Every year, graduates at Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) can apply for the 12-month Z-Kubator, the ZHdK accelerator programme, which thanks to the support of Zürcher Kantonalbank, helps them to develop their projects with an entrepreneurial focus. Selected teams each receive CHF 20’000 in addition to coaching and mentoring, infrastructure and communication and networking. Besides transforming promising concepts from Zurich University of the Arts into a successful venture, the program also aims to emphasise the important contribution of the art and design disciplines to the economic landscape. Upon completion of the programme, the projects should be able to establish impact-oriented organisations that utilise the benefits of the creative disciplines to positively influence society.
The three projects that graduated from the Z-Kubator's “What's next_Project" have made progress since participating in the program. Within 1.5 years, Somebodyelse launched their business with the platform BATVISION, where users can experience what it is like to be a bat. The company has customer pilots, it received a 150K grant from Gebert Rüf Foundation and expanded its team. The project team of Elements was accepted into the ETH's Student Project House and received additional support by Pro Helvetia’s “Starting Power”. The team plans to establish a company and enter the market this year. One year following their participation, netzwerk wildi blaatere, focusing on prototyping new working methods in theatre, has become a reality with one big production carried out and the process of two new ones started.
The new cohort of the Z-Kubator programme is also promising: With projects from the fields of circular economy in design, AI in art, medtech innovation for the transgender community and app development for the future of learning, the range shows the innovative power that the arts and design disciplines are generating.
The 2022 cohort comprises the following projects:
Christoph Ibrahim: Maison Verte
The design brand Maison Verte uses the power of the nettle, a local herb that usually falls short of its potential. All parts of the plant are used and result in a wide range of products, spanning from syrup and liqueur to fibre extraction for the textile sector. But Maison Verte’s design approach goes further and makes aspects like traceability, waste upcycling as well as ethical and fair production the core of the project. Based on the graduation project in the Bachelor Trends & Identity, a whole brand in the spirit of the circular economy has since developed.
Stella Waldvogel: ARIS
A surgically built penis lacks erectile tissue and can therefore not become hard. This mainly affects trans masculine individuals. To perform penetrative sex, the rigidity of the phallus is required. ARIS provides the wearer with enough stability for penetration without the need for an implanted erectile device. The product can be adapted to individual needs and will be 3D-printed. ARIS was developed as a BA graduation project in Industrial Design with support from the transgender community.
Tobias Gutmann: Sai Bot
After nine years of travelling the world with the Face-o-mat (LINK: https://face-o-mat.com), Sai Bot takes the portrait project to the next level. Sai is an AI that, just like its analogue predecessor, studies people's faces and produces an abstract drawing of them. Over 5000 portraits have already been created with the Face-o-mat, and now, as a digital artist, the AI is not only carrying on this legacy, but also exploring what interaction between humans and machines is all about. Together, Tobias and Sai Bot aim to explore their artistic practice and their collaboration provides interesting ground for discussions.
Zoë Urand and Roman Engler: Flink
In order to prepare students for the challenges of the present and the future, the education system should produce young people who are committed and respond to new circumstances creatively and agilely. The co-founders of Flink believe that successful students learn intrinsically while developing interdisciplinary, creative and collaborative skills. Flink is a learning app enabling primary students’ personal development by learning from and with each other and discovering the world through creative and networked thinking