„This year we were able to hand out seven awards instead of five. The sixth award is given by our former president Dr. Daniel Borer and his family, the seventh prize is donated by a W.A. de Vigier alum that wishes to remain anonymous. We are deeply grateful to these two parties and are of course very happy to support even more young Swiss entrepreneurs“, says Carmen Lamparter, COO of the W.A. de Vigier Foundation. “This mentality of helping others to co-create success in new ventures is something we wish to see more of in the Swiss startup ecosystem and it fills us with great pride that for the second time in recent years, one of our alumni donates a prize”, says André Hoffman, President of the Foundation Board.
Another highlight of the event was the talk by Roche CEO Severin Schwan. Roche launches 100 to 150 new projects with partners every year and Schwan gave start-ups a number of tips for successful collaborations. You can find the tips in our article on LinkedIn.
These are the seven winners (in alphabetical order)
ALIVION from Menzingen (ZG) – Equipping Electronics With a Sense of Smell
Today’s electronic devices can do many things, but they can’t taste or smell. The available laboratory instruments are bulky and expensive, while gas sensors cannot distinguish harmful from harmless molecules. ALIVION provides mobile chemical sensing devices that can trace single molecules by leveraging its revolutionary Molecule Select technology based on breakthroughs in nanotechnology at ETH Zürich. The portable gas sensors of the start-up with offices at Technopark Zurich offer great value in the areas of healthcare (breath analysis), environmental monitoring, occupational and food safety through the detection of relevant molecules. First devices have been sold to distilleries.
Composite Recycling from Ecublens (VD): Closing the Loop on Composites Recycling
Composite materials are made by combining fibers with resin and are used to build boats, wind turbine blades, etc. They are strong, light, durable, but up to now not recyclable, and are thus piling up in landfills and incinerators at exponential rates. In partnership with the Advanced Composite Lab of the EPFL, this startup has developed a sustainable solution to separate the glass fibers from the resin of composites waste and reuse them to make new composites. No more toxic gases from incineration, no more landfilling, but rather “closing the loop” by reusing these versatile materials again and again. The start-up works at industrialising its solution.
Impossible Materials from Fribourg (FR) – Plant-Based White Pigments That Aren’t Cancerogenic
Titanium dioxide is used as a white pigment in paints, inks, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and food. However, this ingredient poses health and environmental hazards and is being banned in food. Fribourg based startup Impossible Materials develops patented, brilliantly white pigments from cellulose – a material that is renewable, widely available, cheap, biocompatible, and easy to process. The company’s pigments can be scaled with industry-proven processes, are safe for humans and don’t harm the planet.
InCephalo from Allschwil (BL) – Treating Aggressive Brain Tumors With Less Side Effects
One problem when treating brain diseases is that less than 1% of the IV administered drugs actually make it to the brain. Even when applied directly into the brain, these biological drugs rapidly leave the brain and start accumulating in the body. InCephalo’s compartment locked technology (CLock) creates for the first time tailor-made biological drugs for local treatment of the brain. The CLocked drugs stay in the desired compartment, and if they leak, they are rapidly degraded. This significantly reduces the drugs’ overall exposure to the body and allows for a higher local dosing window. The start-up obtained Orphan Drug Designation for a first product. First clinical trial are planned for 2024.
NematX AG from Zurich (ZH) – High-Performance Polymer 3D Printing
Specialized markets ranging from electronics to aerospace require high-performance polymer components in small batches. The production of such parts is associated with high costs today and make the small series business unprofitable for many companies. ETH spinoff NematX offers an industrial 3D printing solution based on novel liquid crystal polymers including a tailored manufacturing technology to combine highest part performance and manufacturing precision in polymer 3D printing. Customers benefit from up to 80% lower costs, three times faster delivery times, and fully recyclable materials. The start-up will present a first product at trade fairs this Autumn.
Nemosia from Winterthur (ZH) – Early Diagnosis of Neurodegenerative Diseases
The best chance at fighting neurodegenerative diseases it is to detect them and intervene as early as possible. Nemosia’s PET neuroimaging solution is able to detect such disorders already at the sub-clinical stage, plus it supports researchers in developing and monitoring therapies. Reduced diagnostic time, effective drug development and personalized treatments are just a few advantages this technology can bring to our aging society.
PIPRA from Zurich (ZH) – AI-Based Test to Assess Risk of Cognitive Disorders After Surgery
Postoperative delirium (POD) is a severe cognitive complication occurring in 20% of surgical patients aged 60+. There are no treatments once symptoms arise. Instead, the focus is on prophylactic interventions, which are too costly to offer every patient. PIPRA developed an AI-based preoperative risk prediction software that identifies patients who are most at risk and will benefit from targeted prophylactic intervention, thereby improving patient outcomes and saving costs for hospitals.
About the W.A. de Vigier Awards
The W.A. de Vigier Award is one of Switzerland’s oldest and most highly endowed awards for young entrepreneurs. Over the past 33 years, the foundation has distributed over CHF 11 million of seed money. The results are about 100 flourishing startups, successful IPOs, multiple company exits and above all, many newly created jobs.
The following aspects are relevant for the evaluation of the projects: The entrepreneurial personality, the degree of innovation, the value for society as a whole, the technical and financial viability, market prospects and the potential for job creation.
(Press release / SK)