SNSF and Innosuisse facilitate the creation of start-ups in Switzerland

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Start-ups drive innovation and enable the use of research results. The SNSF and Innosuisse facilitate the creation of start-ups in Switzerland, as a study commissioned by the two organisations shows.

Start-ups are an important driver of innovation. They make it possible to combine fundamental knowledge with the latest research results and to develop new cutting-edge applications at the same.

The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency, promote research and innovation on behalf of the federal government. They provide important stimuli and contributions at various points in the innovation chain – from the promotion of fundamental knowledge to use-inspired basic research to science-based innovation. The two organisations are thus making important contributions to strengthening Switzerland's start-up ecosystem. To better understand how they contribute to the emergence of start-ups and to fine-tune their joint funding system, the SNSF and Innosuisse commissioned a study by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research (ISI).

Rapid implementation of research results by start-ups

An online survey of 470 start-ups founded in Switzerland since 2011 was conducted for the study. The companies provided information about their business idea, their composition and their development goals. Key questions addressed in the study included whether or not the idea for a start-up had originated from a science institution (e.g. university, research institution), and how such start-ups differ from each other.

The results showed that start-ups originating from scientific institutions are characterised by the rapid translation of research knowledge into innovations and specific start-ups. These start-ups are based more strongly on science and technology. They also tend to focus increasingly on their own innovations and are more strongly oriented towards the global market than start-ups that were founded without the involvement of a scientific institution. Overall, both groups contribute to the great diversity found among Swiss start-ups.

Funding system for start-ups works well

Another key focus of the study was the role of public funding and support from the SNSF, Innosuisse and the joint BRIDGE programme. The survey results were supplemented by case studies of selected start-ups that had received funding from the SNSF and Innosuisse. It was shown that the funding system for start-ups in Switzerland works well. The SNSF and Innosuisse play an important role in this system and complement each other based on their respective mandates.

While the SNSF funds research in all disciplines, Innosuisse mainly supports innovation projects in which universities and companies work together. The study shows that both research funding and innovation projects generate ideas and lay the scientific and technical foundations that can later lead to the founding of start-ups. In addition to funding from the SNSF and Innosuisse, including BRIDGE, university funding and EU programmes also contribute to the founding of start-ups in Switzerland.

Finely calibrated funding portfolios

Overall, the study shows that the SNSF and Innosuisse have developed well-coordinated funding portfolios across the entire innovation chain of Switzerland's complex start-up ecosystem (from basic knowledge to the founding of start-ups). No duplications or gaps in the funding portfolio of the two institutions were identified, which is why there is no fundamental need for action. In order to expand the use of their schemes, the study authors recommend that the SNSF and Innosuisse continue and, if necessary, intensify their cooperation while also optimising their outreach to target groups. The two organisations are now reviewing the recommendations and will make appropriate adjustments where necessary.

For the SNSF as a research funder, the study provides further important insights that it can incorporate into the strategic development of the funding portfolio. For example, it was shown that doctorates and postdocs are particularly relevant for the emergence of start-ups, because founders often develop the idea for their start-up during these academic phases. The funding schemes of the SNSF hence lead to the emergence of innovations and start-ups. This enables society and the economy to benefit rapidly and comprehensively from research results – true to one of the SNSF's priorities for the multi-year period 2025-2028: to exploit the full potential of research.