Support Programme for UAS Graduates

Next submission deadline: 15.05.2020

Under the banner of «First Ventures» Gebert Rüf Stiftung promotes bachelor’s and master’s students of universities of applied sciences UAS who are developing an innovative business idea as their thesis topic. The support includes a financial contribution as well as an individually tailored coaching programme which will smooth the way to launching a startup. For this focus programme funds of CHF 1.5 million p.a. will be made available.

Objective: Innovation at Universities of Applied Sciences

Under its «BREF – Brückenschläge mit Erfolg» area of activity, Gebert Rüf Stiftung has been promoting selected research and development projects as exemplary drivers of Switzerland’s universities of applied sciences since 1997. In cooperation with «swissuniversities», annual call for papers are issued for this purpose. The focus is on creating a bridge between science, business and society. It is at this interface that universities of applied sciences can develop innovative solutions.

The support programme «First Ventures» is focusing on young UAS graduates using their bachelor’s or master’s thesis to develop project ideas with business potential that they wish to pursue further after graduation. The project grants are intended to smooth the way for selected UAS graduates to set up their own company.

Gebert Rüf Stiftung aims to use «First Ventures» as a vehicle to encourage talented bachelor’s and master’s students not only to contemplate obtaining a degree, but also to look beyond that and embrace the idea of launching a startup that turns their idea into new products and services. The goal is to promote a culture of entrepreneurship among students and strengthen business potential at universities of applied sciences.

The «First Ventures» programme not only provides financial support, but also individually tailored business training and coaching sessions designed to equip the potential company founders to successfully put their business idea into practice. The curriculum will include training in entrepreneurial practice, reviewing the business idea, concrete guidelines for setting up and running startup companies, as well as needs-led coaching from experienced experts in the respective sector. The training programme will be geared to the specific requirements of the selected project managers and is intended to give them access to a broad startup network.

Essential Requirements

  • University of applied sciences graduates from all specialist areas and disciplines are eligible to apply. Graduates of continuing education master's degree courses are not considered.
  • The ideal time to apply is while working on the bachelor’s or master’s thesis. Applications are accepted up to a maximum of 6 months after graduation.
  • The project application must be submitted by the project manager, that is the bachelor’s or master’s graduate. Project teams are welcome; formally, only one person can be project manager.
  • Ideally, the thesis supervisor or initial referee will assist the applicant to draw up the project application.
  • If provided for under the project, any assistance given by university of applied sciences teaching staff can be suitably reimbursed; such reimbursement is considered to be part of the project budget.
  • Project managers and any project team members will be employed by the university of applied sciences for the duration of the project. The UAS unity responsible for the engagement of the project manager support the project; the application should be accompanied by a covering letter endorsing the project.
  • Preference will be given to projects with a budget of CHF 50,000 to a maximum of CHF 150,000 running from one to a maximum of two years. Per project, additional course programmes and coaching services in an amount of CHF 5,000 may be availed of.
  • Funding will be used primarily for the salaries of the project managers and project team members employed by the UAS. The use of university funds is welcomed. Infrastructure, equipment and material should in any case be provided by the university.
  • Projects can also be co-sponsored by third parties (e.g. federal government, cantons, foundations, business). However, the object of this programme is not to plug funding gaps.
  • Concrete plans regarding financing after expiry of the grant funding period should also be submitted.

Content-related Support Criteria

Particularly welcome are projects

  • demonstrating a high level of innovation potential in terms of business and society;
  • meeting the standards of quality customary in the respective area of R&D and, on this basis, developing an idea for entrepreneurial application and implementation;
  • addressing concrete social needs and problems relevant to business;
  • showcasing the applicant’s specialist skills, personal commitment, and willingness to take risks;
  • promoting interdisciplinary and interinstitutional collaboration.

Submission of Project Applications

  • Please note the  submission deadline: 15 May 2020.
  • Project managers interested in participating are recommended, prior to drafting an application, to contact the programme manager of Gebert Rüf Stiftung.
  • The application is submitted via the web portal of «First Ventures» and consists of two parts («Online Application» and «Project Proposal»). Please refer to the following steps:

    1. Read the «Guidelines» carefully and fill in the «Online Application Form». You can save it at any time.
    2. Download the project proposal form, which will be available soon (Word template «First Ventures 2020/Project Proposal»):
    - Fill out all fields in the Word template (shaded background) and limit your project proposal to 6 pages (whole document/proposal, excl. attachments)
    - The proposal must include one-page CV of all project team members and a letter of endorsement from the UAS’s Institute/Department Head responsible for the employment of the applicant(s).
    - The project proposal form (word template) is to be uploaded as one single PDF file (incl. attachments) in the web portal of «First Ventures» (section «Proposal Upload»).

  • Applications may be submitted in German, French and preferably in English.

  • After the first selection round the preselected applicants are invited to the final selection where they present their project to the jury on 22 June 2020 (Call V).

  • The project applicants selected for the final round can complete a pitching training. For Call V: 8 June 2020 in Lausanne (course language french) and 9 June 2020 in Schlieren (course language german). Applicants are requested to reserve the relevant dates in advance.

Project Evaluation and Monitoring

  • Applications are evaluated by the programme jury and external experts.
  • Decisions on the award of grants will be announced at the end of June 2020 (5th call).
  • A support agreement will be concluded with the project managers whose applications are approved.
  • All copyrights will be retained by the projects.


  • Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
  • Prof. Dr. Jean-Marc Piveteau, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Prof. Dr. Elgar Fleisch, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, Member of the Board of Trustees
  • Dr. Regula Altmann-Jöhl, Director, Kalaidos Law School
  • Prof. Mariana Christen Jakob, Founder of seif, former Vice Director and Head of the SocialLab, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts
  • Dr. Monica Duca Widmer, President of the University Council, Università della Svizzera italiana, entrepreneur
  • Dr. Sebastian Friess, Head of Bern Economic Development Agency, former Head of Innovation Policy SERI
  • Prof. Nathalie Nyffeler, Head InnoKick heig-vd, HES-SO

Programme Management

Dr. Marco Vencato, Deputy Director, Gebert Rüf Stiftung, St. Alban-Vorstadt 5, 4052 Basel, marco.notexisting@nodomain.comvencato@grstiftung.notexisting@nodomain.comch, tel. +41 61 270 88 20

Approved projects – First Ventures

The winning projects of the fourth call for proposal are the following:

BA Stéphanie Jacot, HES-SO Rise Up! CHF 150’000
MA Leyla Tawfik, SUPSI Ethafa CHF 150’000
BA Sophie Walker, ZHdK CH+ CHF 150’000
MA Alexandre Stöckli, HES-SO SG-3DP CHF 150'000


A total of 41 draft applications and 18 valid project proposals were submitted, 5 of them from HES-SO, 6 from ZFH, one from BFH, FHNW, HSLU and FHO, as well as 2 from SUPSI. One applicant was still studying, 11 had completed the Bachelor's programme at the time of submission, 5 applied with a Master's degree. Of the 18 candidates, 5 were women.

Videoclip: First Ventures Call 2019/IV – Winning Projects

Picture Credits Header

Christoph Läser Photograph AG Basel