Principles of Swiss innovation

Swiss Innovation

”Innovation is not the product of logical thought,although the result is tied to logical structure.” Albert Einstein

Switzerland is more innovative and entrepreneurial than generally known. Generous investments have created an efficient ecosystem of education, research and innovation. The country has been top-ranked in innovation for many years in a row.

Key figures on Switzerland

Switzerland is a small country rich in diversity: languages, cultures, economic branches and different landscapes all exist on a small area.


Key factors for innovation

Switzerland has all the characteristics required for successful innovation:
• Well trained working force
• Excellent academic institutions
• Fully developed infrastructure
• Diverse funding possibilities
• Freedom for creative thinking
• A strong network
• High R&D expenditures

High levels of R&D expenditure

Switzerland is among the countries with the highest spending on research and development (R&D) in relation to their gross domestic product (GDP). The private sector bears the cost of over two-thirds of Swiss R&D expenditure, which currently amounts to nearly 3 per cent of GDP, or around CHF 16 billion. Public R&D expenditure is mainly intended to promote fundamental research.

Excellent academic institutions

Swiss tier-one universities (i.e. 10 cantonal universities and Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology: ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne) hold strong to very strong positions in international ranking lists. Switzerland has the second-highest per capita expenditure on education in the world (14,900 USD per year). Its total education expenditure corresponds to 5.6% of its GDP (2013). With 50% of tier-one University professors and 25% of students being from abroad, academic institutions show a high degree of internationalization.

High level of internationalization
International research cooperation is high on Switzerland’s agenda. Switzerland is involved in numerous international research organizations and research programs, such as CERN and also promotes bilateral research cooperation with selected priority countries.
As illustrated below, inventors in Switzerland are more likely to be immigrants than natives.

The Swiss start-up scene

Key figures
In 2010, more than 12,500 new business ventures were launched in Switzerland. 1,707 of them were companies in the technology-based industries Energy and ICT (Information and Communications Technology).
Even though the company birth rate is relatively low, start-ups seem to fail less in Switzerland than elsewhere. Of CTI labelled start-ups (1999-2009) 88.9% of companies were still in business after five years, while 57% of non-CTI labelled start-ups surpassed the five years.

Seven principles of success

Principle 1: Strengthen competitiveness

Principle 2: Promote mathematics and science

Principle 3: Promote a dual education system

Principle 4: Provide funding for research

Principle 5: Maintain open markets

Principle 6: Promote international networking

Principle 7:  Pursue a policy of creating freedom of action

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Selected examples

The following startups are among the most promising new ventures of Switzerland (Top 100 start-ups 2013,

Glycemicon develops natural medical foods and pharmaceutical compounds for the prevention, management and treatment of type 2 diabetes and obesity. The company`s first product induces the creation of new fat cells, resulting in a more effective removal of sugar and fat from the circulation.

BugBuster provides a radically new testing solution for Mobile & Desktop Web Applications. The cloud-based software, targeted at the Web Development market, is capable of testing an application like a human, faster, and much more exhaustively, resulting in drastically reduced cost and improved software quality.

UrbanFarmers AG is a system developer for rooftop farming. The company develops cost-efficient, sustainable and reliable systems that allow growing food in the city at large scale.

L.E.S.S. (“Light Efficient Systems”) introduces a new generation of distributed lighting based on an active nanostructured fiber of the thickness of a human hair. The patented technology, provides both high lighting uniformity and high brightness within a small form factor, opens new routes in designing innovative green lighting systems.

faceshift allows users to drive virtual characters with their own facial expressions. The technology is used for rapid content production in the animation industry and as a novel communication metaphor.

Dacuda is a Swiss software company offering low-cost digitization technology based on real-time image processing and computer vision. Dacuda’s patent pending, proprietary SLAM Scan® technology enables fast data entry of text and images, instant editing, as well as easy sharing of contents.

BioVersys is a privately held Swiss biopharmaceutical company located in Basel that focuses on research and development of new drugs and compounds, which switch-off drug resistance within bacterial pathogens and restore the efficacy of approved antibiotics.

Swiss Startup Support System

In Switzerland a large quantity of programs providing entrepreneurial support and new venture assistance have been established, and there are more than 150 organizations supporting entrepreneurial ideas and talents. About 120 of them grant awards for innovative business concepts and technological ideas, while other institutions provide labels to promising founders – e.g. CTI Label, EPFL Spin-off Label, ETHZ Spin-Off Label, Top 100 Start-ups, or Venture Leaders.


As the Confederation’s innovation promotion agency, the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) lends its support to R&D projects, entrepreneurship and the development of start-up companies. CTI helps to optimize knowledge and technology transfer through the use of national thematic networks. swissnex, initiative of the Swiss government, is a network with nodes in the world’s most innovative hubs with the role to strengthen Switzerland’s leadership as a world-class location for science, education and innovation. swissnex India is supporting Swiss start-ups to enter the Indian market.

Sources: (State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation, SERI) (Swiss Start-up Monitor)