Innovation strength analysis 2024: Strategies for an innovative Switzerland

Foresight 08:00

Is Swiss industry’s capacity for innovation in jeopardy? Despite declining headcount and research and development challenges, the latest analysis by the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences SATW, produced in conjunction with Swissmem, shows that forward-looking investment is capable of promoting innovation in industry. The important thing is to recognise opportunities and adopt a strategic approach.

The analysis is an update of the eponymous SATW study from 2021 and confirms the negative trends:

  • Manufacturing industry headcount continued to decline after a short recovery in 2018 and 2019: On average, SMEs have shed one job in twenty. This stands in contrast to the tertiary sector, where companies of all sizes reported a significant increase in employment figures.
  • The trend towards concentration of research and development (R&D) activities at a constantly dwindling number of companies continued in 2020.
  • The chart of earnings against expenditure shows that the expected correlation between higher expenditure (investment in R&D) and growing income (sales of new products) is increasingly weaker.

The following recommended actions outline approaches that could enhance manufacturing industry’s potential:

  • Matchmaking at professional innovation level: Platforms that raise the visibility of R&D offerings and projects and link up players in the field provide a way for companies to find suitable collaboration partners. By providing start-up assistance to such platforms, political decision-makers can strengthen companies’ innovativeness.

  • Increase the number of technology transfer agencies: This is a task for higher education institutions because transfer agencies have an important role to play in linking companies with higher education institution researchers.

  • Mindset change and increased awareness: There are major differences between mindsets in companies and mindsets in higher education institutions. Industry associations and higher education institutions must ensure that companies are familiar with the science mindset and long-term strategic planning, while researchers are familiar with corporate and interdisciplinary mindsets.

  • Embedding and embodying a culture of innovation: Innovation requires the appropriate mindset – one that has to be established and actively practised at all levels of a company. Innovation promotion agencies, associations and initiatives can play an important role here by providing inspiration in the form of successful examples and by promoting access to networks.

A highly innovative industrial sector is desirable to ensure Switzerland remains a healthy business location because industry provides 16 percent of jobs in Switzerland, yet contributes 40 percent of GDP. Investing in the innovation-related activities of manufacturing industry serves to safeguard this impressive economic performance.

Cooperation between research and business partners is the key to successful innovation, because companies can no longer master these complex challenges by working in isolated areas.

Pascal Blanc, Head of Innovation at Swissmem

The manufacturing industry makes an essential contribution to research and innovation in Switzerland. Let's work together to ensure that companies continue to innovate.

Laetitia Philippe, Vice Director Head of Division National Research and Innovation

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Dr. Claudia Schärer

Dr. Claudia Schärer

Head of Foresight