08-Oct-2020 - Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich (ETH Zürich)

How ETH Zurich spin-offs strengthen the Swiss economy

ETH spin-​offs are much more likely to make an exit than other Swiss start-​ups

As well as generating more jobs on average than other Swiss start-​ups, ETH spin-​offs are also acquired more frequently. A decisive factor, according to University of St.Gallen’s comprehensive analysis, comes from the institutional support for entrepreneurship.

With around 500 ETH spin-​offs now in existence, these businesses play a key role in the transfer of knowledge to the Swiss economy. In order to estimate the performance and economic added value of these companies, a detailed analysis was performed for the third time after similar analyses in 2008 and 2015. The analysis assessed four categories: human resources factors, influence on the economy and innovation, financial matters and operational aspects.

More Swiss Jobs

Ninety-​five percent of the spin-​offs are still located in Switzerland, with the majority based in Zurich, thus enabling them to boost the country’s economy and capacity for innovation. The group of 145 ETH spin-​offs analysed as part of the study was shown to have created around 4,500 full-​time equivalent (FTE) jobs. Each company provided about 30 positions on average, more than twice the average number for Swiss start-​ups. ETH Zurich spin-​offs also demonstrate clear signs of growth: in 2008, such enterprises generated only seven new jobs on average.

Major differences are evident between the sectors, too. Companies in the field of electrical engineer-​ing and electronics – with more than 2,000 FTEs – are the frontrunners when it comes to the number of jobs created. The number of patents per company – an indicator of innovative strength – is also highest in the electronics sector.

Creating a Value of Almost CHF 5 Billion in Equity

The group analysed – a good third of all ETH Zurich spin-​offs – generated almost CHF 900 million in revenue in 2017. The financial figures therefore clearly show that ETH spin-​offs represent an attractive investment option, with the money multiple at 3.6 on average. The overall equity value of this group is almost CHF 5 billion – extrapolated to all ETH spin-​offs, the value would be closer to CHF 10 billion. Biotech and pharmaceutical companies receive by far the most investor funds.

ETH spin-​offs are much more likely to make an exit than other Swiss start-​ups. About 10% of all spin-​offs had completed an exit (the majority through a trade sale) at the time of the study. ETH spin-​offs are also much more likely to emerge unscathed from the “valley of death” than other start-​ups: the study showed that 93% of ETH spin-​offs exceed their five-​year milestone successfully.

More Spin-​offs, More funding, More Gender Equality

ETH Zurich built up its support for spin-​offs early on, in part through ETH transfer, the technology transfer office founded in 2005. The Pioneer Fellowship funding programme has also proven to be a factor in their success: enterprises founded by Pioneer Fellows have significantly higher chances of a successful exit. The university also developed actively utilized networking opportunities. Furthermore, the number of spin-​offs founded at ETH Zurich continues to rise and remains at a consistently high level, with more than 25 spin-​offs founded each year.

“It is pleasing to see how the spin-​off culture is continuing to develop at ETH Zurich. The study confirms that my predecessor Roland Siegwart was justified in establishing the Pioneer Fellowships and that we remain on the right track,” says Detlef Günther, Vice President for Research and Corporate Relations. The number of female entrepreneurs involved in founding these enterprises has also risen since 2007, with the figure currently at around 8%. “It is particularly important to me that we continue to strive for gender equality in our spin-​off community,” notes Günther. In closing, he says, “We want to keep improving our support services for spin-​offs over the next few years – in close dialogue with the companies.”

Facts, background information, dossiers
  • start-ups
  • ETH Zürich
More about ETH Zürich
  • News

    Chain length determines molecular colour

    Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed fluorescent polymers whose colour can be easily tuned. Depending on their length, the polymers emit a different colour. Potential applications include biomedicine, security printing and solar energy. Around the world, a huge amount of research and de ... more

    Voltage from the parquet

    Researchers at Empa and ETH Zurich have made wood compressible and turned it into a micro-generator. When it is loaded, an electrical voltage is generated. In this way, the wood can serve as a bio-sensor - or generate usable energy. The latest highlight: To ensure that the process does not ... more

    Lights on for silicon photonics

    When it comes to microelectronics, there is one chemical element like no other: silicon, the workhorse of the transistor technology that drives our information society. The countless electronic devices we use in everyday life are a testament to how today very high volumes of silicon-based c ... more

  • Videos

    Oxybromination of methane over vanadium phosphate

    ETH Zurich scientists have discovered a new catalyst that allows the easy conversion of natural gas constituents into precursors for the production of fuels or complex chemicals, such as polymers or pharmaceuticals. The new catalyst is extremely stable and results in fewer unwanted by-produ ... more