Programme Academia-Industry Training

Expanding the international network of sciencentrepreneurs

Participants from AIT India. Photo: Julia Bory (venturelab)

Each year, the Academia-Industry Training (AIT) programme offers around twenty young Swiss researchers and entrepreneurs the opportunity to expand their horizons and develop their potential and their international network by introducing them to dynamic ecosystems and promising markets in India and Brazil. This programme is part of SERI-funded bilateral research activities. Over the past ten years, these activities have given rise to privileged dealings between Switzerland and non-European countries offering great research and innovation potential.

In a rapidly changing world of increasingly complex and global challenges, it is important to facilitate the commitment of education, research and innovation stakeholders at international level so that they can share information to a greater extent and reinforce their capacities for research, innovation and creativity, thus contributing to Switzerland's competitiveness and appeal.

Promoting entrepreneurship
Co-funded by partner ministries in India and Brazil, the Academia-Industry Camp programme is exactly in keeping with this spirit. Its objective is to enable young researchers to become involved in entrepreneurial activities by helping them to transform the results of their research into marketable products. For these Swiss, Brazilian and Indian ‘sciencentrepreneurs’ from the best institutions, this is a unique opportunity to experience foreign ecosystems that are both very dynamic and very different and demanding. The programme consists of two weeks of intensive internship: the first in India or Brazil in the autumn, and the second in Switzerland in the spring. During the camps abroad, participants are made aware of the challenges and opportunities presented by the Indian and Brazilian markets and refine their products through the many exchanges and relationships they forge there.

The selection of start-ups and the organisation of the programme are entrusted to the swissnex network and the Leading Houses responsible for bilateral cooperation (ZHAW for India and University of St. Gallen for Brazil), in collaboration with venturelab partner organisations and Startup@HSG.
Targeted preparations
The fifth edition of the AIT programme took place in Switzerland from 1 to 5 April. It brought together 40 start-up representatives: twenty Swiss, ten Indian and ten Brazilian participants. During the internship weeks, start-ups meet experts who help them develop their project, with topics ranging from intellectual property to regulations. There are also workshops on the (mainly cultural) specificities of the countries where they wish to establish themselves.

In addition, a large part of the program includes coaching activities and exchanges with incubators. Young entrepreneurs repeat their pitch several times in order to be able to convince potential investors later on in their career. The last day of the week is the grand finale, which gives participants the opportunity to present their start-up in five minutes to a specialised jury. This year, the start-up Bloom Biorenewables (a start-up from students at EPFL) won for AIT Brazil and the start-ups OxyPrem and Previda for AIT India.

Cooperation with several partner organisations
Apart from the impact that the AIT has had on the individual trajectories of the selected start-up companies, close ties have been established between the institutional actors involved in this programme. All of the actors involved in the bilateral programmes with India and Brazil supported by the Confederation are connected through this programme and work closely together for its success: SERI and partner ministries, the swissnex offices in Bangalore and Rio de Janeiro and the Leading Houses for both regions (ZHAW for India and University of St. Gallen for Brazil). Through the AIT, agencies in partner countries have discovered and are inspired by the true innovation ecosystem that exists in Switzerland. Their financial commitment extends over several years, which bears testimony to the mutual interest in this programme. In addition, according to the stakeholders interviewed, the AIT programme is complementary to other programmes that exist for start-ups in other parts of the world, notably in the United States, China and the United Kingdom.

Although entering these markets requires a lot of time and resources, India and Brazil are nevertheless huge markets. In addition, there are similar programmes with South Africa and Indonesia and there will soon be one with Colombia.