FOUNDATION

FOUNDATION PHILOSOPHY

The Solothurner William A. De Vigier provides assistance to young Switzerland entrepreneurs that lack start up funding to realise their well positioned ideas and inventions. William De Vigier lacked the capital back in 1935, but was full of brilliant ideas that needed assistance to get off the ground. In 1987, after renowned international success, he created the De Vigier Foundation. It was formed with its aim being to provide active economic infrastructure and direct financial support for aspiring and innovative young people with dynamic business ideas who are seeking to build up a performance and growth-oriented enterprise in Switzerland.

Since its 28th anniversary, the foundation has distributed over 10 million francs of start-up capital. This has resulted in more than 75 successful start-ups, a successful public stock exchange, and several successful sales. It has resulted in generating many new and valuable jobs.

BYLAWS

If you would like to obtain more information about the W.A. De Vigier Foundation, view and download the foundation regulations of the beneficiary foundation, which are based on the Swiss law.

BOARD MEMBERS

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Dr. Daniel Borer

Chairman of the Supervisory Board of W.A. De Vigier Foundation

Daniel Borer has presided over the Board of Trustees of the W. A. ​​de Vigier Foundation since 2012 as a competent and committed successor to Moritz Suter. The family father and passionate hobby pilot works as a general practitioner in his own community practice in the Seeland. At the same time, he is active as a shareholder or board member in several companies and institutions. He is responsible for Hospitality and Health (Hospital Center Biel) as well as investment banking, trust companies and real estate companies.

Daniel Foundation’s many-sided interests and its far-flung, economic and scientific contacts can benefit greatly our foundation.

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Beat Graf

Vice President of the W.A. De Vigier Foundation

Corporate finance, especially for SMEs and start-ups, as well as the development of entrepreneurial networks, are a common thread in the career of Beat Graf. The knowledge and experience he brings to the Foundation is the result of various management functions at a major bank, as well as a long-standing CEO of the entrepreneur network Swiss Venture Club. Beat Graf has been dedicated to the management of various foundations since his early retirement. The tasks in the W.A. De Vigier Foundation, who has been a member of the Board of Trustees for 20 years, is a matter of heart for him.

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Dr. Pirmin Bischof

Board Member, Solothurn lawyer and member of the Swiss Council of States

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Dr. Felix Grisard

Board Member, Entrepreneurs and investors, Chairman of the Board Hiag/GRT-Immobilien-Gruppe

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Lic. iur. Sven Hoffmann

Board Member, Attorney-at-law and owner of a law firm in Basel, Various administrative board mandates, seat in various foundations

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Felix Kunz

Member of the Foundation Board, graduated electrical engineer and entrepreneur, experience with more than 12 start-ups worldwide, founder and managing director of INNOCAMPUS AG

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Alain Nicod

Member of the Foundation Board, Business Angel, Founder/co-founder of various start-ups, such as LeShop.ch, founder/managing partner of Risikokapital-Gesellschaft Verbier

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Guy Petignat

Member of the Foundation Board, Dipl. Ing ETH and MBA from Harvard University, head of the business unit fibre optics and cable technology at Huber + Suhner

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Anne Sweetbaum-de Vigier

Honorary member

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Jeanette de Vigier

Honorary member

FOUNDER

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William A. de Vigier

William A. de Vigier – Entrepreneur, example and patron

William A. de Vigier passed away on 10 December 2003 shortly before his 92nd birthday. His significant contributions as a patron of young entrepreneurs in Switzerland are still appreciated today. According to the wishes of its founder, the W.A. de Vigier Foundation has continued its patronage activities since its creation in 1987.

FAMILY

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Anne Sweetbaum-de Vigier

Honorary member

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Jeanette de Vigier

Honorary member

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Nora de Vigier

Honorary member

HISTORY

With no family support, he embarked on a brilliant idea

William A. de Vigier, or “Bill” as he was commonly known by many, experienced first-hand how difficult start-up funding for initiative and innovative young entrepreneurs is to procure. He was born to a wealthy Solothurn family in 1912. He completed a commercial apprenticeship at Von Roll in the Klus and then worked at the Scintilla in Zuchwil SO. Contrary to the wishes of the father, and breaking the family tradition of becoming a lawyer, the young de Vigier embarked on his own path. In the face of paternal pressure Bill was drawn abroad to begin his own journey. After hearing his father say “So you will not get any more money from me.”, the aspiring 24-year-old soon found himself in London with barely a thousand francs in his pocket. But as fate would have it, he had an idea in mind: creating flexible parts for scaffolding.

Worldwide recognition

De Vigier’s successes have been recognized in various countries with the English royal family encouraging his plans. As one of the most successful foreign entrepreneurs in Great Britain, he was honorably appointed “Commander of the British Empire” by Queen Elizabeth II in 1978. Realizing further success, he received the title of «Chevalier du Grand Ordre Suédois Nordstern» and «Grand Commander of the Star of Africa» (Liberia). In his homeland, de Vigier was also bestowed with an honor.  The canton of Solothurn awarded the 89-year-old with the “Solothurner Entrepreneurs Prize 2001” for his entrepreneurial life achievements. This prize encompassed his generosity of spirit to share the fruit of his successes with young, innovative people”.

