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Patrik Wermelinger, head of investment promotion and member of the board of the executive committee at Switzerland Global Enterprise, explains why Switzerland's stability and skills are the basis of its attractiveness – and why GIS tools will help investors discover this for themselves.

Q: What is Switzerland Global Enterprise’s remit and how do you balance the needs and interests of the 26 cantons from an investment promotion perspective?

A: Switzerland wants to make companies more competitive. This can be through access to our ecosystems in future-oriented or traditional technologies, through setting up research centres in our country that co-operate closely with academia, through steering Europe-wide core functions out of Switzerland, or through reducing production costs thanks to highly automated production lines in our country. Switzerland has also become such a strong brand and business location because of the diversity of our nation and of our workforce: Four official languages, a decentralised political system, a multi-party government, 25% foreign residents, 99.7% SMEs (with fewer than 250 employees).

We at Switzerland Global Enterprise promote these advantages to innovative companies, we answer key questions about Switzerland upfront and then connect interested companies with the next level of support and expertise, with our 26 cantons. We listen to the needs of the investing company and at the same time try to match them with the strengths of our 26 cantons. Each canton has its own competitive advantages, and we make sure these are known so that an investor can find what she or he needs. We are convinced that in doing so we have the most competitive package to offer to foreign companies.

Q: What are the biggest trends you have noted that are affecting investment into Switzerland? And do you anticipate any impact, good or bad, from Brexit? 

A: With the Swiss can-do attitude in fintech regulation and a fast-growing blockchain ecosystem, Switzerland has become very attractive for blockchain and crypto currency companies worldwide. In industries such as robotics or medtech, we have seen more and more companies choosing Switzerland as their production site in order to reduce production costs. This is possible because of highly automated and secure production lines and our motivated workforce. As time to market (Europe in this case) becomes more important, this makes perfect sense. Last but not least, investors like certainty. Switzerland stands for stability and reliability. We know of a few cases where this stability has attracted UK companies as well.

Q: What do you see as Switzerland’s unique selling points for inward investment? On the flip side, what are the most common questions or concerns you receive from potential investors? 

A: Our stability is usually mentioned first when we ask foreign investors about why they chose Switzerland as a business location. In today’s world of insecurity and instability, a stable economic, social and political environment has become a key factor for businesses in setting up new R&D centers or headquarters. Furthermore, close links with foreign markets, embedded in 40 Free Trade Agreements, dense ecosystems and clusters, the world’s best education system, and reliable infrastructure are some of our key advantages. Companies also value our country’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified talent (number one in the world in the Global Talent Competitiveness Index), our liberal labour laws and low financing costs. Finally, our country’s prosperity stems from our hunger for innovation. For years, we’ve been at the top of world competitiveness and innovativeness rankings. Our success is mainly due to a great co-operation between renowned research institutions and the industry, which helps turn innovation quickly into marketable products and solutions.

Investors sometimes have initial concerns about the salary level in Switzerland. However, by explaining that the employees in Switzerland have low social costs, work more hours a week and have a higher work motivation than most other European countries (IMD World Competitiveness Center 2017), which all pay in to augmented productivity, this argument quickly fades away. The Swiss life sciences industry, for example, has the highest level of productivity compared with other top international locations (Interpharma).

Q: You are launching the first nation-wide GIS Planning tool implementation [GIS Planning is owned by the Financial Times and is a sister product of fDi Magazine]. Tell us about the decision behind this and what you hope to gain?

A: A foreign direct investor should be able to gain a quick overview of how Switzerland performs looking at his key criteria for selecting a new production site, research and development location or international headquarters.

With our GIS [geographic information system] tool Switzerland Business Navigator, an investor can look at selection criteria, such as availability of talent, number of potential clients, partners and competitors, density of international residents in Switzerland per canton, price level of rents or commercial building land, and other key factors, with only a few clicks. He gets all the information visualised on interactive maps and can compare them easily within different regions in the country. Knowing the business environment and the ecosystems will hopefully help investors decide for Switzerland.

Q: GIS technologies are commonly used for investment promotion and site selection in the US but less so in Europe. Do you expect this to change and if so, why?

A: Yes, I expect this to change. The way of consulting clients and customers has already changed significantly in many industries due to digitalisation (online bookings, growing e-commerce activities, etc.). Consultants should no longer provide data, but rather translate data in a meaningful way and connect the right people at the right time to make the onboarding process to their countries efficient and fast.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

A: Switzerland is an open country. Sharing our data is just a next step. As we started to create transparency by making relevant data available and comparable, it would be terrific if other European countries followed using GIS Planning as well. This would help to show the whole economic power of Europe, and by doing so, to attract more investments to Europe and to Switzerland.

The Switzerland Business Navigator can be accessed at www.s-ge.com/business-navigator

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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