If there was ever any proof needed that the University of Basel was strongly pivoting towards supporting homegrown start-ups & entrepreneurial action, the year 2020 clearly provided it. New all-time records in terms of startup foundations (10) and investments into our existing start-ups (74.4 MCHF) demonstrate an increasingly successful track record. Our 2020 highlight was the launch and Series A funding round (30.0 MCHF) for Matterhorn Biosciences with CTO Lucia Mori and Prof. Gennaro de Libero.
The pipeline of prospective new start-ups is also growing strongly, with a staggering new record of participants in our own Innosuisse Entrepreneurship Course activities in 2020 (519 people).
Our ten new Start-ups from Basel - the "Class of 2020"
Hornet Therapeutics: immune cell metabolism & cell therapy for cancer treatment;
Mulier Health: personalized health tracking platforms for women;
NeoPredix: decision support tool for neonatal clinical practice;
Artifex Medical: vascular graft prosthesis;
Rekonas: a platform for automated EEG analysis;
Cimeio Therapeutics: immunotherapies for leukemic tumors, autoimmune diseases, bone transplants;
Cryowrite: sample preparation for cryo-electron microscopy;
Dedomena: real-time quality of life data tool for city planning;
Consense Philanthropy Consulting: building bridges between philanthropy and society;
Prosalute: equal access to healthcare for the socially disadvantaged.
Three novel Programs we implemented in 2020
1. The Propelling Grant
As we are building up a growing start-up pipeline, the University of Basel is actively engaging with professors and young researchers very early on. For our future founders, it's crucial to get their first support in-house, openly discussing expectations, risks, and development paths together with the Innovation Office but also with fellow peers. In addition to providing this support in a "safe space", the University has understood that de-risking a start-up project early on can provide a much-needed boost.
That's why the Innovation Office is spearheading a new university-wide fellowship program, the Propelling Grant. Winners of the grant receive up to 50,000 CHF each for a period of six months and a tailored program of skill-building workshops and introductions. The first two winners in 2020 were: Dedomena with Dr. Cédric Duchêne-Lacroix (Sociology) and NextImmune with Dr. Rajesh Jayachandran (Biozentrum).
2. The Bio-Campus
As the pre-eminent research institution in the Basel region, we feel that we have a special responsibility to invigorate the immense potential of the local innovation ecosystem. For Basel to establish itself as a leading global startup hub, we understand that a substantive pipeline of new start-ups is key. Therefore, the University has decided in its long-term strategy that it will engage with partner universities and selected incubators in neighboring France and Germany to form the Bio-Campus. A common tri-national ecosystem, the Bio-Campus is set to be a common start-up space of excellence, globally partnering up with other ecosystems, and also co-creating the future of healthcare together with corporate partners.
Disappointingly, there is still a very large gender gap in the start-up world, be it among start-up founders, but also among investors, supporters, mentors, etc. Acknowledging the lack of female voices, the University of Basel Innovation Office has decided to tackle this problem head-on with the initiative FEMtrepreneurs. The entrepreneurs are a Basel-based grass-root movement of passionate women, aiming to improve visibility and to empower female entrepreneurs.
International Outlook for positive Impact
We believe that start-ups have infinite potential to create a positive impact in our society. However, this potential can only be reached when our start- ups think and act with a global outlook. Therefore, we provide tailored links for our start-ups to global hubs. For example, in February 2020, the Innovation Office and our start-ups Bottmedical, Artidis, and NOUL visited Bangalore and Hyderabad for the Bio-Asia 2020 conference on a program co-created with swissnex India.