The Swiss innovation model: is it the best?

Very interesting presentation by the newspaper Le Temps and Xavier Comtesse about innovation in Switzerland (compared to the USA). (Thanks to Pascal for giving me the link :-)). The article is entitled The Swiss innovation model is it the best? (Same document on Prezi)


Before you view or read the content of the contribution by Comtesse, here is my reaction: it is indeed an excellent analysis, but the conclusion can be misleading! One could get the impression that the U.S. does not have large innovative companies like Switzerland has with Novartis, Roche or Nestlé. But I fear that it is a misleading view. The U.S. does not have that start-ups only and our are not growing. Not to forget, the topic of job creation, see Job creation: who’s right? Grove or Kauffman

Now here is a summary translated from Prezi: For several years, Switzerland has been at the top of the world rankings for innovation, this was not always the case especially during the 90s. So … Are we better than Silicon Valley?

Silicon Valley has developed a model in 8 strengths
– Excellent local university system
– Transfer of knowledge to the economy – technoloy parks, coaching, awards, etc..
– Powerful venture capital
– Start-ups that grow quickly and innovate in disruptive fields
– An effective IPO or M&A market (Exit Strategy)
– Large expenditures in R&D
– A high rate of patents per capita
– A strong entrepreneurial spirit per inhabitant

The 7 strong points of the Swiss model: Switzerland has a very different system of innovation from Silicon Valley but ultimately just as effective, especially for large companies.
– No federal masterplan for Innovation
– A concentration in life sciences
– A innovation driven by large companies
– Incremental innovation more than disruptive
– A quality education at all levels
– Framework conditions very favorable to the economy
– A high performance system of transfer of knowledge / technology

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Switzerland?
– Yes, our universities are excellent:
More than half of young Swiss university follow the one hundred best universities in the world, no country has such a result
– No, the Venture Capital industry is very low in Switzerland:
Switzerland underperformed largely in the area of ​​venture capital (investment in Switzerland in 2011: 737 Million for USA 29,500 million).
– No, our start-ups do not grow fast enough:
The excellent survival rate is suspect, this means that start-ups are protected by the academic system or federal funding
– No, there is little IPO in Switzerland:
A small number of IPO (Initial Public Offering) shows weak growth start-ups or SMEs in Switzerland
– Yes, private R&D is very important but for large firms rather than in SMEs:
The share of the private sector is very important in Switzerland, particularly in the life sciences (pharma, biotech and medtech, etc.).
– Yes, we file a lot of patents:
but again it is primarily large enterprises, the proportion of patents is very important in Switzerland, this is partly due to the strong presence of very large firms
– No, the Swiss create firms twice less than the US:
the ntrepreneurial culture is very strong in the U.S., more than double that in Europe,
– Yes, the general conditions of business creation are very favorable:
Switzerland does better than innovative small countries such as Finland, Sweden and Israel
– Yes, technology transfer takes place in Switzerland:
Switzerland has fifty incubators, TechnoParks or other transfer centers Switzerland Silicon Valley

These two models as we have seen are very different. They work well both but the objective differences do not make possible to compare them as is done ll too often, especially in the field of start-ups …

3 thoughts on “The Swiss innovation model: is it the best?

  1. Jordi Montserrat

    excellent summary , congratulations to Xavier ! The conclusion being that it’s two different systems hard to compare, my question would be whether you or Xavier draw any action any priority action point, i.e. which of the strenghts or weaknesses should we put most effort on to keep the lead that Switzerland has . You know we focus on concrete acceleration / ambition / internationalisation with, venture leaders, … , hence: what should it be ?

  2. Xavier Comtesse

    Jordi…you right the question is really what we should do now. So I think there is no simple answer but a range of very exciting ideas like the one Felix (Swissnex Boston) bring me yesterday: an example of a school in Boston for start-up workers ( or the one we create in Neuchâtel (Swiss Creative Center)…what we should have in mind is not to give-up with our push on start-up…like you do with Venturekick…but adding new project link to our today problem…don’t forget McDonald create more jobs in Switzerland during the past ten years then all our start-ups !!!! So I suggest Jordi should take the lead for collecting new ideas to boost the start-up ecosystm in Switzerland…have a look to this report (it’s a dramma for us)
    à suivre…

  3. herve

    Innovation is very complex and innovative behaviors are difficult to have and easy to lose. One critical element is to be sure that it is encouraged in all companies (large or small) as well as in academia/society. Entrepreneurship is not the only way to innovate but there is a strong link between the two (through intrapreneurship). So not being afraid of uncertainty and not stimatizing failure are really necessary. Then there are many more things needs, tools, expertise and also talent. The role of society and education in particular is to provide / guarantee solid foundations for innovation.


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