The Playgrants


New call for proposals

Tech4Impact Playgrant – Circular Economy 4.0

We are looking for innovation projects, which aim to commercialize Industry 4.0 technologies (ML, AI, DLT, etc.) as enabler for Circular Economy (product design, manufacturing, life cycle management, reverse logistics, recycling, systems modelling) – “Circular Economy 4.0”.  

Please find inspirations and examples of Circular Economy 4.0 in the White Papers from the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.   

The needs of our current global socioeconomic system, dominated by a predominantly linear economy, have grown beyond the limits and boundary conditions of our planet. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), we would require 1.7 earths to replenish the resources we are consuming and to absorb the pollution we are collectively generating.

The concept of a Circular Economy, an economic system that creates close-loop models of production, is well-known and accepted worldwide, but oftentimes its implementation fails due to the inherent hurdles of a predominantly linear economic system.

As the 4th Industrial Digital Revolution continues to disrupt industries and business models, we ask ourselves: What if Industry 4.0 digital technologies are designed under a circular socio-economic paradigm? We believe that it is then that solutions can disrupt the inherent barriers, and make circular business models viable and competitive.

The Playgrant program aims to support the lab-to-market process for sustainable, innovative tech solutions by means of one-year programs consisting of workshops, mentoring, as well as a financial grant of CHF 50,000.

The Playgrant provides support for the following activities:

  • Generate, identify and assess a set of market/ impact opportunities
  • Evaluate different market/ impact applications
  • Conduct market/ impact assessments
  • Create and test prototypes in real market applications

The Playgrant program is open exclusively to EPFL researchers: Professors, Postdocs and PhD students.

To qualify for a grant, the proposed project must:

  • rely on an advanced technology;
  • have the potential to address a pressing social and/ or environmental problem;
  • be at a pre-seed start-up stage (even if the start-up may already be incorporated);
  • be approved by the professor heading the lab.

The funding must be used within the 12-month period of the Playgrant program.

The next program will start in May 1st, 2020

On basis of your submitted application, we will decide about an invitation to pitch in front of the Playgrant evaluation committee.

The final decision is taken by a committee of 3-5 expert evaluators. The committee will decide about the awarding of a Playgrant based on the quality of the project, using the following evaluation criteria:

  • Severity of addressed social or environmental problem
  • Relevance of your proposed project for tackling this social or environmental problem
  • Novelty of the project vis-a-vis current state of technology / research
  • Stage of development of proposed technology and start-up (pre-seed!)
  • Potential to transfer scientific evidence into a social enterprise
  • Scalability potential (in terms of markets and impact)
  • Planned next steps and aspired use of funds

If you believe that your project might be eligible for a Playgrant,

please fill out the application form.

and send it back to [email protected]

Please rest assured that we will handle your proposal with the highest confidentiality.

Application deadline is 15th of March 2020

For any question, send us an e-mail at [email protected]

Meet the Tech4Impact Playgrantees

Bloom leverages a disruptive technology developed at EPFL to generate value from biomass wastes, thereby engaging in the ineluctable shift from fossil fuels to renewable resources. Bloom’s efficient and cost-competitive solution reveals the hidden potential of wastes and enables the selective production of high-value chemicals. Hence, Bloom contributes to mitigating climate and health problems caused by inefficient waste management, while generating value along the supply chain.


The aim of DROP is to provide reliable and cost-effective on-site water disinfection, for communities where water is available, but it is contaminated with deadly pathogens. The reactor that Enrico Chinello (Laboratory of Applied Photonics Devices) and Dr. Mohammad Hashemi (Optics Laboratory) have developed is particularly suitable to be powered with solar panels, thus ensuring a fully stand-alone operation to disinfect water. The Playgrant will help Enrico and Mohammad to perform the field tests, in order to validate the technology.


SWOXID developed a gravitational solar-thermal water purifier, which filters and sterilizes contaminated water with sunlight. It does not require electricity, nor dosage of chemical agents to provide the sterilization effect. The technology is based on an innovative nanoporous aerogel composite membrane which – upon solar irradiation – is able to render contaminated water safe by removing and inactivating infectious disease-causing biological agents such as bacteria, viruses, protozoa and worms. The SWOXID water purifier panel represents an economical and environmentally friendly option to improve global public health in line with the Sustainable Development Goal 6, especially disease prevention in the developing countries.

Urbanization and climate change are increasingly pressuring urban planners to make cities low-carbon and more livable.
However, due to limited temporal and financial resources, current planning approaches are characterized by the exploration of a limited number of alternatives, often missing the most efficient and sustainable solutions.

Urbio is a decision support software which automatically generates optimized plans. Unlike existing software, its unique generative technology enables planners to interactively explore the trade-offs between many interests during early planning stages. Urban stakeholders can identify better plans in less time, providing easier conflict resolution in domains such as energy supply, densification or renovation.

Clean Water Initiative

Recently, we developed materials with demonstrated ability to selectively and rapidly extract a variety of toxic metals like lead or mercury from water. The Clean Water Initiative’s major objective now is to construct prototype filter devices to demonstrate the separation of toxic heavy metals from continuous flowing water on large scales. These Nex Gen filter devices will be able to rapidly purify liters of water from wastewater or natural surface water that is contaminated with heavy metals.


This project aims at developing a superior battery replacement, using a carbon-based supercapacitor technology that is ecologically friendly and exhibits an improved lifetime, fast charging and a wide range of operating temperatures while having similar or better energy storage capabilities as standard Li-Ion batteries.


Curious to learn more about how Tech4Impact can support you in your entrepreneurial journey? Reach out to us!

[email protected]