Innosuisse Startup Innovation Projects FAQ

Are you a tech entrepreneur looking for funding in Switzerland? Innosuisse is looking for highly-disruptive startups with scalable business models!
The Innosuisse Startup Innovation Programme (SIP) is the perfect fit for Swiss startups which:

  • Have not entered the market yet (some revenues are allowed though)
  • Are developing science-based innovations
  • Have significant innovation and scalability potential – non-linear growth is expected
  • Can accelerate market launch through grant funding (70% rate)
    If this is the case, read our FAQ and don’t hesitate to contact us!

A. Requirements for submitting an application

1. What are the eligibility criteria?

  • The funding programme is aimed at Swiss startups which have not entered the market yet, i.e. does not have ready-developed products or services on the market yet (except for R&D, consulting, etc. services that are not the basis of their business model). A startup is considered established on the market when it produces and sells at least one fully developed product or service. Prototypes or demonstrators are not considered fully developed products or services.
  • The projects must have significant innovation potential and prepare start-ups for initially entering the market.
  • Projects must be based on research that has practical applications, focusing on developing solutions that can be implemented in real-world settings.
  • The new innovation (product or service) must not yet be ready for market launch when the application is submitted, but can be launched quickly on the market after project completion. The funding aims to substantially accelerate the market launch of new products and services.
  • The business model is scalable, based on a product or service, offering potential for more than linear growth.
  • Applicants must be based in Switzerland and registered in the Swiss registry of commerce.
  • Applicants should have been established not more than 5 years ago (up to 10 years in exceptional cases). In justified cases, start-ups founded over 5 years ago, with a maximum of 10 years, can submit an application only if they did not enter the market.
  • Applicants must have less than 50 FTE (Full-Time Employees) when submitting the application. If controlled by another company, the consolidated group must have less than 250 FTE.- It is not a non-commercially active association, foundation or public administration unit.
  • Non-commercially active associations and foundations are not considered start-ups.
  • Startups in the process of being set up are not eligible as an applicant.
  • A research partner is not required and Innosuisse does not support direct subsidy recipients.
Eligibility criteria for Innosuisse projects

2. What are the evaluation criteria for the innovation projects?

  • Level of innovation: The innovation content is measured against the latest scientific developments and also against the solutions available for the identified need;
  • Added value in Switzerland: Potential of effective implementation of the project results and the associated value that is expected to be created for the Swiss economy or society;
  • Methodological quality: Quality of project planning, qualitative and quantitative objectives, and implementation planning to achieve the intended economic or social benefits;
  • Staff expertise;
  • Sustainability: Contribution to the sustainable development of society, the economy and the environment;
  • Cost-benefit ratio;
  • Financial performance of the start-up: The start-up must prove that it has sufficient financial resources (in addition to the Innosuisse contribution) to provide the planned own contributions to the project or that it plans to procure said funds. Financial due diligence has been carried out and a specific report has been prepared as a basis for the evaluation;
  • Intellectual property: The results of an initial analysis of intellectual property rights conducted by the start-up must show that there is no obvious conflict with existing patents at the time that the application is submitted that would prevent the start-up from entering the market.

3. What are the funding terms and what project costs are eligible?

  • Innosuisse directly funds start-ups, covering up to 70% of direct project costs. Start-ups contribute at least 30% of the costs themselves.
  • A research partner is not required and Innosuisse does not support direct subsidy recipients.  
  • Eligible costs are personnel and material costs which are directly related to the project. 
  • The start-up must be able to convincingly demonstrate its capability to fully fund its contribution.

4. What are the key components to a successful project application?

You must provide detailed information about your organization, value creation, solution and project setup as these are the main application sections. , added value, project setup, and requirements. 

  • You are required to explain the innovative aspects of your solution and how existing alternatives are outperformed by it and it advances the state of the art. You should also indicate why the proposed solution is not just an application of best practices.
  • Proposals must include the following data: information about the organization and its key members (where applicants must detail the mission and vision of the company and who works there), value creation (where the business model is detailed and explained), the solution, the project setup, and the historic and financial projections.
  • For project setup, you are expected to provide a detailed description of how team members will successfully implement the project and bring the product to the market, and a project plan with specific measurable success criteria. Additionally, the application should provide a comprehensive and detailed project plan with measurable deliverables and milestones. The proposed milestones should be spread over the project duration to allow for meaningful project review and should not be concentrated towards the end of the project. Furthermore, the work should be split into manageable work packages.
  • There are other elements in the application such as the Risk Matrix and the financial Annex.

B. Evaluation

1. How does the evaluation process work?

During the first evaluation, Innosuisse performs a formal check to assess the completeness of the proposal, general eligibility criteria, and eligibility of costs. Secondly, three independent experts assess the content. If the expert’s evaluation is positive, then the Innovation Council of Innosuisse interviews the company for a final evaluation and a final funding decision is made based on this assessment.

evaluation process for Innosuisse innovation projects
  • The innovation content will be measured by taking into account the latest scientific developments and solutions available for the identified need.
  • The potential for effective implementation of the project results and the  expected associated value for the Swiss economy will be considered.
  • Quality of project planning and staff expertise will be assessed.
  • Contribution to the sustainable development of society is taken into account.
  • The start-up must demonstrate its financial resources, including the Innosuisse contribution, to contribute to the project or plan to acquire such funds, after conducting financial due diligence and preparing a specific report for evaluation.
  • The start-up’s initial intellectual property rights analysis must demonstrate no apparent conflict with existing patents at the time of application, preventing the start-up from entering the market.

