Providing support for innovation

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Despite the many challenges we faced in 2020 as a result of the pandemic and its numerous repercussions on the economy, the Vice Presidency for Innovation stayed the course and even stepped up the services we provide. No fewer than 400 startups have come out of EPFL labs and accelerators in the past 50-plus years, including 25 startups in 2020 alone. We expanded our range of support programs for early-stage startups through our new Ignition Grants, which supplement the Innogrants that we already provide to later-stage ventures. We also rolled out other support programs for emerging entrepreneurs in areas such as design, prototyping, risk assessment and market research and by coordinating startup internships. Finally, our new EPFL Changemakers program gave students an opportunity to build their leadership and entrepreneurial skills in order to turn their business ideas into reality.

EPFL’s ability to benefit the economy also depends on its capacity to facilitate innovation, conduct R&D and collaborate with businesses locally, nationally and internationally. With EPFL Innovation Park now fully occupied, the VPI is putting together a program to fast-track the launch of joint initiatives with strategic partners and develop new industry partnerships. We will roll out this program in 2021, using it to test the local innovation ecosystem and accelerate the creation of R&D partnerships.

Since 2017, the VPI has been a catalyst for sustainable-development solutions through the Tech4Impact initiative. In 2020 we combined Tech4Impact with Switzerland Innovation Park (SIP) to create Switzerland Innovation Tech4Impact Initiative (SI Tech4Impact), a nationwide initiative. Six projects were selected through this platform to receive CHF 85,000 in funding each to help them get their products and services to market. Along the same lines, our Space4Impact initiative put space-industry startups in contact with established companies and investors from outside the industry, with a view to advancing the young firms’ development efforts and speeding the transfer of their technology to society.

The VPI is also working hard to deepen our relationships with and support for SMEs. The success of our SME innovation fair FORWARD, which was run for the third time in 2020, illustrates these companies’ keen interest in developing their digital skills and carrying out joint projects with EPFL.

Last but not least, EPFL played an important role in one of the key events that took place in Vaud Canton in 2020: the Youth Olympic Games. Our School has been delivering breakthroughs in sports technology for several years, and around 30 of our labs took part in educational activities associated with the Games by testing out their latest innovations.

Ursula Oesterle

Vice President for Innovation


Innovation | 9 articles