For the first time, this year’s development programme with partners Ericsson and Qualcomm CDMA was open to start-ups from across the world involved in the development of 5G applications and prototypes. Applications were received from a total of 125 start-ups from 30 different countries. Since the launch of the Swisscom StartUp Challenge in 2013, around 1,300 start-ups have applied to take part. The efforts have boosted innovation transfer with Swisscom and launched numerous successful collaborative projects. Swisscom Ventures has invested in ten of the start-up companies. The top 100 Swiss start-ups of 2020 included ten previous Swisscom StartUp Challenge participants, such as CREAL, Gmelius, Involi and PXL Vision.
Around half of this year’s finalists are working on applications using autonomous drones and robots, covering protection and rescue, tourism and agriculture. The other start-ups are developing applications and prototypes for artificial intelligence, virtual reality and the Internet of Things. Around 80 percent of applications came from Switzerland, with the remaining 20 percent from other countries, including China and Argentina.
Five winners selected by the panel and a public-choice award
On 17 December 2020, the top ten start-ups pitched to the panel of experts. The judges included Martin Bürki (Managing Director Ericsson Switzerland), Enrico Salvatori (Senior Vice President & President Qualcomm EMEA), Christoph Aeschlimann (Chief Technology Officer Swisscom), Friederike Hoffmann (Head of Connected Business Solutions Swisscom) and Roger Wüthrich-Hasenböhler (Chief Digital Officer Swisscom).
The start-ups not only needed smart ideas and a convincing business model to impress the panel; they also had to show team spirit and determination. The panel were particularly impressed by the following start-ups: Fotokite, HEGIAS AG, qiio AG, Robotic Systems Lab (ETH) and ZaiNarInc. Alongside the judges’ winners, the public also chose their favourite in an online vote. The start-up HEGIAS AG was the public’s choice, with 25 percent of the votes.
Testing in the cutting-edge Swiss 5G network
In March 2021, the five winners will have the chance to carry out testing and development as part of a one-week exploration programme in one of the world’s most advanced 5G networks and in Swisscom’s 5G Lab. They will be supported by mentors and experts from Ericsson, Qualcomm CDMA Technologies and Swisscom. Swisscom will also consider potential business partnerships and investment by Swisscom Ventures.