Support programme for entrepreneurial students at UAS

Next submission deadline: 13.11.2020

With «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 up to CHF 150,000 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. The Impact Clips show what the previous First Ventures winners have achieved.

Objective: Innovation at Universities of Applied Sciences

«First Ventures» focuses on entrepreneurial UAS students such as Remo Waser and Simon Maranda (HSLU, First Ventures 2018-2020) who want to pursue their innovation projects immediately after graduation. The project contributions of a maximum of CHF 150,000 pave the way for the establishment of their own spin-off. For the duration of the First Ventures project, the project managers are employed by the University of Applied Sciences and have full budget autonomy.

Gebert Rüf Stiftung encourages talented Bachelor’s and Master’s students not only to contemplate obtaining a degree, but also to embrace the idea of launching a startup. The financial stimulus gives the UAS graduates the chance to turn their own ideas into new products and services. The goal is to promote a culture of science 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

  • Applications are open to Bachelor’s and Master’s students of all departments and disciplines and to graduates of universities of applied sciences up to six months after graduation. 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.
  • Project teams are welcome, formally, only one person can be project manager.
  • Project leaders and any members of the project team are employed by the university of applied sciences for the duration of the project. They are explicitly involved in the project. An appropriate letter of support must be enclosed with the application.
  • The duration of the project is between one and a maximum of two years, the budget is between CHF 50,000 and a maximum of CHF 150,000. Additional course offerings and coaching services amounting to CHF 5,000 can be claimed per project.
  • The support provided by the tutors at the university of applied sciences can be suitably reimbursed through the project budget.
  • 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

We are looking for projects with high innovation potential for business and society that offer concrete solutions to problems and at the same time meet the quality standards of the respective research and development area. The applicants are distinguished by their professional expertise, willingness to take risks and personal commitment.

Submission of Project Applications

  • Please note the  submission deadline: 13 November 2020, 31 May and 12 November 2021.
  • Project managers interested in participating are encouraged, 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 14 January 2021.

  • The project applicants selected for the final round can complete a pitching training. For Call VI: 15 December 2020 in Lausanne (course language french) and 16 December 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 mind of January 2021.
  • 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 fifth call for proposal are the following:

Remo Oberholzer, ZHAW Aurora CHF 150’000
MA Anna-Flurina Kälin, ZHAW varcu CHF 150’000
MA Elena Nedelkoska, BFH WoDens CHF   30’000


A total of 18 draft applications and 17 valid project proposals were submitted, 4 of them were from HES-SO and FHNW, 7 from ZFH, one from BFH and SUPSI. Four applicants were still studying, 12 had completed the Bachelor's programme at the time of submission, 3 applied with a Master's degree. Of the 17 candidates, 8 were women.

Video-Clip Winning-Projects

Picture Credits Header

Christoph Läser Photograph AG Basel