Hackers and Innovators Make Switzerland Their Headquarters

October 14, 2015

8:39 am

Innovation leaders from markets all around the world are flocking to Switzerland. Driving this move is the desire to live and work among a community of people developing the products and services of the future. The fact that Switzerland consistently ranks at the top of the Global Innovation Index speaks to the country’s overall focus on supporting a forward-looking, innovative ecosystem of companies. The country has earned a reputation for growing startups quickly due to is ability to simplify the setup process. Just consider Switzerland’s reduced tax rate for startups, the country’s generous network of business angels, incubators, and organizations all aimed at inspiring and boosting entrepreneurial ideas and talents.

Switzerland has also strengthened its reputation in innovation and ICT via an increasing number of renowned conferences and events. Here is a look at three of the main gatherings taking (or having taken) place this fall:

  • HackZurich (Oct. 2-4, 2015) – Imagine 500 hackers locked in a room for 40 hours over 3 days in Zurich. Some of the world’s greatest innovators spoke to the group including: Facebook, Cheezburger and Dacadoo. This was such a high-profile event that more than 1,200 programmers from around the world applied to participate.
  • Nipconf (Oct. 30, 2015) – A global technology conference held at the Swiss Tech Convention Center in Lausanne focused on providing content by and for enthusiasts of innovation. This year’s theme, “From Matter to Spirit examines the convex between the physical and virtual/data worlds which is increasingly mixed. Speakers from IBM, BlueBotics and SigFox will inspire attendees with their knowledge and experience.
  • Swiss Innovation Forum (November 19, 2015) – In addition to high-profile speakers, more than 1,000 participants are expected to attend and take part in seminars at the Basel Congress Center. For its 10th anniversary, the Swiss Innovation Forum will touch on various hot topics including humanoid robots and 3D-printed houses.

Proof that Switzerland is a strong incubator for technology companies:

  • Large technology companies are expanding their footprint to Switzerland including Google (which has its largest office outside of the US in Zurich), Microsoft, Uber, IBM, Yahoo, Siemens, Bosch, Skullcandy, Disney Research Lab, and many others.
  • More than 300 startups and organizations in the fields of science, technology, and economics are now located in the Technopark complex in Zurich.
  • Zurich has more than a third of the startups in the Swiss Start-up Monitor, an independent database which tracks and shares start-up performance data.
  • Zug has become known as “Crypto Valley” because many of the world’s leading cryptocurrency innovators are located in this area.
  • Switzerland is home to many of the world’s best academic and research institutions, such as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH) and Empa.
  • Many of the world’s renowned institutions are located in Switzerland, including European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Swiss National Supercomputing Center, the Dalle Molle Institute for Artificial Intelligence Research, and The Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology.

It may be quite some time before Switzerland begins to rival Silicon Valley, given most of its startups focus on medtech, fintech, and life sciences and less on broader consumer-oriented businesses, which get more public attention. However, like many world famous technology hubs, Switzerland has attracted innovative businesses that are taking advantage of its strong talent pool and ICT-friendly business environment to expand their businesses quickly. If the hackers and innovators could have their way, Switzerland could become the beacon of technology innovation within the next decade.

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Daniel Bangser is the Director of U.S. Investment Promotion for the Swiss government’s trade and investment agency Switzerland Global Enterprise. You can find him on LinkedIn.

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