Innovation & Enterprise


Ten university startups take part in new UK-Swiss entrepreneurship exchange programme

26 April 2024

The programme, run between UCL and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), has given ten startups the chance to learn, connect and explore new opportunities.

A group of people standing by giant letters spelling out U.C.L. and E.P.F.L.

This is the first time the exchange has taken place between the two universities, who both offer extensive support to people wanting to start and grow businesses.

Ten startups, five from each university, have spent a week together split between Lausanne and London. They received a bespoke introduction to university facilities, laboratories, innovation clusters and key players in their industry.

The project ties in with the recently signed Memorandum of Understanding on co-operation in research and innovation between the UK and Switzerland.

A week of learning and connection

The week-long programme, which took place this month, kicked off with five specially-selected UCL startups travelling to Lausanne region. Here they visited industry experts, professors, startups and investors from EPFL’s network relevant to their sectors. They also attended workshops and a 'Networking Fondue' event, specially organised for them, with over 70 guests. This took place in Bern at the residency of James Squire His Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador in Switzerland.

The UK startups are in MedTech (MedQ, TIE Cast, Your Cue), built environment (Phyta Biodesign) and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) (Scentient).

The UCL founders then travelled back to the UK with the five chosen Swiss businesses (BoundaryAi, Unki, Myriad Optics, Neuralworks Technologies and NEOSENS) for three days of events at UCL. The founders attended meetings with relevant contacts, workshops on investments, UK regulations, and networking events.

A highlight of the week included STARTAlp, a networking event with an Alpine twist at the UCL School of Management. Guests of honour were H.E. Markus Leitner, the Ambassador of Switzerland in the UK, and Charlie Raposo, Team GB Alpine World Cup Skier and five times British Champion.

With the aim of exploring the UK and Swiss markets respectively, founders from both countries learnt more about everything from local business practices to consumer behaviour. There was also lots of opportunity to build valuable connections with their counterparts, potential investors, mentors and industry experts from both universities.

The programme has already proven fruitful with startups having follow-up meetings with investors or flying back to Switzerland for further meetings with potential partners.

Bringing together two universities and startup ecosystems

Both UCL and EPFL are hubs for innovation and scientific advancement. EPFL’s startup ecosystem has produced over 500 startups operating in Europe and beyond, raising over £410 million in 2024.

UCL has a thriving entrepreneurial community creating startups that attract millions of pounds of investment, creating jobs and spearheading innovation that boosts the UK economy.

In total, over 500 new student startup businesses were founded at UCL between 2014 and 2023. Collectively they’ve raised over £360 million and employ more than 2,000 people [HEBCI 2014-2023].

Professor Geraint Rees, UCL Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) said: “This new exchange programme underlines UCL’s commitment to both entrepreneurship and collaboration. We’re committed to working with European partners and are thrilled to be collaborating with such a prestigious Swiss university. By working together, we can create new opportunities for promising startups in both institutions.”

Maurice Gaillard, Student Entrepreneurship Programme Leader at EPFL, agrees the programme has benefits for both universities, and London and Swiss Romandie’s entrepreneurship ecosystems.

“Launching this new programme with UCL has given us a way to facilitate the exchange of ideas, expertise and market insights that exist across both universities and their unique ecosystems. It’s been a great opportunity for the student and alumni startups who’ve taken part, who are doing incredible work in everything from health wearables to hospitality, and are now poised to expand and explore new opportunities in a strategic foreign country. It’s been a fantastic week. We're hoping it is only the beginning and that it will pave the way for future collaborations.”

Supporting UCL startups

UCL startup Scentient was one of the businesses to take part in this year’s programme. Co-founded by Ivan Novikov (Mechanical Engineering MEng, 2020) and Anastasia Georgievskaya, Scentient incorporates ‘smell’ into field and simulation training to create a more immersive and realistic experience.

Anastasia said: "The exchange programme was one of the most productive and successful programmes Scentient's team has participated in. The benefits of this programme are immense, from building a network in Switzerland, fostering new potential partnerships, to team and community building within UCL’s own startups.

We had a great time and made some very powerful strides for our startups. We're going back to Switzerland next month to continue the productive conversations and hopefully begin establishing lasting partnerships. Thanks to the organisers, inspiring startups, UCL, EPFL and Embassies for this amazing opportunity!"

The five UCL startups taking part in this exchange programme are part of the Hatchery incubator programme at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub in King’s Cross managed by UCL Innovation & Enterprise.


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