From three to ten thousand employees

With the financial help of a prominent English lawyer, de Vigier founded his first company, “Acrow Engineers Ltd”. It began as a small company with three employees and operated from a more modest little workshop under a railway bridge in London. It was here that he first developed his inaugural product known as “The famous Acrow Prop”. It was a revolutionary metal scaffold and remained a bestseller for decades. The small company was then listed on the London stock exchange and began to flourish. Eyeing larger market opportunities than the limited Switzerland and England potential, the proactive entrepreneur de Vigier bravely sought new territories. He smartly founded “Acrow Corp of America” in the USA. This was followed by “Acrow Argentina”, “Acrow Peru”, “Acrow Rhodesia”, “Acrow Iraq”, “Acrow South Africa”, “Acrow Canada”, “Acrow Egypt”, “Acrow Spain”, “Acrow India”, “Acrow New Zealand“, and other regions. At the height of his entrepreneurial activity, de Vigier led a global steel group with over 10,000 employees and had a seat in three dozen administrative boards, including holding a prestigious seat on the Board of British Airways.

Generous towards the capable and willing

“Switzerland needs young entrepreneurs. This is the future. “ De Vigier was convinced of this. Drawing from his own experience, he knew how challenging it is to get set up funding for a start-up company. This challenge became the basis for the initial creation of the W. A. de Vigier Foundation in 1987. The foundation would promote young Swiss entrepreneurs and the De Vigier foundation became known far beyond our national borders. This award remains Switzerland’s most prestigious prize and the foundation has endowed vast funding to achieve its goals awarding up to five 100,000 Swiss francs prizes every year. it is the standard bearer for rewarding innovative business ideas. The Federal Office for Vocational Education and Technology (CTI Start-Up) also proudly participates with the W.A. De Vigier Foundation in order to promote young companies.

Closely connected to his homeland – traits of an extraordinary man

Empowering Trust, fidelity and loyalty were three qualities that de Vigier always encouraged. He was both a supporter and a promoter. His generosity was directed to earnest individuals with a realistic path to success. To inspire others, he often remarked, “God gave you a brain – use it”. His friendliness and cordial nature, and his respectful demeanor with all that he met, were hallmarks of his character. Whether speaking to a Director or a simple shop worker, he was always open, friendly and interested in the lives and aspirations of others. He enjoyed talking to taxi drivers in New York, saleswomen in Parisian costume shops and always found time with his butcher in Solothurn. Traveling all over the world, de Vigier never forgot his Solothurn roots. Among other things, he spent the summer months at his summer house in Solothurn. He always extolled the virtues of the canton and the city during his phone calls from here and abroad.

As a faithful cantonal patron and true Solothurner, De Vigier dedicated himself to matters in his homeland whether he was home or abroad. He inherited a love for the town band from his father. In 2001, he donated over a million Swiss francs to them with an obligation that the band use a portion of the sum for a music competition. Thanks to his generosity and solidarity, new uniforms were financed and during autumn each year, the inhabitants of the city of Solothurn relish in the festive “Marching Parade”. He also provided means for the restoration of the harness collection in the old Zeughaus. Thanks to his generous donation, the summer house is also available to the public for decades to come. William A. de Vigier is no longer with us but his legacy lives on the hearts and minds of all Solothurners.

MANAGING DIRECTOR

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Regula Buob

As of September 1, 2015, Regula Buob has taken over the management of the company with an outstanding leadership personality. The coaching specialist (Employee Engagement, Change Management, Talent Management, Human Resources Development) is currently working as an independent communications and leadership trainer as well as a personnel developer in national and international companies, among other things in cooperation with business partners in Dubai and the United States, and the United Arab Emirates.

After successfully completing her pedagogical master’s degree in Zurich, Regula Buob moved to the USA. During her six-year US-stay, she received the “Master in Counseling and Guidance” at Point Loma Nazarene College San Diego. She then worked as a university lecturer and consultant at Mesa Community College.

