Switzerland: A world leader in innovation

| July 2, 2018 | 0 Comments
The Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne is one example of the widespread innovation in Switzerland.  (Photo: © EPFL)

The Rolex Learning Centre in Lausanne is one example of the widespread innovation in Switzerland. (Photo: © EPFL)

In January of this year, Switzerland and Canada signed a joint statement on science, technology and innovation on the margins of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, affirming a mutual interest in deepening co-operation in those fields. This should not come as a surprise because the two countries are natural partners. According to the WIPO’s Global Innovation Index, Switzerland is an innovation powerhouse, taking the top spot for the seventh year in a row. Switzerland’s recipe for success involves a number of factors. For one, our dual-education system offers hands-on vocational training in combination with academic excellence (we have seven universities that rank among the world’s top 160.) Second, Swiss companies — large multinationals and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) alike — invest much more in research and development than their counterparts in most other countries. In fact, the private sector is responsible for more than 80 per cent of R&D expenditures in applied research, which is reflected in our world-leading position in patent applications (884 per million inhabitants). Also, Swiss authorities and businesses work together to further and promote innovation. Successful examples of such collaboration include CERN in Geneva, which has produced breakthroughs in physics, or the Innovation Park INNOVAARE, which is one of the world’s leading centres for quickly turning innovations in such fields as accelerator technology, advanced materials and processes, human health and energy into marketable products and solutions. Furthermore, Switzerland hugely profits from its system of competitive federalism, which stems from the strong constitutional position of the cantons (our version of provinces). Combined with long-term political stability, low unemployment and steady growth, this results in a safe environment for investors looking to support innovative technologies. With a GDP of more than $853 billion (or $102,000 per capita), our economy belongs to the world’s top 20. Given the size of its population, at 8.4 million, Switzerland has a highly diversified and internationally integrated economy that includes such fields as high-tech, finance, life sciences and tourism. This is reflected in a well-balanced and universal investment and trade policy, which includes Swiss membership in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), a free-trade agreement with the European Union and an additional 28 FTAs with 38 partners worldwide. The EFTA countries and Canada signed their free-trade agreement in 2008 and we believe it would be in both parties’ interest to upgrade it as soon as possible. In fact, bilateral trade has increased over the past decade, making Switzerland Canada’s 12th-largest trading partner. Canada is our second-largest trading partner in the Americas and therefore an important market for Swiss companies and investors. Switzerland consistently ranks among the top 10 foreign direct investors in Canada, providing jobs for more than 32,000 Canadians in total. Large, well-known Swiss companies in Canada include ABB (technology), Barry Callebaut, Lindt and Nestlé (food), Novartis and Roche (life sciences), UBS and Zurich (financial services) and Glencore (mining). Apart from the many well-known brands, an increasing number of Swiss SMEs discover Canada as an ideal place to expand and grow their international business. They are supported by Switzerland Global Enterprise and Swiss Business Hub Canada, with its office in Montreal. Both organizations are dedicated to promoting and connecting Swiss companies in Canada as well as attracting Canadian businesses and investments to Switzerland. We also put more emphasis on the market potential that Switzerland represents for Canadian companies. Canadian exports to Switzerland have shown a positive development over the last few years. A shining Canadian example for Swiss market entry is Bombardier. The purchase of 30 units of CSeries 100 aircraft by launch customer Swiss Global Airlines led to a record 80-per-cent increase in exports over the past two years. In conclusion, Switzerland and Canada share a broad and highly diversified economic relationship. This relationship is based on shared values, trust and free trade. It is also built on many personal relationships between Swiss and Canadians. There is room for this relationship to grow further, both with respect to geography (Western Canada) and new sectors (cleantech). Due to its excellent education system, competitive federalism, cultural diversity, political and economic stability and high quality of life, Switzerland continues to be a perfect breeding ground for innovative technologies and thus offers Canadian corporations and investors a great location to investigate.

Beat Nobs is the ambassador of Switzerland. You can reach him by email at ott.vertretung@eda.admin.ch or by phone at (613) 235-1837.

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Category: Diplomatica

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Beat Nobs is the ambassador of Switzerland. You can reach him by email at ott.vertretung@eda.admin.ch or by phone at (613) 235-1837.

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