Startups rely on AI and sustainability for new partnerships

Following a marathon of pitches, 41 startups from 13 countries, including Germany, Austria, Singapore, USA, UK, Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, Israel, Spain, and Estonia were selected for the 8th Kickstart Innovation programme.

Over 170 experts participated as jurors to select these startups out of 1000 applications coming from more than 60 countries in just six weeks. These 41 finalists will work in Switzerland with companies, organisations, cities, foundations, and universities over the 11-week program to further advance partnerships and deep-tech and sustainable innovation.

"A clearly emerging trend is the application of artificial intelligence and circular economy as a competitive advantage," explained Katka Letzing, CEO and Co-Founder of Kickstart, one of the largest open innovation platforms in Europe. "This includes, for example, the digital account manager from Swiss startup Aixa or Kloten-based Calvin Risk with the first platform for AI governance, risk management, and compliance."

Leading organisations and companies such as AXA, Canton de Vaud, City of Zurich, Coop, la Mobilière, PostFinance, Sanitas, CSEM, MSD and others have been engaging in the Kickstart program to identify new trends and developments with a focus on technological innovation and the circular economy.

"While established companies have many advantages over startups in terms of customer and process structure, there is also a risk of sleeping through new trends using AI and other technologies," reported Ralph Rimet, Head of strategic projects and innovation at la Mobiliére. "That's why we're joining the Kickstart program again this year to enter into collaborative innovation partnerships and commercial deals."

Since 2016, Kickstart has supported more than 400 startups and delivered more than 270 deals in the form of pilots and commercial projects from over 80 countries, raising more than CHF 2.5 billion in investment to date, including Planted, Neustark, Unsupervised and AAAcell.

Energy efficiency dominates Smart Cities

In five verticals (New Work & Learning, Finance & Insurance, Food & Retail, Health & Wellbeing and Smart Cities), the startups presented their business models and ideas for the future. In the Food & Retail area, many ideas came from Israel, Portugal and Estonia, among others. The Swiss company Advection Engineering is working on techniques to produce whole, marbled meat substitutes for today's generation. The British company Nukoko is producing chocolate without cocoa to be more environmentally friendly and less harmful to health.

With the increasing energy prices and the energy crisis, projects in the field of smart cities are focusing on energy efficiency. Enerdrape from Lausanne, for example, transforms underground spaces such as tunnels and underground garages into renewable energy sources for the heating and cooling needs of buildings. Urbio is a generative AI design software that accelerates the decarbonisation of buildings. 20-40% of energy in buildings can be saved by creating connections through smart thermostats and incorporating learning information about the thermal behavior of buildings.

In addition, AI is the dominant technology in New Work & Learning as well as in Health & Wellbeing solutions. The Austrian start-up Ada Growth supports companies in attracting, retaining and promoting female talent. For this purpose, a professional learning tool was developed specifically for women. Traditional corporate learning tools such as conferences and volume oriented LMS offerings lack personalisation. The future of learning lies in flexible, individualised microlearning apps that use an AI content production cycle to quickly scale to each member of the organisation.