15 Startups in the Running to Win CHF 100,000

Solothurn, April 4, 2024. 15 startups are one step closer to winning one of up to five coveted W.A. de Vigier Awards. These startups were chosen from a pool of 50 promising young companies that pitched their ideas to the foundation board, a live audience, and online viewers on Selection Day at the end of February. At the award ceremony on June 19, 2024, up to five Swiss entrepreneurs will each be awarded CHF 100,000.

On Selection Day on February 28, the Top 15 were chosen from among 50 pre-selected startups. Over 200 applications across eight industry clusters were submitted.

“Innovation and the brilliant minds propelling it forward will undoubtedly be the driving force for a better world. Our Top 15 are true problem solvers, they give me hope for the future“, says Carmen Lamparter, COO of the W.A. de Vigier Foundation.

The Top 15 will now be further assessed through in-depth interviews with the foundation board as well as expert reports. The Top 10 are subsequently selected during two presentation days. In mid May, the ten finalists will be chosen and are going to present their highly innovative ideas at the award ceremony on June 19, 2024.

These are the Top 15 (in alphabetical order)

apheros AG from Zurich, ZH
High Surface Area Metal Foams
Current designs for liquid cooling systems are bulky and energy consuming. apheros’ metal foams offer an extremely high surface area with exceptional wetting properties and enhanced thermal exchange. These unique properties result in excellent cooling efficiency and liquid transport, which is key to improving the efficiency of climate relevant technologies such as electrification of transport and development of green hydrogen. The ETH-spinoff’s foams are customizable in shape and can be scaled to fully automated production.

Ascento AG from Zurich (ZH)
Secure Assets With Robotics and AI
The security sector is dealing with labor shortages, high staff turnover and low profit margins. This pain is so acute that incumbent Security Providers are not able to serve all their customers. Ascento provides robotic guards that can be hired by the hour. The service includes deployment, 24/7 support, service and repairs. The Ascento Web App analyzes video and images with AI, it integrates with existing video management systems, provides end-to-end encrypted two-way communication, and offers powerful reports that security managers want to see.

BTRY AG from Dübendorf (ZH)
Sustainable Fast-Charge Li-Battery
Lithium-ion batteries are widely used, but they are not ideal for all applications. They are relatively slow to recharge, flammable, and temperature-sensitive. BTRY, an EMPA- and ETHZ- spinoff, is developing a new type of thin-film solid-state battery. It can be charged and discharged in one minute, has a high energy density, and delivers reliable energy even at extreme temperatures.

Eviive from Zurich (ZH)
Biomarker Discovery for Early Disease Detection & Treatment Guidance
Existing cancer diagnostics often result in delays and misdiagnoses. Eviive’s innovative solution combines state-of-the-art extracellular vesicles (EVs) analysis with advanced machine learning to ensure rapid and accurate results. The UZH-spinoff can detect diseases very early and predict if a patient will respond to the standard treatment, leading to more effective and timely interventions. This pioneering approach is set to transform patient outcomes, expedite the advancement of precision medicine, and enhance global patient access to next-generation diagnostics.

Foldcast from Lugano (TI)
Paper-Based Moulds for Concrete Construction
The use of concrete as a building material is responsible for 10% of global CO2 emissions. As the demand for new construction grows, we need to find ways to reduce the global use of concrete now. Foldcast combines software and digital machines to design and produce paper moulds for concrete casting. After the hardening time, the paper can be removed and reused or fully recycled. Foldcast’s building elements use up to 50% less concrete, while offering the same or greater structural resistance. This translates to a 40% reduction of the carbon footprint, lower construction cost, shorter construction time, and less waste.

Grensol AG from Thalwil (ZH)
Using Light to Recycle Mixed Plastic Waste
Mixed plastic waste is considered unrecyclable. Contained resources are lost and have to be produced from virgin sources, at massive ecological costs. Grensol uses high intensity light generated by renewable energy to recover emissions-free hydrogen and carbon black from mixed plastic waste – all in a matter of seconds. This solution can potentially convert 100 million tons of unrecyclable waste per year into a low-cost source of new materials that are critical for our society’s clean energy transition and also avoid over 500 million tons of carbon emissions per year.

KWiiD GmbH from Oberägeri (ZG)
Swift and Strong Reusable Boxes to Reduce Waste and Save Money
In our contemporary world, millions of parcels are shipped every day, generating excessive waste. KWiiD is dedicated to eliminating single-use packaging with its innovative collapsible box. Sustainable and reusable, KWiiD boxes boast exceptional strength and an instant-opening system, saving companies time and money. Highly practical, this innovative and robust solution protects the shipped goods and the environment.

