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The Swiss-South Africa Cleantech Opportunity

Updated: Nov 9, 2022


Participants of the 2019 Swiss-South African Pitch Battle in Cape Town and Alumni of the Swiss South African Business Development Programme.


As many other countries of the globe, South Africa has felt the direct impact of the changing climate over the past years. In addition, the country is experiencing chronic electricity shortages, with load reductions – "load shedding" - occurring since 2007. The need for alternative sources including renewable energy and gas, is expressed in several policy documents of the national government. The South African Government is further committed to support innovations addressing a circular economy with clean technology as a fundamental enabler. The Swiss Global Enterprise website provides more information on the South Africa Clean Technology Market.

In addition to a clear need for Cleantech solutions local exchanges including positive experiences of prior AIT participants showed an opportunity for external innovation in Cleantech. The Swiss Leading House therefore felt the time has come to concentrate efforts on a thematic approach focusing on clean technology innovation relevant to the South African and African markets. Swiss entrepreneurs have the potential to contribute to the solution of South African challenges through their cleantech innovations. This will not only complement local efforts to address climate change, pollution, and unemployment but also to seize specific regional opportunities.

Visiting Swiss entrepreneurs at the 2016 SA Innovation Summit in Cape Town with former Swiss State Secretary Marie-Gabrielle Ineichen-Fleisch.


You will have more than a week of match-making meetings, pitching sessions, panel discussions, workshops, and access to the South African clean technology market including time for independent exchanges.

Prior to leaving

  1. SEIF will provide a series of training modules on impact frameworks to provide you with insight on how to frame your business to impact investors, align with Sustainable Development Goals and maximise your Impact

  2. The Swiss embassy in South Africa will provide you with input to allow you to prepare for the visit, not only for the common program but your own independent contacts.

In South Africa

You will experience tailored support as follows:

  1. Access to the WESGRO one-stop shop. The official tourism, trade and investment promotion agency for Cape Town and the Western Cape, is standing ready to support you through knowledge of the South African regulatory requirements and know-how through facilitation support. In support of the Wesgro one-stop show is the documentation you can find on the Swiss Global Enterprise website on entering the South African market.

  2. Access to Green Cape as a knowledge broker in clean technology providing a snap-shot market intelligence overview as a feeder to your innovations.

  3. Access to the Atlantis Special Economic Zone with a focus on cleantech. The Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is designed to cater to the Cleantech ecosystem with an outlook to host foreign startups. The Western Cape Province presents an excellent incentive package in collaboration with the Atlantis SEZ, emphasizing low-carbon and resource-efficient projects.

  4. Access to South African cleantech startups and SMMEs. You will have the opportunity to exchange with South African cleantech startups and alumni of the Global Cleantech Innovation Programme GCIP, the flagship programme of UNIDO.

  5. Access to several of the ten cleantech finalists for the Energy Investment Village. To give you an idea, these startups include Brayfoil Technologies, HydroFuel Solutions, Impact-free Water, Keren Energy, Oceanergy, PWK Waste Management and Recycling, SeaH4, SlideLuvre, and Zimi Charge.

  6. A visit to Launchlab in Stellenbosch. Launchlab aims to serve as a trusted partner helping technology transfer entrepreneurs transform their early-stage venture (pre-seed, seed, series seed, pre-series A) into a fully fleshed-out business with a clear business plan, and budget based on a defined mission, vision, values.

  7. Access to Venture Capitalists (VCs) in South Africa as a pre-curses on your innovation's performance in the African market through a pitching session. An excellent example of a South African VC is Knife Capital.

  8. Access to the clean technology and innovation networks of the Swiss Embassy of South Africa. For example, Startup Bootcamp, where you will learn how they have scaled in Africa through equity investment.

  9. We will do our level best to ensure that you gain insight into the ins and outs of establishing a Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) status that enables you to compete sustainably, generate profits, and create value.

  10. Participation at the Social and Tech driven Innovation for Impact conference organised by Swiss and African Science and Business Innovators (SASBI) and Entrepreneurship Development in Higher Education (EDHE) South Africa in Johannesburg on Feb 22-23.

  11. The crème de la crème of your week in South Africa will be tailored-based meetings with the private sector done for you by the Embassy of Switzerland through their access to markets and networks matching your innovation.

And make sure you don't miss the opportunity to experience first-class hospitality and sunshine.


Switzerland has had four cohorts of the Academia to Industry Training (AIT) programme. Out of the nearly fifty participants, most businesses have a tech solution in the medical, agricultural, trade, and services industries. Several of them are spin-offs of Swiss universities with teams of 1-3 people and were in the prototype phase. All except two businesses are still in operation.

For many Swiss participants, the AIT was a first glimpse into the African market, its opportunities, and its challenges. With many having participated in other AIT camps, the South African version put them in front of a very different economic and cultural context. The most significant reported benefits for the Swiss innovators as part of their feedback were networking opportunities for future market access and business development.

For example, Swoxid (water filter membrane): Dr. Endre Horvath participated in an innovation challenge in 2016 and visited South Africa for the first time that year in the framework of the South African Innovation Summit. He was able to connect with the University of Stellenbosch for further joint research and returned to South Africa to exhibit during the 2019 Science Forum. Swoxid participated in the virtual 2020 AIT camp and continued to expand collaborations in the global South.



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