i3 | April 05, 2021

International Focus: Switzerland

CTA Library

Switzerland map and city of Bern
Source from left: Peter Hermes, Furian/Alamy; Etham Photo/Alamy

Innovation in Switzerland

Switzerland may be small in terms of population — they only have about nine million people — but their innovation reach is far and wide. For the ninth successive year, Switzerland was named as the world’s most innovative country by the United Nations’ World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). And they aren’t leaving anyone behind. The Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs 2020 ranks Switzerland as #3.

Fintech Put Switzerland on the Startup Map

According to Swisscom’s Fintech Startup Map, in 2020 Switzerland was home to at least 376 financial technology firms. Crypto Valley (a region around the city and lake of Zug) is home to at least 919 active blockchain or distributed ledger technology (DLT) companies. 

Ethereum, whose headquarters are in Zug, is the second-largest cryptocurrency by market capitalization, after Bitcoin. One new addition is Relai AG, a Zurich-based company working hard to make sure investing in the cryptocurrency is as easy as possible. 

2020 still marked substantial growth across key areas such as blockchain protocols and financial services. Bitcoin Suisse, GuardTime, Metaco and SEBA Bank are the four Swiss companies that made CB Insights’ inaugural Blockchain 50 — only the United States had more.

CleanMotion’s self-disinfecting door handle
CleanMotion’s self-disinfecting door handle
Source: Courtesy of CleanMotion

Switzerland Tackles COVID-19

Almost half of all Swiss startups surveyed (University of St. Gallen) faced falling sales during the COVID-19 global pandemic. The survey found 7% had to lay off employees, while some were agile enough to take advantage of new opportunities. The StartupBlink Ecosystem Report 2020 lists three Swiss cities in the top 80 ranking: Basel, Geneva and Zurich. 

Some products from startups will prove quite useful in a post-pandemic world, such as CleanMotion’s self-disinfecting door handle, eliminating 99% of bacteria. 

HM CARE has developed a mostly transparent surgical mask, HelloMask, and was one of the startups hiring during the pandemic. 

Swiss researchers, using artificial intelligence (AI), were instrumental in developing several COVID-19 vaccines, while collaborating with other experts around the world.

Man wearing VR goggles
CES 2021's Swisstech Pavilion highlighted 23 startups from Switzerland
Source: Courtesy of CREAL

Swiss Startups Bringing on Real Competition

Switzerland has a thriving startup ecosystem because of its location, regulations and taxes. The country ranked #8 for top countries for startups (StartupBlink Ecosystem Report), and Swiss startups employ some 50,000 people. 

MindMaze, which builds intuitive human machine interfaces, was Switzerland’s first tech unicorn (valued at over $1 trillion). One of the most popular startups, Sportradar, collects and analyzes sports data. 

Swiss startup CREAL (CES 2021 Swisstech Pavillion) is bringing some serious competition to the XR market (encompassing augmented, virtual and mixed reality technologies), as their light-field technology improves depth resolution of virtual objects, reducing the eye strain of traditional products.

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