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Record Investment in EPFL Start-ups

© Alain Herzog 2014

© Alain Herzog 2014

EPFL start-ups have raised private capital exceeding 220 million Swiss francs in 2014, which is twice the amount of the previous year. The number of young companies created also doubled.

Venture capital funds investing in EPFL start-ups amounted to more than 220 million Swiss francs in 2014. This is an absolute record, even though the previous year also proved to be excellent, with an injection of capital exceeding 110 million. Since 2010, roughly one-half billion francs have been invested by the private sector, who are betting on the potential of these young companies.

EPFL spin-offs – companies that develop a discovery or invention within EPFL laboratories – claim the lion’s share. They account for 185 of the 220 million francs invested in 2014. The remaining 35 million are for start-ups that, although they may not have developed technologies at EPFL, have moved to the campus’ Innovation Park to enjoy its dynamism and to work more closely with the school’s scientists.

Some companies have achieved a high increase in their capital, such as Mitokyne or Anokion. However, nearly 15% of the funds went to very young start-ups who are just beginning. As elsewhere in Switzerland, the medical technology sector obtained the largest share of investments.

Twice the number of start-ups created in 2014 as in 2013

The number of start-up founded in 2014 has doubled as well: 24 versus 12 in 2013. The previous record was 20 companies established in 2009. These new start-ups represent many areas of activity at EPFL. Five of them are active in the field of IT, five in biotech, and four in medtech. The rest are comprised of mechanics, micronanotechnologies, electronics/electrical and environmental sensors.

Over the past 10 years, one-third of EPFL spin-offs have been created through Innogrants. This start-up fund that is financed by the school ensures one year’s salary for a person with a promising project, usually a researcher or a student of the school. Over 90 million Swiss francs of private investment have been made in companies launched by the Innogrants program since its inception in 2005.

“A genuine start-up culture is emerging at EPFL and in the region,” says Hervé Lebret, campus head of the Innogrants program. “Private investment is often considered to be Switzerland’s Achilles’ heel regarding innovation, but the current trend is looking very good.”

Today EPFL’s Innovation Park is hosting roughly 110 start-ups, representing about 700 jobs. Following the trend of recent years, these figures are expected to increase.