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Spin-offs Commercial projects thrive at top Zurich university

Sensor making machine

Some tech companies, such as Sensirion, have thrived since spinning off from ETH.

(Sensirion)

A record number of commercial spin-off companies emerged from Zurich’s Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) last year. Firms originating from the university also managed to attract CHF170 million ($172 million) in funding.

ETH Zurich, along with its counterpart in Lausanne (EPFL), has established itself as one of Europe’s leading universities, specialising in social sciences and technology. Researchers are actively encouraged to turn their ideas into commercial projects.

Since 1996, 407 spin-off companies have been launchedexternal link. The rate of start-ups has increased to average 24 a year over the past nine years – with the 27 created in 2018 representing a new high.

Among the 2018 crop include a firm working on a new method of root canal treatment and an artificial intelligence project to identify various diseases by analysing patterns in huge volumes of data from individual cells.

Not all spin-offs succeed in getting beyond their early stages, but ETH Zurich says the CHF170 million invested in some of them last year indicates that certain projects have a sustainable commercial future.

Sensirionexternal link has been producing sensors to measure humidity, temperature, CO2 and other gases since it was founded in 1998. Last year the company listed its shares on the Swiss stock exchange for the first time. 

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