Commitment to innovation with USI Transfer

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Institutional Communication Service

19 April 2022

"USI Meets Industry", a meeting between companies and academics involving more than 100 participants, took place in recent weeks at the East Campus Lugano. Both communities appreciated the news 15-minute sessions (speed meetings) between companies and professors. In addition, the new part of the USI website on innovation was also presented, featuring a section dedicated to USI Transfer, the University's strategic unit in the field of knowledge transfer. 

Università della Svizzera italiana actively promotes innovation, technology transfer and corporate relations. Its commitment to this area has been developed and implemented in particular since 2018 when a dedicated Technology Transfer Office (TTO) was founded within the Research Service. The TTO works on the interface between the University and the industry in support of technology transfer, devoting itself to the active management of intellectual property protection processes and contract negotiations on a corporate level. After the entrepreneurial success of Humabs Biomed SA (a spin-off of the affiliated institute IRB), since 2018, USI has concluded several licensing agreements involving its discoveries, transferring the work done by its researchers with three academic spin-offs, Fabula AI (in the meantime acquired by Twitter), MV Biotherapeutics SA (of the affiliated institute IRB) and BigOmics Analytics SA (of the affiliated institute IOR). Real success stories that see basic research translated into innovation. The outcome of USI's collaboration with companies active in the area is best seen in the figures of the new Innosuisse projects: CHF 2.5 million in 2020 and 25 approved projects since 2019 involving four Faculties and 12 external partners. 

While contributing to the innovation and development of the region, the University also promotes entrepreneurship by supporting start-up projects in their development phase with the activities of the USI Startup Centre, established in 2004. The USI Startup Centre supports entrepreneurs in the initial creative process, and helps start-ups succeed by providing the support they need at every stage of their development. Here are some figures: in 2021, 89 entrepreneurial projects asked to join the incubator, 35% of which came from USI students, researchers and alumni; as of 2021, 28 start-up projects were incubated in five different sectors: ICT, Life Science, Engineering, Energy and Environment, and Social Science and Business Management; 5 incubated start-ups have raised nearly 3 million CHF from VCs and Business Angels; 11 start-up projects have received a total of 815,000 CHF in the form of cash prizes, research grants, crowdfunding or other support (Annual Report 2021).

As an additional step to serve the community and contribute to the region's economic, social and cultural development, in 2021, USI further promoted innovation and strengthened corporate relations by creating the new position of Pro-rectorate for Innovation and Corporate Relations.

The USI Transfer strategic unit, which offers support to companies and researchers in relation to the accessibility and transfer of knowledge, is launched as part of this initiative. With its affiliated Institutes (Institute for Research in Biomedicine - IRB, Institute of Oncology Research - IOR and the Istituto ricerche solari di Locarno - IRSOL), USI contributes to strengthening the competitiveness of companies, Swiss companies in the first place.

"USI Transfer is the liaison for the corporate world and the University. USI's excellence and competencies are made available to companies to promote relationships and transform them into projects and opportunities", says Luca Maria Gambardella, Pro-rector for Innovation and Corporate Relations.

In early April 2022, USI published a new section on innovation and an area dedicated to USI Transfer on the institutional website to highlight and give greater visibility to its commitment. The strengthening of activities and the role of the University are expressed in the multiple innovation initiatives, in its involvement in the Regional Innovation System (SRI) of the Canton Ticino and the growing data from 2018 in the field of technology transfer as regards research contracts, patent applications, IP Agreements, spin-offs (as shown by the data of the Swiss Technology Transfer Association report, swiTTreport2021).

Faculties