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Firms support entrepreneurs at top Swiss university: Experts

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-09-19 08:36

Firms support entrepreneurs at top Swiss university: Experts

Ren Zhengfei, president of Huawei Technologies Co, reacts as he leaves a session of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. [Photo/Agencies]

GENEVA-Chinese companies are supporting young and talented, science-oriented entrepreneurs not only by investing in local entrepreneurship-promoted programs but lately also by bringing their expertise to global markets, Swiss experts have said.

Lukas Huber, Asia director of Greater Zurich Area AG, a non-profit organization helping international companies set up companies and make investments in the region, applauded Chinese telecommunications company Huawei's latest cooperation with ETH Zurich, the world-ranked Swiss university, by financing a so-called "Pioneer Fellowship Program."

ETH Zurich files around 100 patents each year and numerous discoveries are made in its laboratories and by its research groups on a daily basis. However, a startup or marketable product is often a long way off.

The program, founded by Detlef Gunther, vice-president of ETH Zurich in charge of research and corporate relations, aims to help young researchers realize an innovative product and solid business plan out of their research results.

Young entrepreneurs can receive up to 150,000 Swiss francs ($155,000) in seed capital and coach for a maximum of 18 months. Under a partnership agreement signed in February with ETH Zurich, Huawei has promised to support two "pioneer fellows" every year in the next three years.

"Huawei realizes the innovation potential here is worthwhile to take a closer look and they start to support the most promising, high-profile spinoffs from ETH," said Huber.

He said companies like Huawi are also important and unique to Switzerland in that they bring expertise in links to one of the largest markets in the world.

There is a natural development in that China becomes more interesting for local tech startups with its massive e-commerce entities such as Tencent and Alibaba, he noted.

"Different initiatives, companies, activities can help build bridges, connections with China and will also help local companies and startups to have a smoother, easier access, or a variety of potential partners in China," he said.

Lorenz Meier, also a pioneer fellow of ZTH Zurich, is just named as one of top under 35 innovators by MIT Technology Review. He maintains a close cooperation with Chinese companies in a different way.

In February, he helped Chinese electric aviation company Yuneec to establish its R&D (research and development) center in Zurich and since then has become an advisor to the company in high-tech development.

Yuneec is at the forefront of electric aircraft and drone technology, producing a million units or parts of them a year through its regional offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Los Angeles and Hamburg.

Meier said the concentration of talent in Switzerland is high but the country does not have strong consumer electronics companies.

"So it's interesting to have companies like Yuneec with its input into products," said Meier, admitting that "Yuneec is enabling access of Swiss technology to global markets."

"Yuneec is also facilitating the access of Swiss startups to global markets," he added, explaining that the Chinese company is enabling Swiss startups to develop components or accessories for drones.

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