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ThinkSport is the first B2B innovation network that brings together different sectors involved in sport and physical activity –sport organisations, academia, and business.

The network aims to foster and facilitate new partnerships, creative thinking, knowledge sharing, and innovative projects. By doing so, it drives progress in sport and physical activity.

ThinkSport’s name aligns with ‘think tank’, and reflects the spirit of such network, emphasising that sport is the basis of collaboration – or the link that binds all other sectors.

The Sports Sector in the Region

“Switzerland and especially the region around Lausanne have a unique sport ecosystem, which pushes innovation in sport and physical activities,” explains Anna Hellman, Director of ThinkSport.

With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) having been located in Lausanne since 1915, over 50 international sports federations and related organisations have also decided to make the city, known as the ‘Olympic Capital’, their home.

In addition, many academic institutions, NGOs, companies, start-ups, and individuals with a stake in sport or physical activity now thrive in the area. Altogether, these stakeholders form part of the region’s exceptional sports innovation hub.

Emerging Trends and Developing Technologies

The global COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and fast-tracked new needs in the sports world, just as it has done so in other sectors.

“The way ThinkSport and the sports sector in Lausanne and beyond are working has changed and the dependence on digital tools and cyber security has further increased. We have businesses around us which are specialised in this field, and we see considerable potential for collaboration with the sports industry,” says Anna Hellman.

Challenges/Opportunities for the Lausanne Region

The opportunity lies in bringing together different sectors, which can benefit from each other. That’s exactly where ThinkSport acts as a facilitator.

“We know our ecosystem and their needs and can help bridge gaps by connecting the right people, organisations, and businesses. This is not done in a superficial way but by taking a longer-term approach and pursuing a specific purpose,” explains Anna Hellman.

Main Players in the Local Sports Start-Up Community

“It’s difficult to single out someone as there are so many success stories around us. Our region offers a lot of expertise in different areas which is positively impacting sport and physical activity in one way or the other,” shares Ms. Hellman.

One key success factor for this phenomenon are the various innovation hubs located in Switzerland. They provide companies and start-ups with the opportunity to connect easily with research facilities.

At the moment, ThinkSport’s team sees lots of exciting developments in the fields of innovative sensors and new ways of tracking performance or body movements. On top of that, a lot is happening also in areas like broadcasting, fan engagement, and hospitality, again accelerated by the pandemic and its implications on sport events.

Key Local University and Research Facilities for the Growth of the Start-Up Community

All local universities and research facilities in the Lausanne region are key for providing the nurturing ground for start-ups. In particular they provide strong relevant expertise in the fields of humanities and life sciences, technology, health care and medicine, international sports governance, education, hospitality and design.

“In fact, many of the start-ups are spin-offs from academic institutions. In addition to the private sector, the universities are developing and providing an important part of the talent the sports industry is in need of, so it’s very important we keep them on our side. We are very lucky to have such a big choice of academic excellence around us,” proudly says Anna Hellman.

The Go-To Accelerators/Incubators/VCs in the Region for Healthcare

“Normally, I prefer to be more modest, but in our region, ThinkSport is really the accelerator for everything related to sport and physical activity. However, there are of course intersections with other areas like healthcare where for example the Biopôle life sciences campus plays an important role. Being positioned at the heart of our unique sport ecosystem, we provide acceleration programmes and are a hub for sports innovation, but also closely collaborate with other accelerators, incubators and VCs in the region when relevant” shares Anna Hellman

As such ThinkSport, together with UNIL and EPFL, recently received a four-year grant by Switzerland’s Innovation Agency Innosuisse to enable new partnerships between key stakeholders from the academic world and the private, public, and sport sectors. The aim is to generate new joint projects in the area of sport and physical activity with an open-innovation mindset.

Role of ThinkSport for Local Businesses and Entrepreneurs

“Our role is to introduce our ecosystem to local entrepreneurs, help them navigate, and connect them with the right partners to develop their innovative ideas,” explains Anna Hellman.

ThinkSport also notices that an increasing number of investors is looking for new opportunities in the sports world. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this trend.

For instance, since the global health crisis had a lot of financial repercussions on sports organisations, more of them decided to seal long-term commercial partnerships involving equity investments. This is quite a new development and a space that needs to be watched.

How Could the Tech Tour Sports 2021 Programme Support the Ecosystem?

“The Tech Tour Sports Programme is an opportunity for us to connect with new investors and business leaders from around the world, build relationships with them, guide them to new business opportunities in our region and of course also support the start-ups of our ecosystem.” concludes Anna Hellman.

About the Tech Tour Sports 2021 Programme

The first edition of the pioneering Tech Tour Sports 2021 Programme will be held entirely online due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions and to ensure the participation of the 85 members strong, high-quality selection panel. It will bring together start-ups, leading investors, industry players, as well as top innovators in Sports (esports & Gaming, Fitness & Wellness, Fan Engagement & Data Analytics) to find funding, partners, collaboration, and market opportunities.