Momentum for the Swiss EdTech Collider



Launched two years ago at the EPFL Innovation Park, the Swiss EdTech Collider has grown to a community that includes more than 77 startups. In full organization of this week’s LEARN Day in Bern, asked some questions to Roman Bruegger, Manager Director of the Collider about the ongoing momentum.



The education system – in both the public and private sectors – will inevitably undergo changes due to digital transformation. The ed-tech sector, which encourages the use of technology in education and learning, plays a vital role in this context and the Swiss EdTech Collider, a hub for ed-tech startups based at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, is supporting those startups and entrepreneurs aiming to positively change education and learning. How easy is it to find the right ed-tech solution? Obviously, there is no all-in-one-solution to meet every ed-tech need explains Roman Bruegger; the ed-tech sector is a highly fragmented market in which many different companies are developing and promoting products and services for various target groups in the education and learning sector. This makes it especially difficult for educators to find the right tool.  This is where the Swiss EdTech Collider, a not-for-profit initiative located at the EPFL Innovation Park in Lausanne and the first collaborative, membership-based coworking space in Switzerland that is dedicated exclusively to ed-tech, comes into place: it brings startups together under one roof, which enhances visibility and creates an environment that allows educators and learning specialists to find, test and acquire appropriate solutions. Inaugurated in April 2017, it has become a center for startups and entrepreneurs seeking to transform education through technology by developing innovative learning solutions. Starting with 30 ed-tech startups at the beginning, the Swiss EdTech Collider has grown to a community that includes more than 77 startups. Those startups work on a large diversity of innovations for different phases of the learning journey as the following examples show: a customizable learning management system for schools, software for children with dyslexia or dyscalculia, an adaptive and immersive 3D platform to learn about cyber security threats, virtual-reality solutions for training hospital nurses, an online platform that offers micro-learning courses for corporations, project-based learning about sustainability and electricity, augmented-reality technology for learning programming in a playful way, a gamified classroom interaction platform or courses to learn the future digital skills.  Applying to the ColliderThe Managing Director explains that Edtech startups can apply anytime to become a member of the Swiss EdTech Collider - there is an open enrollment policy. However, every startup has to go through an analysis and selection process, in which the members of the association of the Swiss EdTech Collider eventually vote for the startup to become a new member – or not. This selective process guarantees the Swiss EdTech Collider’s quality of its members. Two startups have recently been selected to join the Swiss EdTech Collider family: AIcrowd, based in Geneva, and Mirabilo, based in Zurich - both offering different innovations for different target markets: Vaud based AIcrowd enables data science experts and enthusiasts as well as learners in general to collaboratively solve real-world problems through challenges. The platform has increasingly helped solving complex challenges and topics from a variety of research projects. AIcrowd beliefs that developing AI solutions in a crowdsourced way, out in the open, is something of great value to organisations as it will allow them to accelerate their progress in AI development in order to achieve their goals faster. Frauenfeld based Mirabilo is a platform that allows teachers, private tutors & authors to create, share and publish inspiring learning experiences, as well as to support the students holistically with their unique learning journal in skills, character development, and meta-learning, so that they are ready for the challenges of the world today and in the future.  A unique ecosystem to support venturesThe purpose of the Swiss EdTech Collider is to support ed-tech entrepreneurs and startups as they seek to grow and find partners and customers. To that end, and over the past two years, it has created a unique ecosystem consisting of a network of ed-tech investors, schools and other educational institutions, public and private organizations, subject matter experts, and the EPFL’s research divisions. In October 2018, the Swiss EdTech Collider became part of the newly created EPFL LEARN – Center for Learning Sciences, an EPFL-based network of initiatives related to education and learning. Also, the Swiss EdTech Collider promotes the use of learning solutions in the classrooms by establishing ‘test lab partnerships’ with schools, such as the recent one with CPLN and Lycée Jean-Piaget in Neuchâtel. Educators and students can test new learning solutions together with the respective EdTech startups. Finally, the Swiss EdTech Collider supports students of EPFL/ETHZ to do their master thesis together with Edtech startup members, which allows a direct transfer of knowledge from the learning sciences research labs into the startups. While the ed-tech sector is still in the early stages of development, it is sure to have a profound impact on how we learn in the future – both within the school system and in our day-to-day work lives. (RB - ES)