Switzerland is considered to be one of the most innovative countries in the world. And one that is facing the challenges of an ageing population. «Samsung for Impact» helps start-ups that are developing solutions to these challenges.

Create a sustainable impact

Five start-ups, five ideas, one goal: to develop solutions that make life easier for people aged 65 and older in Switzerland. On 1 October 2020, the finalists of «Samsung for Impact 2020» presented their visions at Westhive Hardturm in Zurich, and talked about what they have achieved so far. Prior to that, they received valuable advice from Dario Casari, Country Manager Samsung Electronics Switzerland, on sales strategies and seizing opportunities at the right moment.

The five finalists are Pipra, Emovo, Geras Care, We+Care and Senopi. They all benefited from 16 weeks of sales strategy training, initiated by Samsung together with Bluelion and SEIF.

All five start-ups are hugely enthusiastic and driven by the desire to use innovative technologies to create a long-term impact on the well-being of a rapidly ageing Swiss population.

«Samsung for Impact» is a European corporate citizenship programme that seeks to support promising start-ups striving to have a positive impact on society.

In Switzerland, Samsung collaborates with Bluelion and SEIF to support select start-ups as part of a four-month accelerator programme that aims to refine their business models to make them attractive to investors.

Start-ups are solving these problems

Many of the start-ups have a personal connection to the issue of an ageing society. «I promised my grandmother that she won’t have to go into a care home. But caring for someone who is nearly 100 is a challenge», says Patrick Hofer from We+Care. There are around 600,000 people in Switzerland like him, caring for older family members or friends. We+Care is a coordination platform that helps with this challenge. «There is such a jungle of services, contacts and bureaucracy. We+Care seeks to alleviate this administrative burden», explains Patrick Hofer.

Steven Everaert from Geras Care also wants to have a positive impact. During his student exchange semester in Switzerland, the Belgian son of a urology professor saw how committed institutions and programmes like «Samsung for Impact» are to helping the ageing population. «If people are open to change, we can make the world a better place», says Steven Everaert. He is developing a smart incontinence product that automatically informs care staff when it needs to be changed. «Currently, people with incontinence have their pads changed constantly, because it’s not possible to check whether they are full. This impacts older people’s private life, sleep and self-esteem», explains Steven Everaert.

People who have not had any experience of older people’s problems might find the start-ups’ products a bit strange. Their potential impact, however, is significant.

Pipra Ltd, for example, is developing an AI-based tool that can tell doctors before an operation how high the patient’s risk is of cognitive impairment. «Having a value that could differentiate between normal patients and higher-risk patients would be extremely helpful», says Dr Henry Perschak MD of Klinik Hirslanden in Zurich about Pipra. More than 30% of patients aged 60 and older suffer from post-operative complications.

Senopi Ltd is working on advances in the field of virtual reality (VR) therapy. Elderly people can use VR headsets to visit beautiful corners of the world, from the comfort of their home.

Emovo’s invention is literally tangible. The robotics start-up is working on a hand orthosis for stroke patients. «Our hands are one of the parts of our body that most define our identity as humans. Unfortunately, they are very often impaired following a stroke. Our hand orthosis can be used to grasp light objects», explains Luca Randazzo, CEO of Emovo. He is driven by the desire to help people keep their independence. «Developing medtech products involves lots of hurdles, and we were actively discouraged from working in this field. We are determined, however, to give people with physical impairments back some of their independence. That’s what drives us.»

Making ideas a reality

Developing medtech products is no mean feat. Start-ups in this field have to tackle significant hurdles, particularly at the beginning.

Patrick Hofer from We+Care battled against others’ reluctance: «At the beginning, it was tough to persuade the key players to work with us. Since then, not least thanks to programmes like ‹Samsung for Impact›, an ecosystem for innovations to help the ageing population has been evolving gradually in Switzerland.»

Emovo had to tackle regulatory barriers and high initial costs. Geras Care battled something less tangible: «We are fighting time. In our field, it’s hugely important to be one of the first.»

It is exactly these kinds of start-up problems that the accelerator programme is helping to tackle. «The aim of ‹Samsung for Impact› is to support start-ups that have a significant potential social impact and help them bring solutions to the market that address our society’s problems», says Mirjam Nufer from Samsung.

Over four months, start-ups receive support from SEIF and Bluelion in the form of training and networking opportunities as well as advice on refining their business models. They receive help from experts like Dario Casari on problems such as how to acquire their first customers, or how to introduce their product successfully to the market.

An elderly-friendly society as an opportunity for everyone

The top of the Swiss age pyramid is becoming ever broader. In 2015, 18% of the resident population were over 65 years old. This is a positive achievement, but one that brings challenges with it. Many areas of life need to be redesigned to support the physical and mental health of the elderly population, including their mobility and independence.

The WHO has named 2020–2030 the «Decade of Healthy Ageing». Governments, research institutions, academia and the private sector around the world need to work together to ensure the well-being of all ageing people.

Many elderly people want to play an active role in society, but are prevented from doing so because of specific impairments. This is where innovative technologies can be the key to overcoming these impairments, enabling older people to continue to have a positive impact on their families, communities and the economy.