It is recommended to submit your application at least eight weeks prior to the Innovation Council meeting. The application process is generally completed in around 16 weeks. 

Your must submit your application to one of these five thematic groups: 

  • Information & Communications Technology (ICT)
  • Social Sciences & Business Management (SSBM)
  • Life Sciences (LS)
  • Engineering (ENG)
  • Energy & Environment (E&E)

2. What happens after the expert evaluation?

Following evaluation by the Innovation Council, Innosuisse informs applicants within two weeks by email about the invitation to the pitch (see pitch dates). The pitch should aim to introduce both the project and the team in person. 

Subsequently, the Innovation Council will decide on a definite approval or rejection.

Once the Innovation Council approves an application, applicants receive a contract from Innosuisse before the project starts.

3. What happens if my proposal is rejected?

Following a negative decision by the Innovation Council, Innosuisse will inform you of such by email. You will receive a reasoned rejection. 

There is no resubmission process. Innosuisse will not consider a resubmitted project unless it is demonstrated clearly that the weaknesses that led to the rejection of the project in the first place have been addressed. If done so, the new project will be treated and evaluated according to the normal evaluation process. We recommend that you allow sufficient time to amend and address the deficiencies of the first application to achieve a significant improvement in quality. This is a highly competitive instrument and only the very best projects are funded, please make sure that your application is sound, complete and of very high quality.

D. Project reporting

1. Can I make any changes in my innovation project?

During your innovation project, you will need to submit reports. These will provide Innosuisse with insights into the progress of the project. You must discuss and request approval for important changes to your innovation project with Innosuisse in advance.

Innosuisse (innoprojects@innosuisse.ch) must be notified in writing of any significant changes without delay and before they are implemented. The changes may only be made with the consent of Innosuisse.

The following, in particular, constitute significant changes:

  • Changes of key people in the project
  • Changes in the project plan or project objectives
  • Changes in your company that may have an impact on the project and the eligibility requirements (e.g. changes in shareholders, planned entry into a group of companies, imminent or actual over-indebtedness or insolvency, departure from Switzerland).
  • Significant deterioration of the risk situation 

If you are uncertain about the eligibility of planned material costs, we recommend that you contact Innosuisse in advance.

2. Do I have to report to Innosuisse on the project’s progress?

During your start-up innovation project, you must report to Innosuisse on the project’s progress.

At least one Extended Project Review is envisaged per project.

3. What does the Extended Project Review consist of?

The Extended Project Review consists of the following parts:

a) a standardised status report on the progress and implementation of the project;

b) a standardisied financial report on the project costs; and

c) an update on your corporate finances.

A review meeting will be held after the three reports have been examined. Innosuisse will contact you in good time to define the date.

3.1) Status Report

The project progress report must show the status of activities compared to the original plan in the application, in particular with regard to the achievement of the planned milestones and deliverables. For this reason, we recommend that you make sure that these milestones are clearly defined (in terms of content and time) and quantified from the start of the project onwards.

3.2) Report on the project costs

Innosuisse will assess the current status of the execution of project costs and ensure the legitimacy of the expenditure. The following evidence is relevant:

  1. Documentation of project-related personnel costs based on hourly reports of all persons involved in the project. The dedication can be proven either by an extract from an ERP system or by means of time sheets as per the template (a template will be sent if required).
  2. Wage-related documents (employment contracts, wage statements).
  3. Documentation of project-related costs for material and external services by means of ERP extracts or copies of invoice receipts.

As part of its review of the legitimate use of project funds, Innosuisse may conduct or commission additional financial audits.

Although Innosuisse contributes a 70% percentage of the total project costs, the documentation must show that the total project costs have been executed.

3.3) Update on corporate finances

The documents below must be submitted for this purpose:

  1. Annual report of the last full business year.
  2. Interim financial statements as of 30 June if the milestone report is prepared after 30 June of the calendar year.
  3. Updated financial information (especially cashflow planning) incl. Explanation of significant changes.
  4. Update of the risk map incl. explanation of significant changes.
  5. Overview of current shareholders (disclosure of all beneficial owners, including those of convertibles).

4.  What is the final review?

You must send Innosuisse a final scientific report and the financial reports no later than one month after completion of the project. This report is used for quality assurance, financial auditing and impact measurement.

The final review for your project consists of two parts:

a) a standardised substantive final report with information on satisfaction, the success of the project and project benefits, results, market implementation, intellectual property rights, and commercial and/or economic benefits, among other things;

b) a standardised report on project costs, accompanied by all supporting documents relevant for the verification of eligible costs. Changes in the cost structure must be shown and will be accepted in justified cases.

F. Approved projects

1. What are some examples of the projects funded by Innosuisse?

The following list shows the names of the projects funded by Innosuisse in 2023:

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT:

ENGINEERING:

ICT:

LIFE SCIENCES:

Article written by Damla Yildirim and reviewed by Sara Gavidia.

Cover image by Pixabay

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