Six Instead of Five Startups Receive Prizes This Year

Solothurn, June 19, 2024. At this year’s Award Ceremony on June 19, the audience was in for a big surprise: Six startups instead of the usual five received a W.A. de Vigier Award. Each prize is endowed with CHF 100,000.00. The winning projects range from metal foams for the cooling industry, to robotic security guards, as well as recycling mixed plastic waste with light.

„The caliber of startups recognized this year truly exemplifies the power of innovation in our country. Our winners have demonstrated exceptional vision, resilience, and a remarkable ability to turn groundbreaking ideas into promising ventures with positive impacts in multiple domains“, says André Hoffmann, President of the W.A. de Vigier Foundation.

From over 200 submitted projects, the jury picked their Top 15 in February. The 15 CEOs went through an interview process and presented their ideas to the Foundation Board, who chose the final ten nominees. At the award ceremony on June 19, six of these young leaders received a W. A. de Vigier Award, each endowed with CHF 100,000.00. It was a particular pleasure to award six prizes this year. One W.A. de Vigier Award was donated by the Medien- und Unternehmungsförderungsstiftung FERS from Berne, which has closely collaborated with the W.A. de Vigier Foundation over the past year.

This year’s keynote speaker was the de Vigier alum Simon Ittig, whose company T3 Pharmaceuticals was acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim for up to CHF 450 million in November 2023.

These are the six winners (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.

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.

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.

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.

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