Business Management
3 min read

Innosuisse Business Concept Training program: Connecting students and start-ups

Maya Gharbi
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The Innosuisse Business Concept Training is a Swiss government-funded course aimed at providing a short, cutting-edge, innovative business training program. Powered by Fondation EPFL Innovation Park, the course is designed and taught by experienced entrepreneurs and company executives to help university students and researchers bring their innovative ideas to market or pursue a successful career in start-up companies.

Applications are open to all students and researchers of EHL, EPFL, UNIL, HES-SO and Swiss research centers. The primary motivation for EHL students to join this free, three month program is to get familiar with all the tools needed to successfully launch an innovative start-up project by learning from seasoned entrepreneurs sharing their experiences, successes and mistakes.

An ideal business program for any student who wants to run their own business

In my role as senior lecturer, I teach the Introduction to Accounting module for a few hours per semester in the course. For the last five years, I have noted a growing interest in this training program among EHL students and am now in charge of coordinating the promotion and communication of the Innosuisse Business Concept Training within the EHL community.

A total of nine EHL students participated in last fall’s session which took place in Lausanne. Some participants pitched their start-up ideas while others joined the teams of other idea owners.

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For instance, Franz Josef Bihag and Nancy Zuniga Ruiz, two EHL students, joined SimplySourperlicious company co-founder Carolyn Moncel. The company is an existing B2B soup company providing businesses with fresh, tasty, homemade soups. The project began with the need to explore how to build a B2B customer base and refine its sales and distribution model to scale. As a result of their training, the team refined their business models, identified their customer base, and developed a plan to secure legal protection for their recipes and trademarks. For their efforts, the team won a personalized six month hosting and coaching program by EPFL Innovation Park Incubator, La Forge.

I recommend this course to any EHL student who is up for a challenge and wants to have their own business one day. Each of the classes helped gain a general understanding and first-hand experience of the field, whether it was finance, creating a business canvas, knowing how to pitch or learning about patents, I believe that each class builds up on skills to create a successful business.” - EHL student Nancy Zuniga Ruiz.

What the program brings to EHL students and vice versa

This business program allows young entrepreneurs to really conceptualize the project from start to finish. It forces them to meet and engage with potential customers; it challenges them to find answers to the toughest business and financial questions, and lastly, it forces them to get comfortable with failure, so that you can either learn to pivot or start again.

EHL students are highly appreciated, and for other university students there are many benefits in having EHL students on the team. There is an obvious fit if the project involves food & beverage service oriented or hospitality businesses. But, more generally, EHL students are particularly skilled in understanding customer desires and expectations - the bare minimum needed to create a satisfying customer experience. Understanding the customer is at the heart of EVERY project, and this is true in any field. The addition of an EHL student is therefore an asset in most projects. 

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The most enriching part of the training is working in teams of people with different academic backgrounds. Mixing together scientists, engineers, lawyers, financiers and marketers brings diversity and forces to look at projects from a different perspective. This allows an early “acid test” of the viability of the project.

Over the 14 weeks, the team members get to know each other and learn from one another. They end up relying on each other’s experiences and insights. Together, with a lot of hard work, I think the students can create something pretty magical. The young entrepreneurs are surrounded and supported by peers and a team, as well as experienced professors and mentors who can help them find their way. It is not rare to see start-ups being launched during or at the end of the fast-paced program to bring some projects from concept to reality [1].

Useful for entrepreneurial projects of any kind

This federal program of 3 months, takes place one evening per week (between 5 and 9 pm) in Lausanne and helps the students to shape an idea into a viable business, improve their business skills, build a strong network with entrepreneurs, company executives and investors and get fully prepared to embark on a professional journey as entrepreneur or entrepreneur within a company. Not only is this a great opportunity to extend their network, it’s also a great way to enrich their profile by working on projects of various natures (i.e. high tech or sustainable projects) with diverse teams.

Some EHL students might assume that the Innosuisse Business Concept program has a tech bias and is aimed primarily at students from technical academies. It is not the case. The program is useful for entrepreneurial projects of any kind, and I believe that EHL students have a specific insight that can be extremely valuable to any venture.  And if they are considering a project of their own, this training is a great way to pilot a project and avoid many pitfalls.

The Innosuisse Business Concept spring session is currently underway, but don’t miss the chance to sign up for the Fall 2021 Session. Applications will open in July. For more information visit www.science2market.ch

[1] Over 6 years, Innosuisse Business Concept Western Switzerland has built a network of over 1500 alumni and generated nearly 100 start-ups including recognized companies such as AgroSustain, CompPair, Urbio amongst others.

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Senior lecturer in Financial Accounting and SBP coach at EHL

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