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Made in Zurich is urban manufacturing at its best

Zurich is a veritable beehive of sewing, welding and brewing. Although the city is known primarily for its research and services, it has always been home to a number of manufacturing companies. And they are working more quietly and cleaner than ever. The Made in Zurich initiative is a seal of quality that is making innovative diversity more and more visible: From trendy Freitag bags to Zuriga espresso machines, and from FluidSolids bioplastics to energy storage systems from the MAN Energy Solutions technology group.

Production site of the company Turbinenbräu, which is part of the Made in Zürich initiative. Image: Made in Zürich
Production site of the company Turbinenbräu, which is part of the Made in Zürich initiative. Image: Made in Zürich

Every Tuesday, the Zuriga factory opens its doors to show how its high-tech espresso machines are manufactured in the heart of Switzerland’s largest city. And then, of course, there’s the delicious cup of espresso. “It would be far more challenging to stop by if our factory was in a remote location,” says Moritz Güttinger, founder of the startup espresso machine brand. “We benefit greatly from being close to our customers.” This is particularly important for companies with a high degree of vertical integration, he adds. Zuriga is surrounded by other next-generation manufacturing companies in a district that has come to be known as Werkstadt – a play on the words werkstatt and stadt, or workshop and city – located on the former grounds of the Swiss Federal Railways’ repair workshops. Since the end of 2018, the Made in Zurich initiative has been both an organization and a seal of quality for these companies. Its aim is to encourage networking and make all members more visible.

Zurich prioritizes space

Conscious efforts are underway to bring Zurich’s long tradition as a manufacturing site into the future. Made in Zurich was initiated by private companies and has the support of the city of Zurich. Around 70 participants have joined the initiative in a short amount of time, including many small companies from the food sector as well as larger companies such as mechanical engineering firm MAN Energy Solutions, which has been manufacturing its products in Zurich for more than 200 years. Municipal authorities and real estate developers are actively creating space for the growing demand of manufacturing companies, be it in Werkstadt Zurich, the Koch district in the western part of the city or the Rheinmetall site in Zurich Oerlikon to the north.

Living and working in one place

Urban manufacturing is attractive for customers and employees alike. As Beat Karrer, CEO of the cleantech company FluidSolid, explains: “Our children go to school around the corner, and we commute to work by bike. We can also stay in touch with the nearby universities.” FluidSolids has developed a technology for producing compostable bioplastics out of the residues of renewable raw materials. Its pilot plant is located in Werkstadt Zurich, just like Zuriga’s factory.

The fewer emissions a manufacturing facility produces, the better it is suited for an urban setting. This is also the motto of Silvio Trionfini, president of the Made in Zurich initiative. “The manufacturing industry belongs to the city and makes it more appealing.” Triofini works for the Freitag bag manufacturer, one of the driving forces behind the Made in Zurich initiative. Founded in Zurich, the brand stands for urban lifestyle the world over. When Freitag had to move out of the Maag quarter in the heart of Zurich in around 2011, it joined in the construction of the innovative NŒRD industry building in the northern part of the city. Today more than 30 companies work there alongside Freitag.

Zurich products deliver what they promise

But what does Made in Zurich actually mean for a product? Ultimately, it’s a seal of quality for products with a certain level of local vertical integration. This is self-evident for Zuriga founder Güttinger: “A product from Zurich delivers what it promises. First and foremost, this means functionality, esthetics and a sustainable business model.” These principles are also set down in the initiative’s charter. And if you like, you can even test them yourself: there will soon be a gift basket with Made in Zurich food products, such as Tubinenbräu beer or Stadtjäger sausage, made in the cellar of a Zurich church by organic sausage producer Mika.

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