MYNERVA from Zurich (ZH)
Reducing Pain, Restoring Touch
More than half of the 540 million individuals living with diabetes experience peripheral nerve damage, resulting in chronic pain and loss of sensations in the lower extremities with consequent balance difficulties. MYNERVA has introduced an innovative, non-invasive neuroprosthesis that resembles a cozy sock. This device skillfully gathers vital data on foot-ground interactions and converts it into AI-driven electrical impulses delivered to the skin. This groundbreaking approach not only diminishes neuropathic pain but also artificially restores the sense of touch, significantly lowering the risk of falls.

Neology Hydrogen SA from Lutry (VD)
Revolutionizing Hydrogen Supply
Hydrogen energy is as an enabler toward a net-zero economy, but comes with challenges in production, storage, and distribution. Presently, Hydrogen cannot be efficiently transported over long-distance as a gas or a liquid. Neology offers an innovative solution of ammonia cracking to produce high purity hydrogen for stationary and mobile application, utilizing liquid ammonia as hydrogen carrier. This innovative solution, characterized by its compact design and energy efficiency, offers consumers affordable hydrogen directly at the point of use, eliminating emissions in the process.

Neurosoft Bioelectronics SA from Chambésy (GE)
Soft and Stretchable Brain Interfaces
Today’s brain implants are inaccurate and stiff, making them unsafe and invasive to interface with the human brain. EPFL-spinoff Neurosoft Bioelectronics builds minimally invasive brain interfaces using soft electrodes for precise neurostimulation and brain data recording. Their flagship product targets severe tinnitus, a condition that affects 120M people worldwide. The startup is also developing a family of subdural electrodes intended for short-term clinical monitoring during brain tumor and epilepsy surgery.

Optiml AG from Zurich (ZH)
Net Zero Real Estate Investment and Renovation Planning
Real estate is under pressure to re-strategize towards efficient, renewable, and affordable building renovations. The ETH Zurich Spin-off Optiml offers AI-powered software to provide cost and CO₂-conscious decision support for real estate owners, asset managers, and consultants. The startup aims to create data transparency on renovation needs and risks (status quo), to optimize asset and portfolio investment decisions, to derive actionable measures per asset, and to anticipate long-term regulatory compliance.

Perovskia Solar AG from Aubonne (VD)
Highly Efficient Solar Cells for Eco-Friendly Devices
Traditional batteries in our electronic devices require frequent charging or replacement, at a high environmental cost. Perovskia’s digitally printed and highly customizable solar cells work under any light conditions and serve as a reliable, portable and eco-friendly energy source. The EMPA-spinoff’s vision is to make everyday devices energy self-sufficient, saving the world from a grotesque amount of battery waste. Perovskia cells’ carbon footprint is 95% lower than that of batteries.

Tandem Therapeutics AG from Schlieren (ZH)
Transforming Fibrosis Treatment With Precision Matrix Targeting
Fibrosis contributes to over 45% of deaths in the developed world. By using evolutionarily optimized matrix targeting peptides, Tandem Tx overcomes the extracellular matrix barrier to unlock the previously inaccessible multidimensional druggable space. Using a deep understanding of matrix mechanobiology and its relation to disease progression, the ETH-spinoff is developing a pipeline of conditionally targeted, efficacious and safer therapies to treat fibrotic diseases.

Tethys Robotics from Zurich (ZH)
Underwater Drones for Rough Waters
Deploying human divers to rough bodies of water is risky, costly and comes with many limitations. The compact underwater drone by Tethys Robotics can navigate autonomously in complex environments with zero visibility. This robot can tackle search and recovery, inspections, 3D modeling and surveillance in rivers and coastal areas with strong tidal currents. This solution is relevant for a wide range of industries, be it hydroplant operators, shipping companies, marine researchers or agencies aiming to remove unexploded ordnance.

Treeless Pack GmbH from Opfikon (ZH)
Cellulose Materials Without Cutting Down Trees
Traditional nanocellulose production entails a complex production sequence that relies heavily on environmentally impactful methods and uses wood as its primary raw material. Instead of chopping down forests, Treeless Pack lets specialized bacteria produce nanocellulose in scalable and automated modular vertical farms. This approach shortens the supply chain, eliminates long-distance transportation, reduces deforestation, and valorizes organic waste to produce a unique and affordable biomaterial, which can be used across industries as a green alternative to fossil-based products.

About the W.A. de Vigier Awards

The W.A. de Vigier Award is the oldest award for young entrepreneurs in Switzerland and, with annual prize money of up to CHF 500,000 (five times CHF 100,000), is one of the most highly endowed startup prizes in Switzerland. Over the past 35 years, the foundation has distributed over CHF 14 million of seed money. The results are over 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.

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Please contact

Hanna Byland and Carmen Lamparter
CEO and COO W.A. de Vigier Foundation
+41 (0)79 799 55 28