- 09.04.2024 - 11:00 

SNSF grants CHF 0.5 million to investigate potential obstacles faced by entrepreneurs with disabilities

Researchers at the University of St.Gallen are investigating whether entrepreneurs with disabilities are discriminated against by investors. They will conduct a series of state-of-the-art field and lab experiments. The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) is funding the project with more than half a million Swiss francs.

Assistant Professor Silvia Stroe from the Global Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, together with co-investigator Associate Professor Charlotta Siren from the Institute of Responsible Innovation received exciting news just recently: The Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) has granted them funding for research project entitled ‘Closing the funding gap for disabled entrepreneurs with the help of cognitive science’. The SNSF will support their research with over half a million Swiss francs for the next 48 months. The goal of the project is to find out whether entrepreneurs with disabilities are discriminated against. Despite the societal and economic importance of this topic, thus far, no study has concentrated on understanding the funding gap that people with disabilities face in high-growth startups.

‘Based on preliminary research and qualitative interviews we see indications for a disability penalty in entrepreneurial financing. But we have no understanding yet about its origin’, Silvia Stroe emphasises. For instance, people with visible disabilities may be discriminated against by possible investors due to unconscious biases. However, cognitive and attentional processes also play a role when investors make investment decisions. The goal of the project is to uncover such processes and find possible methods for entrepreneurs with disabilities to overcome them. Thus, the three main research questions are: 

  • Are entrepreneurs with disabilities discriminated against when seeking venture capital, and to what extent?
  • To what extent is the discrimination of entrepreneurs with disabilities attributable to cognitive limitations of the investors?
  • What strategies could mitigate the potential negative impact of entrepreneur disability on investment outcomes? 

Making investors aware

To get to the bottom of the problem, the researchers will perform a series of online, lab, and field experiments, employing novel neurophysiological measurements such as electroencephalography (EEG) and eye tracking. ‘These technologies will enable us to objectively measure the attentional and information processing of investors as they are making funding decisions’, says Charlotta Siren. The SNSF grant will allow for the employment of a doctoral student as well as a post-doctoral researcher. The researchers aim to help investors better comprehend their own decision-making processes in order to achieve their self-proclaimed goals regarding diversity and inclusivity. Informing policymakers about the study results will hopefully initiate a broader societal discussion about this overlooked topic.

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