The Federal Administration, economic players and Academia are working together intensively to shape the future of Switzerland as a deep tech nation and to accelerate digital innovation. In 2016, the Federal Council passed a digital strategy to create optimum conditions. The national strategy focuses on three key areas: attracting outstanding digital talent, helping existing companies master digital challenges and significantly strengthening the Swiss startup ecosystem.
The first national digital day, which takes place today on November 21, 2017, marks one of these initiatives. Under the direction of the national initiative digitalswitzerland and in collaboration with over 40 partner organizations – including Switzerland Global Enterprise – the first Swiss Digital Day takes place simultaneously throughout the country. Over 40 companies and institutions, both economic and academic, will show the public what exactly digitization means today and what it might mean in future. The day of action takes place under the auspices of Swiss President Doris Leuthard and Federal Council Representative Johann Schneider-Ammann, in addition to the active participation of Federal Councilor Alain Berset.
Long tradition of global innovation
Digital innovation and top technologies set Switzerland apart. It was here, at the CERN in Geneva, where a radical new way of thinking was born - the World Wide Web. Switzerland is also home to the fastest supercomputer in Europe, ranked third in the whole world.
The country offers an ideal framework for foreign tech firms looking to have access to an innovative and thriving ecosystem, to enhance their competitiveness and to address the European market. Since 1956, international tech companies have set up their research and development centers here. For Google, Switzerland has become the most important office for research and development outside of the United States, with over 2,000 employees based in Zurich. “In Switzerland, we find top talent, a tradition of innovation, a great diversity of workforce, political stability, and a great quality of life for the employees,” explains Patrick Warnking, Country Director of Google Switzerland. Google expanded its Swiss offices at the beginning of the year, announcing a space that will accommodate up to 5000 new employees by 2020.
Silicon Valley of Robotics
Swiss universities are leading in AI and robotics research. Google, Apple und Facebook fight for the best talent. The two technical institutes ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne consistently rank as the best in Europe and spill out highly skilled workforce to a market where science and industry work hand in hand. “Especially in robotics, we had the opportunity to hire outstanding faculty from all over the world. Meanwhile we are considered the Silicon Valley of Robotics,“ says Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart from the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETH Zurich. With headquarters in Zurich, ABB is by far the most successful international player in industrial robots, with 132,000 employees worldwide and revenue of USD 34 billion (read Forbes article “How Switzerland Became The Silicon Valley Of Robotics”).
Switzerland has a history of creating partnerships, facilitating exchange of know-how, building bridges, acting responsibly and in the interest of many. The independent Mindfire foundation was registered in July 2017 to give rise to a new epicentre for AI embedded in Swiss laws, non-profit and with the goal to make IP in AI accessible for the benefit of the people. Mindfire calls upon talents in the world to unite and decode the mind for humankind. The first step towards this goal, Mission-1, launches in May 2018. Unlike other initiatives in the field, Mindfire is an independent movement uniting individuals, governments, research institutions and companies alike by introducing a blockchain based format to systematically harvest and credit intellectual property (IP) at source.
Favorable ecosystem for cyber security
With its long tradition of neutrality and a unique set of privacy laws, Switzerland is also the perfect fit for tech companies with a focus on cyber security. The young and successful tech company Proton Technologies AG is headquartered in Switzerland. The team combines deep mathematical and technical knowledge from the world's top research institutions with expertise in end-to-end encryption. Their email service ProtonMail has become the world’s most secure email service with millions of users worldwide. It is hosted in a former military command center deep inside the Swiss Alps, thus providing maximum physical security for its clients’ data. Furthermore, Switzerland applies a very different set of privacy laws since it is outside of US and EU jurisdiction. "We believe that comprehensive security can only be achieved through a combination of technology and legal protection and Switzerland provides the optimal combination of both. By coupling the country’s advanced IT infrastructure with its unique legal environment, ProtonMail can deliver a service that is both reliable and secure," states Dr. Andy Yen, co-founder and CEO of Proton Technologies.