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How Hubs for Ed-tech Startups Promote Positive Change in Education

By Roman Bruegger, Managing Director, Swiss Edtech Collider

Roman Bruegger, Managing Director, Swiss Edtech Collider

The digitalization of the workplace will eradicate up to 800 million jobs by 2030. Ed-tech startups are among the drivers of change in education and learning. They benefit from resources such as the Swiss EdTech Collider, a hub for ed-tech startups based at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The education system—in both the public and private sectors—is a pillar of many countries’ economies, and will inevitably undergo changes in the future. The ed-tech sector, which encourages the use of technology in education and learning, plays a vital role in this context.

Obviously, there is no all-in-one-solution to meet every ed-tech need; the ed-tech sector is a highly fragmented market in which many different companies are developing and marketing products and services for various target groups in the education and learning sector. This makes it difficult for educators to find the right tool.

This is where the Swiss EdTech Collider, a not-for-profit initiative located at the EPFL Innovation Park in Lausanne and the first collaborative, membership-based co-working space in Switzerland that is dedicated exclusively to ed-tech, comes in. it brings startups together under one roof, which enhances visibility and creates an environment that allows educators to find, test and acquire appropriate solutions. Inaugurated in April 2017, it has become a hub for startups and entrepreneurs seeking to transform education through technology by creating innovations for learning. At the time of the launch, 30 ed-tech startups had joined the Swiss EdTech Collider; today this community includes more than 78 startups.

Those startups work on a large diversity of innovations for different phases of the learning journey as the following examples show: a customizable learning management system for schools, software for children with dyslexia or dyscalculia, an adaptive and immersive 3D platform to learn about cyber security threats, virtual-reality solutions for training hospital nurses, an online platform that offers micro-learning courses for corporations, project-based learning about sustainability and electricity, augmented-reality technology for learning programming in a playful way, a gamified classroom interaction platform or courses to learn the future digital skills.

The purpose of the Swiss EdTech Collider is to support ed-tech entrepreneurs and startups as they seek to grow and find partners and customers. To that end, it has created a unique ecosystem consisting of a network of ed-tech investors, schools and other educational institutions, public and private organizations, subject matter experts, and the EPFL’s research divisions. In October 2018, the Swiss EdTech Collider also became part of the newly created EPFL LEARN – Center for Learning Sciences, an EPFL-based network of initiatives related to education and learning.

With the exception of more established startups, such as Coorpacademy– —the “Netflix”of corporate learning and a micro-learning platform— –and Labster, which produces VR lab simulations, most of the startups, especially the ones targeting public education, are still experiencing slow growth— – at least in part because of the slow and tedious decision-making processes in this sector.

It is important to note that instead of focusing on profits, some startups aspire to have a long-term, sustainable impact by creating jobs and changing education for the better. This is true, for example, of Association Mobsya and its educational robot Thymio. More than 50,000 of these robots have already been purchased by schools and families and helped students to learn computational thinking skills among others.

While the Eed-Ttech sector is still in the early stages of development, it is sure to have a profound impact on how we learn in the future –— both within the school system and in our day-to-day work lives.The Swiss EdTech Collider and its startups are already playing an active role in this context, and they will continue to do so in the future.

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