By Dr. Balz Hösly, Chairman of the Board, Greater Zurich Area AG,
Dr. Balz Hösly is a renowned practitioner in strategic legal advice and corporate governance. He is chairman and member of several boards of directors and well versed in strategic corporate development issues. As a Certified Specialist SBA Inheritance Law he is expert in corporate succession and in international inheritance and estate planning for private clients. Balz Hoesly also focuses on live entertainment and e-commerce as well as on public governance and business models for public private partnerships (PPP).
Innovation is the oil in the engine of our regional and national economy. The Zurich business region and Switzerland recognized the significance of innovation at an early stage. The welfare and prosperity of the Greater Zurich Area and Switzerland only exists today thanks to constant innovation.
Switzerland is a small country with a strong economic center - the Greater Zurich Area - at its heart. This center is internationally respected as one of the most successful economic regions worldwide - and simultaneously as one of the regions with the highest quality of life as well. Neither of these facts was a natural gift or a simple coincidence. There are relatively straightforward reasons why Switzerland and the Greater Zurich Area have trodden the path to permanent innovation: they essentially have to do with history, the nature of the region and Switzerland itself.
Countries, regions and their local entrepreneurs do not develop innovative businesses because it is an obvious pathto financial success. However, those who have no alternative automatically become innovative, and consequently act innovatively. That has always been the case for Switzerland and the Greater Zurich Area. In this country, commodities that could be exploited and exported for good money do not exist. In addition, there are no sufficient cultivatable products with the potential of conquering the world market and creating sufficient national prosperity. And last but not least, the country and the Greater Zurich Area are so small that even their “human potential” is only just big enough to keep the domestic economy going - but too small to create the economic power to which Switzerland has worked its way up. The Swiss represent only 0.1 % of the global population - but the list of the 500 largest companies in the world includes 12 Swiss companies.This fact alone emphasizes the significance of research and development -and, by extension, innovation- in Switzerland, and its ability to supply the international market with high quality Swiss services and products. The availability of a highly innovative and productive workforce is also a major reason why the Zurich business area and Switzerland can maintain their top rank in innovation - even with very strong international competition.
China and Switzerland: Partners for Innovation
What China achieved in only a few decades, has taken Switzerland 120 years to achieve: raising the country from a basic industrial level to an international provider of world-class products and services, which are competitive by global standards. Chinese and Swiss technology and engineering can thus be sold in the world’s key markets.
For collaboration in industry and science, Chinese and Swiss companies can meet at every level to jointly exchange technology and also to develop technology further. One example of intensified research and technology-based collaboration between Switzerland and China is the Sino-Swiss Science and Technology Cooperation (SSSTC). The program was established in 2013 after the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the then Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) and the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST). Almost 200 collaborative projects have been awarded in the first phase of the SSSTC, and some are still ongoing.
Both countries are strong in information and precision technologies in all its forms: machinery, machine tools, sensors, photonics, measurement/control/testing, and computer science that enables the creation of cutting-edge tools and processes. Switzerland -and particularly the Greater Zurich Area - host numerous smaller pharma and biotechnology companies with huge potential for collaborating with innovative partners from China; Big Pharma is just one example. Switzerland is eager to look after the intellectual property created by its innovative enterprises: the country's patenting process is straightforward, patents are well protected, and income streams from patents, brands and licenses are taxed favorably. Last but not least, there is a vibrant financial sector with banks, private equity firms and venture capital available for innovative and international projects set up by Swiss, Chinese or Chinese-Swiss partnerships.
China and Switzerland: Partners for Trade beyond Tariff Dismantling
China is Switzerland’s third largest trading partner. That makes the free trade agreement (FTA) with the People’s Republic of China, which entered into effect on 1 July 2014, all the more significant. The FTA not only improves mutual market access for goods and services, enhances legal security for the protection of intellectual property rights and bilateral economic relations in general, but also goes far beyond tariff-dismantling by fostering cooperation in fields including science, technology, research, education andculture. The FTA gives Switzerland a competitive advantage over countries, which do not have a FTA with China.