Experts

marcel-aeschlimann-experte

Marcel Aeschlimann, Expert

Managing Partner Creaholic SA, Biel

Stefan-Blarer

Stefan Blarer, Expert

Technologie, CTI, Medtec, Agro, Biotech, Pharma

bouwsma

Jasper Bouwsma, Expert

Founder and CEO Vujàdé Ltd., Biel

christian-brand-experte

Christian Brand, Expert

ICT- KTI

peter-brunner-experte

Peter Brunner, Expert

Head of Research & Development University of Applied Sciences Berne

ulrich-claessen-experte

Ulrich Claessen, Expert

Head of Development Maxon Motor AG

bernhard-gerster-experte

Bernhard Gerster, Expert

Dynamic Test Center AG, University of Applied Sciences Berne

 

prof-dr-oreste-ghisalba-experte

Prof. Dr. Oreste Ghisalba, Expert

Head of CTI Biotech and CTI Delegate at the Swiss National Fund, founder and owner of Ghisalba Life Sciences GmbH

prof-dr-jens-gobrecht-experte

Prof. Dr. Jens Gobrecht, Expert

Paul Scherrer Institut, Villigen

dr-pierangelo-groening-experte

Dr. Pierangelo Gröning, Expert

Head of deparment Nano-structur Materials EMPA

dr-rudolf-gygax-experte

Dr. Rudolf Gygax, Expert

Start-up Coach, Zurich

dr-jost-hamschmidt-experte

Dr. Jost Hamschmidt, Expert

Coordinator of Studies ETH and Professor Universität St. Gallen

Karl-knop

Karl Knop, Expert

Physik, Optik, Photonik, Mikroelek. , Nanotech

dr-felix-reinert

Dr. Felix Reinert, Expert

Head of Research Advanced Manufacturing Technologies, Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne

arthur-ruf-experte

Arthur Ruf, Expert

Vice President SATW Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, owner 4p & partners gmbh

sauter

Michael Sauter, Expert

Head of Research Medtech, Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne

Anil-Sethi

Anil Sethi, Expert

Medtech, Nanotech

dr-wilfried-schwab-experte

Dr. Wilfried Schwab, Expert

Salina Medizin AG, Rheinfelden

dr-heiko-visarius-experte

Dr. Heiko Visarius, Expert

Start-up Coaching, Business Development, VISARTIS Healthcare GmbH, Hasle Rüegsau

franco-zambrino-experte

Franco Zambrino, Expert

Business Unit Director, Medtronic / Covidien Schweiz AG, Zürich

Ambassadors

prof-dr-artur-baldauf-ambassador

Prof. Dr. Artur Baldauf, Ambassador

Institute of Marketing and Management, University of Berne

frederic-bagnoud-ambassador

Frédéric Bagnoud, Ambassador

CimArk SA, Sion

prof-dr-rico-baldegger-ambassador

Prof. Dr. Rico Baldegger, Ambassador

Institute for Entrepreneurship & SME at HEG, Fribourg

dr-melchior-buchs-ambassador

Dr. Melchior Buchs, Ambassador

business parc, Reinach

peter-a-burckhardt-ambassador

Peter A. Burckhardt, Ambassador

Basel Inkubator, Basel

gert-christen-ambassador

Gert Christen, Ambassador

Foundation Blue Lion, Zurich

prof-dr-juerg-christener-ambassador

Prof. Dr. Jürg Christener, Ambassador

University of Applied Sciences, Nordwestsschweiz, Windisch

prof-dr-pascal-gantenbein-ambassador

Prof. Dr. Pascal Gantenbein, Ambassador

WWZ Center for Economic Sciences, Basel

jesus-martin-garcia-ambassador

Jesus Martin-Garcia, Ambassador

Fondation Eclosion, Plan-les-Ouates

dr-rene-hausammann-ambassador

Dr. René Hausammann, Ambassador

Technopark Winterthur

dr-matthias-hoelling-ambassador

Dr. Matthias Hölling, Ambassador

Foundation Technopark Zurich

jean-philippe-lallement-ambassador

Jean-Philippe Lallement, Ambassador

Parc Scientifique PSE; Lausanne

herve-lebret-ambassador

Hervé Lebret, Ambassador

VPIV (EPFL innogrant), Lausanne

hansruedi-lingg-ambassador

Hansruedi Lingg, Ambassador

Technopark Lucerne

dr-mario-jenni-ambassador

Dr. Mario Jenni, Ambassador

glaTec Technology Center of Empa, Dübendorf

fabian-kaeser-ambassador

Fabian Käser, Ambassador

Creapole SA, Delémont

prof-dr-hermann-mettler-ambassador

Prof. Dr. Hermann Mettler, Ambassador

HSR University of Applied Sciences , Rapperswil

nathalie-nyffeler-ambassador

Nathalie Nyffeler, Ambassador

High School of Engineering and Management of the Canton of Vaud, Yverdon-les-Bains

dr-herbert-reutimann-ambassador

Dr. Herbert Reutimann, Ambassador

UNITECTRA Zurich

prof-dr-falko-schlottig-ambassador

Prof. Dr. Falko Schlottig, Ambassador

University of Applied Sciences, Life Sciences Nordwestsschweiz, Muttenz

baerbel-selm-ambassador

Bärbel Selm, Ambassador

Foundation for Innovation in technology (STI), Biel

prof-dr-roland-siegwart-ambassador

Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart, Ambassador

Vice President Research ETH Zurich

joseph-walker-ambassador

Joseph Walker, Ambassador

University of Applied Sciences Chur