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In 2009, more companies have been founded than in the previous years. (Image: J. Kuster / ETH Zurich)
In 2009, more companies have been founded than in the previous years. (Image: J. Kuster / ETH Zurich)

Abstract:
Despite the difficult economic climate, many researchers from ETH Zurich founded a company last year. The university recorded no fewer than 24 new spin-offs in 2009 - the most ever in a single year. Four of them are involved in the "cleantech" industry and deal in environmentally friendly technology.

24 new companies founded

Zurich | Posted on January 11th, 2010

ETH Zurich can look back with satisfaction on a year with many company foundations. In 2009 the already very high number of 23 new spin-off foundations in 2008 was even exceeded. Of the 24 new firms, ten were established in information and communications technology, three each in electrical and mechanical engineering, and a further three in services. Researchers from ETH Zurich also founded one spin-off each in advanced materials, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, micro- and nanotechnology, and medical devices. The new spin-offs' range of products include flying robots, injections on the nanometer scale and a method for measuring the melting properties of ice cream.

"Cleantech" on the up

It is striking that four out of 24 spin-offs were established in the "cleantech" sector. "Cleantech" is the abbreviation for "clean technology" and stands for any products, processes and services that go easy on natural resources and reduce the negative impact on the environment. The four cleantech companies come from different technical areas: "Amphiro", for example, develops energy and water-saving software and the spin-off "Keoto" renders engineering services for sustainable building. The founders of "greenTEG" sell flexible and inexpensive thermoelectric equipment that converts waste heat into electricity. The business concept of "ClimeWorks" is based on innovative technology that collects CO2 from the air, stores and delivers it to somewhere where it can be put to good use.

Solving urgent problems

Against the backdrop of climate change and the deteriorating environmental situation, many observers believe that "cleantech" is becoming a growth market. "Researchers from ETH Zurich were already working on environmentally friendly technologies long before the term "cleantech" was coined", says Silvio Bonaccio, Head of ETH transfer, ETH Zurich's technology transfer office, adding that, "Spin-offs can develop solutions that enable our production and consumption methods to become more sustainable."

Considerable amounts of prize money won

Independent committees also have high hopes for ETH Zurich's spin-offs. Numerous company founders have received major advancement awards, such as the ZKB Pioneer Prize or the W.A. de Vigier Foundation Prize. In all, ETH-Zurich spin-offs received over 1.5 million Swiss francs' worth of national prize money last year - half a million more than in 2008.

ETH transfer offers advice and support to the ETH-Zurich researchers in the initial stages of setting up a company. Experienced technology transfer managers help the scientists to draw up a business plan or find suitable premises at the Technopark or ETH Zurich. Moreover, they also put the company founders in contact with external investors and consultants. Over the last few years, ETH transfer has built up a large network of decision makers and investors.

Largest business plan competition in Switzerland

Every two years, ETH Zurich co-organizes the largest business plan competition in Switzerland with McKinsey and now also the Swiss Confederation Innovation Promotion Agency (CTI). "Venture" was founded in 1998 and is funded by Swiss industry. The application process for Venture 2010 got underway in October 2009. The best business ideas will be selected on January 14 in the presence of the President of the Swiss Federal Council Doris Leuthard. The competition will then enter into its second phase: the development of the business plans, the best of which will be chosen in May 2010.

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About ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich is the study, research and work place of 20,000 people from 80 nations. About 370 professors in 16 departments teach mainly in the engineering sciences and architecture, system-oriented sciences, mathematics and natural sciences areas and carry out research that is highly valued worldwide.

As an internationally oriented institution of higher education and a nationally grounded one this forward-looking task is fulfilled in service to the Swiss nation.

Twenty-one Nobel Laureates are connected with ETH Zurich. Maintaining and developing its top standing in the international competition among top universities is an important task of ETH Zurich.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
ETH Zurich
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Rämistrasse 101
8092 Zurich
Switzerland
Phone: +41 44 632 1111
Fax: +41 44 632 1010

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