Neuchâtel Event Looks At Swiss Innovation, Competitiveness 20/02/2015 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch Leave a Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)NEUCHATEL – Switzerland is among the best students of global innovation. It continues to score at the top of global indexes and reports on innovation and competitiveness. At a seminar last week at the University of Neuchâtel, speakers gave their views on that success. It appears that Switzerland has succeeded in providing an enabling environment for innovation, with efficient research institutions, a capacity to attract and retain talent and in some cases the ability to conjugate tradition and innovation. The faculty of law of the University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland organised on 13 February the 6th edition of a seminar dedicated to start-ups, small enterprises and innovation. The theme of this year’s seminar was “Innovation and Economic Freedom.” Caran D’Ache: Tradition and Innovation The exclusive Geneva-based Swiss brand Caran d’Ache is known the world over for high-end writing instruments. Jean-François de Saussure, the Caran d’Ache CEO, said consumers are surrounded by goods of increasingly poor quality, non-reparable, and which are thrown away after only limited use. Caran d’Ache, a family business, on the contrary, produces quality items which are exclusively manufactured in Switzerland, he said. “It might seem utterly crazy to produce in the most expensive country in the world,” he said, but in the 21st century, the company is still able to maintain its production in Switzerland and export to some 90 countries. The Caran d’Ache recipe for success: quality, creativity and durability, he said. The company started in 1915 with a pencil produced near the graphite resources of the Alps. A hundred years later, he said, Caran d’Ache pencils come from sustainably managed forests. The company, he added, was among the first to address the environmental dimension in its production. All through the 20th century the company kept issuing innovative products, de Saussure said. The company is also constantly testing new wood essences, including Swiss native species. All writing instruments are assembled by hand and come with a lifelong guarantee. The inventor of the aquarelle pencil, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, even has the famous metal boxes hosting its coloured pencils made in Thun, Switzerland. De Saussure said some of the company’s innovation is covered by trade secrets, such as some pigments. The company also uses trademarks and patents, he told Intellectual Property Watch. Mario El-Khoury, CEO of the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), talked about the role of Switzerland in the reindustrialisation of Europe. Europe, he said, is losing its industry. At first sight, it might have seemed an interesting move to keep high technology and research and development (R&D) in Europe and leave the production to developing countries, he said, but it does not work any longer. Asian countries have created their own marks, and invested in R&D, he said. An increasing number of patents are being filed in Asia, for example in information and communications technology, he said. Switzerland has a very small domestic market, few natural resources, and labour costs about 25 times higher than in China, but the reason behind the “Swiss miracle” is innovation, he said. Switzerland Competitiveness Healthy, But Challenges Loom Thierry Geiger, associate director, Global Benchmarking Network, Global Competitiveness and Risk at the Geneva-based World Economic Forum, said there are 12 pillars of competitiveness, including infrastructure, the macroeconomic environment, health, primary and higher education, training, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation. The World Economic Forum publishes the yearly Global Competitiveness Report, which Switzerland topped for the 6th year in a row in 2014-2015. And for the fourth year in a row, Switzerland last year held the top spot in the Global Innovation Index published by several partners including the World Intellectual Property Organization (IPW, Education/R&D/Innovation, 18 July 2014). At the heart of Swiss competitiveness is innovation, he said. The country has an almost unmatched capacity to draw on the potential of its human capital, he remarked. The quality of its educational system, its capacity to attract and retain talented individuals, the quality of its research institutions and the cooperation between employers and employees constitute an enabling environment for innovation. However, some challenges for Switzerland are its ageing population and the fact that only 15.5 percent of women hold a full time job. Another challenge is the mounting “populism” in the country and its false good ideas, which are endangering the competitiveness equation in Switzerland, he said, referring to the 9 February 2014 federal vote against “mass immigration.” The high income level of Switzerland could also hinder Swiss competitiveness, he said. Switzerland must continue to innovate, he said, to keep up with other countries such as Germany, Japan, the United States, South Korea or China. Several speakers at the event also mentioned the consequences of the 15 January decision of the Swiss central bank to put an end to its policy artificially maintaining the value of the Swiss franc at a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 Swiss francs to one euro. The announcement sent the Swiss currency soaring, later stabilising at some 20 percent higher than it was before the decision. French Former Minister Strong Views on innovation Luc Ferry, former French Minister for Youth, National Education and Research, said he is an ardent defender of innovation. Social and medical innovation, he said, multiplied life expectancy three-fold since the mid-1800s, further underlined by the recent discovery of a cure for Hepatitis C. Catholic countries, by nature, are reticent to innovate, which is not the case for Protestant countries, he said, citing the United States as a model of dynamic innovation. Innovation, he said, is driving growth and renders obsolete everything that is viewed as ancient, such as ideas, clothes, art, morals and religion. It creates demand, he said. He further predicted that nanotechnology and biotechnology are going to bring dramatic changes, with human beings living to be 200 years. Another important area of innovation, he said, are robotics and 3D printing. Image Credits: University of NeuchÃ¢tel Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Catherine Saez may be reached at email@example.com."Neuchâtel Event Looks At Swiss Innovation, Competitiveness" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.