Drawing by Laura Acosta for the Innosuisse camp announcement
Drawing by Laura Acosta for the Innosuisse camp announcement

‘Connecting the dots’ between Switzerland and South Korea through a sustainable journey


When ‘connecting the dots’ turns into a more sustainable journey

The experience from South Korea

“The journey, not the destination matters”. This quote from T. Elliot perfectly summarizes the 2021 highlight for the Science & Technology Office (STO) team in Seoul, which culminated in the launch of a pilot validation and market entry camp in South Korea under the Innosuisse umbrella. This new program for Swiss based startups, aims to accompany them in their journey in South Korea, and provides the STO with the instruments to accomplish this mission. However, it is the hidden path behind this outcome that makes it even more meaningful and that we want to share with our readers.

Our team has a long history of connections with the Swiss startup ecosystem. Especially under the Life Science Initiative and Swiss-Korean Innovation Week frameworks, the team has been helping startups to navigate the Korean ecosystem, visit relevant locations and meet counterparts for potential cooperation. These actions developed over the years in diverse partnerships, pilot R&D projects and investments.

Then the pandemic came, and the transition to fully online activities raised the question of how to maintain the attractiveness of the programs. In such an uncertain period, limiting risks and walking a solid path towards a concrete outcome was fundamental for the startups. Our team identified the answer in a revolution of the approach: creating the opportunity with a big Korean industrial player first, and then, calling for startups’ interest as a second step.

First, we built the ‘opportunity’ with a big Korean player in the food sector – CJ Food. CJ welcomed the proposition to dive into the Swiss startup ecosystem as a part of their open innovation strategy. This news, combined with the offer of a focused coaching program before the official meetings, constituted a solid motivation for the startups and led to concrete follow-ups despite the online setting. A similar approach has been applied to a booster program under the mandate of Swiss Healthcare Startups (SHS), which highlighted the great potential for an internationalization camp in South Korea in spite of the travel restrictions.

The difficulties imposed by the pandemic paved the way to new strategies, which highlighted once again the potential for change in times of crisis and disclosed new flexible instruments to integrate in a more sustainable vision of ‘connecting the dots’ between Switzerland and South Korea.