iterative process from election to election, the app is developed together with the target audience. The main ingredients of CH+ are a mobile device, neutral information (provided by established political NGOs like smartvote), gamification and user requests. Municipalities, cantons, the Federal Chancellery, educational institutions and companies with a CSR profile are potential buyers for the final CH+ app. In the future, the company will be offering commissioned work in the fields of gamification, serious games (educational games) and research.

Solvent on granule 3D Printing – HES-SO Valais-Wallis
The main objective of the SG-3DP Solutions project is to improve the shaping of exotic materials such as ceramics, metals and polymers by 3D printing.  Alternative technologies on the market, such as “Binder Jetting” or “Selective Laser Melting” have many limitations that do not meet all the industry's expectations. Indeed, the complexity of parts, as well as the specific properties of certain materials, sometimes make their shaping difficult.

The industrialization of the “Solvent on Granule Three-Dimensional Printing” (SG-3DP) technology aims to meet these needs. This innovative powder printing process remains straightforward and universal. By working on the base powder, we standardize the material to make it printable while keeping its intrinsic properties. The choice of material, therefore, does not impact the printing technique. We want to offer industries the opportunity to optimize the produced parts without being limited by their complexity or the choice of material.

This technology was invented and developed in laboratories by the HES-SO Valais-Wallis. Through various internal projects and multiple company mandates, the technology has shown its potential of producing parts with complex geometries and good mechanical properties.With the 3D printing market in full development, it is now time for us to take this technology out of the labs for the benefit of the industry.