A place in the sun in the emerging renewable energy market

Daniel Lepori in the Designenergy laboratory (image: startupticker.ch)
Daniel Lepori in the Designenergy laboratory (image: startupticker.ch)

Institutional Communication Service

14 February 2013

How did Designergy start and what does it do?

I am an ETH-trained engineer, and before creating Designenergy I was working for a company that builds machines to produce solar panels, where I was involved with patenting. I realised that solar panels and the current structures to fit them on the roofs of buildings were very expensive, so I thought of coming up with a better solution.

What we do is take advantage of the excellent basic characteristics of the solar panel as an important structural component of a roof. Our goal is to develop integrated solar elements that allow to produce solar energy with lower installation costs compared to the current solutions available.

Thanks to the help of a few trusted individuals and investors, we managed to register our first patent, and then we established the company. It wasn’t easy, of course, but as I always say to my co-workers: “If there are no problems, it means there are also no opportunities.”


Do young entrepreneurs find the support they need in our region?

I recent years many things have been improved. In our case, the support of the USI SUPSI Start-Up Promotion Center was crucial, because it is very engaged in supporting local initiatives like ours and, in general, in fostering growth and innovation in the region.

Also very important was the collaboration with the Institute for Applied Sustainability to the Built Environment at SUPSI (ISAAC lstituto di Sostenibilità Applicata all’Ambiente Costruito): we make building materials for solar panels, but you have to know how you install them, how to produce them and what costs, three areas in the ISAAC offers valuable skills.

We also worked with professor Siegfried Alberton of the DSAS department at SUPSI, and with Professor Ivan Snehota of the Institute of Marketing and Communication at USI, where I also attended the Master in Management. With the Master, I acquired the required fundamentals in economics and entrepreneurship. My professors were also quite helpful in giving me, at a later stage, useful and constructive advice for the project.


What is the outlook for the photovoltaic sector in Ticino?

Thanks to more independent and sustainable energy policies, and due to the Fukushima incident, there is more interest in photovoltaic in Switzerland. In Ticino too, a region known for its sunny climate. However, in addition to investing in renewables we must also work on saving energy. In our case, with a single combined element we solve the problem of power generation and of thermal insulation of buildings, executed according to the highest building standards.


Would you recommend to a student to become an entrepreneur?

It could be useful to understand the entrepreneurial world better, for instance with specialist courses like Venture Ideas, a very interesting free workshop organised also at USI and SUPSI.

The times when one could say, “I’ll go to college, graduate, get a job and stay there until I’m 65” are long gone.

Entrepreneurship is certainly a possibility, though not an easy one. Nine out of 10 start-up companies will struggle to survive and perhaps won’t reach the main goal: create company that grows healthily and that generates positive cash flows. The path to this is usually long and full of obstacles, but the important thing is to believe in what you do and to be prepared to take further risks.