The world leader in innovation

An international R&D and innovation hub

With internationally recognized research centers, strong technology know-how, and qualified and productive workforce, it is not surprising that Switzerland is consistently ranked as one of the world’s most innovative countries.  The dynamic interaction between the academic world and the economic players in the Greater Geneva Bern area fosters the transformation of innovative ideas into high value-added products.

Unparalleled research institutes

Switzerland is the clear leader in innovation, and this success is due to the long-standing political commitment to attract investments in high value sectors.  Evidence of this commitment can be found in the considerable funding allocated to fundamental and applied research.  The amount spent on R&D represents 3% of GDP, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of 2.4%.  In 2019, Switzerland was once again the country with the most patent applications per million inhabitants. The number of patent applications reached an all-time high of 988 in 2019 (956 in the previous year). The EU average was 140 applications per million. Another indicator of the quality of the research is the percentage of citations to national scientific publications by researchers from other countries.  In this case, Switzerland has the highest

share of the most frequently cited scientific papers on a worldwide basis.  The country also has the highest proportion of doctoral degree holders among the working age population, which can be attributed to the substantial number of foreign PhDs living in the country.  In fact, 25% of students and more than 40% of researchers at Switzerland’s higher educational institutions come from abroad. The percentage is even higher, reaching 50%, at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), which, with over 120 nationalities represented on campus, takes the prize as the most cosmopolitan technical university in Europe.

Unique R&D partnerships

Leading-edge companies which set up operations in Switzerland choose the GGBa because of the many possibilities for synergy with academic and research organizations offering the most modern resources. All the universities in the region collaborate with institutes on a multitude of highly specialized projects.  Among these institutes, the region is home to CERN, the world’s largest research center in the field of particle physics, the Idiap Research Institute, which is one of the most active research institutes in information technologies, as well as the Centre suisse d’électronique et de microtechnique (CSEM) and the Adolphe Merkle Institute (AMI), specializing in nanosciences.  Nowhere is the transfer of know-how and technology between universities and companies more advanced and efficient than it is in Switzerland.

Key figures

  • 1st for the quality of its scientific research
  • 1st in the world with regard to R&D spending per resident
  • 1st in innovation in global comparisons
  • 956 patent applications per million inhabitants in 2018

Sources: WEF Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, European Patent Office

International ranking in innovation

  • 1. Switzerland
  • 2. Sweden
  • 3. United States of America
  • 4. United Kingdom
  • 5. Republic of Korea
  • 6. Netherlands

Source: The Global Innovation Index 2021


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