Among Europe's leading start-up hubs: Financial Times award for Startfeld

Dübendorf, St. Gallen und Thun, 10.07.2024 - Startfeld is one of Europe's leading Start-up Hubs in 2024. The start-up support provided by Empa and the Switzerland Innovation Park Ost in St. Gallen has recently for the first time received the Financial Times Award. This recognizes the quality and potential of the funded start-ups as well as the supportive environment.

Startfeld normally helps young companies to take flight. But now the start-up support program of the Switzerland Innovation Park Ost and Empa in St. Gallen is taking off itself: It has been awarded the prestigious Financial Times Award – and is therefore one of Europe's leading start-up hubs 2024. Startfeld is ranked among the top-100 in Europe in 84th place, and in 3rd place in Switzerland. This not only recognizes the outstanding quality and enormous potential of the start-ups supported by Startfeld, but also the supportive environment, which ranges from first-class infrastructure and access to capital to a network of mentors and experts.

Focus on the growth phase

«This award motivates us to keep up and even improve our daily work – and to continue to deliver top-notch performance in the promotion of start-ups in Eastern Switzerland, as demanded by our founders,» says Peter Frischknecht, Head of Startfeld since 2011. He supported and developed Empa's start-up support in St. Gallen as part of the technology transfer team for many years until it was integrated into the then new Switzerland Innovation Park East (SIP East) in 2022. In future, start-ups are to receive even better support at the beginning of their growth phase. «There are many good ideas and patents in Switzerland, but there is also a noticeable reluctance to scale up. That's why some of the potential can only be partially exploited,» says Frischknecht, explaining the challenge. «We want to specifically broaden the horizon of start-ups.» This is why SIP East is currently setting up the HSG START Accelerator in cooperation with the University of St. Gallen and START Global. This accelerator should not only address the needs of start-ups in their growth phase, but also enhance the start-up landscape in the Canton of St. Gallen with its international orientation.

Start-up support for Empa spin-offs

In total, Startfeld has evaluated more than 1,750 projects since it was founded in 2010 and supported more than 175 of them. Empa spin-offs have also benefited from start-up support from the Business Incubator – such as Swissatest, Ugra, Nahtlos and Mycosolutions. Just recently, the business idea of Ionic Wind Technologies has received the Startfeld Rohdiamant award. The Empa spin-off uses electrostatic fields to convert electric current directly into air currents – as silent, energy-efficient ventilation systems for industry. According to Peter Frischknecht, the issues are significantly different in science and in industry. «Startfeld therefore helps to turn researchers into entrepreneurs-to-be.»

According to Marlen Müller, Head of Knowledge and Technology Transfer at Empa, business incubators have a signal effect both internally and externally. «Startfeld is an example of Empa's commitment to the transfer of research results via spin-offs and the promotion of start-ups, as well as providing professional support to founders on their path to entrepreneurship.» The founding of Startfeld was therefore an important step for Empa in the area of promoting young entrepreneurs – and the successful integration of Startfeld into the SIP East was a logical next step.


Box: From Empa's Business Incubator to a national innovation park
In 2010, Empa, together with the University of St. Gallen, the University of Applied Sciences East and the City of St. Gallen, founded the Startfeld association, which also took over the activities of Empa's previous Business Incubator, TEBO. In 2022, Startfeld merged with the Switzerland Innovation Park Ost. The latter is part of the national network Switzerland Innovation and – alongside Basel, Biel, Lausanne, Villigen and Zurich – one of six main sites in Switzerland. The network is based on a joint initiative of public institutions, science and the private sector and a legal mandate from the Federal Council. «Empa is a co-founder and a key pillar of the start-up activities in St. Gallen, just as it is now also an important partner of the Switzerland Innovation Park Ost,» says Peter Frischknecht, Head of Startfeld.

Address for enquiries

Marlen Müller
Head of Knowledge and Technology Transfer / Legal
Phone +41 58 765 41 97

Peter Frischknecht
Startfeld - Switzerland Innovation Park Ost AG


Federal Laboratory for Materials Testing and Research