Smart Switzerland – Are we (still) on track?
Today, Swiss cities rank very high when quality of living, personal security and attractiveness for doing business are considered as factors. These achievements are mainly based on investments and innovations made in the past. Kickstart’s Smart City Vertical Lead Ray Neubauer says that in an international environment with ever increasing pace in technology turn-over rates and development, Switzerland has to ensure that the country is not losing ground compared to international competitors.
Imagine Switzerland without its outstanding railway network. Today, it is considered to be the best in the world and a major pillar of Switzerland’s economy. The basis for this and other success stories was laid in the 19th century through visionary politicians and economic leaders like Alfred Escher, who amongst others planned and built Switzerland’s first railway lines, contributed significantly to the foundation of ETH Zurich, and established the predecessor of today’s Credit Suisse bank . At that time, Switzerland was a rather poor country and courageous decisions were taken in the context of poverty, emigration and other economic shortages.
Today, the situation has completely changed, with Switzerland being among the wealthiest nations on earth and having an extraordinarily high quality of living, personal security levels and attractiveness as business location.
Persisting and New Challenges
Beside this remarkable evolution, various challenges still persist or evolved over the last decades. As an additional factor, the willingness to take brave decisions and to accept a certain level of risks connected with the introduction of innovative technologies seems to have decreased in parallel to the increased standard of living.
Taking one more look at today’s mobility: Switzerland has indeed one of the best public transport systems in the world. Nevertheless, the Swiss mobility sector still accounts for around 30% of Switzerland’s CO2 emissions – mainly caused by individual transport and not even taking into account aviation. In other economic sectors like electricity supply or real estate, the challenges and need for changes are equally extensive and also appear mostly unsolved.
To solve the country’s challenges, Swiss political and economic leaders need to return the spirit of taking courageous and visionary decisions. This could happen by introducing innovative solutions and taking a certain level of risks connected with these new technologies, which in turn would prepare Switzerland for the future in a way that the country retains its position among smart and highly-developed nations. This is especially important, as large rising economies like China, but also established countries such as the USA, Japan, Korea or Singapore are currently in the process of transforming into innovation hot spots.
Kickstart and the Smart City & Technology Vertical
Contributing to the solution of these challenges, Kickstart’s main aim is to foster innovation in Switzerland. This is achieved through bridging the gap between promising later-stage startups and Swiss corporations, cities, universities and other organizations. Kickstart provides a conceptual, organizational, and communicational framework for the concrete implementation of partnership projects between the startups and Swiss organizations.
Kickstart’s Smart City & Technology Vertical focuses on topics such as Smart Energy, Sustainable Buildings, Future Mobility, IoT and Connectivity, City Services, and Industry 4.0. Within these focus areas, Kickstart and its Smart City & Technology partners – the City of Zurich, the City of St. Gallen, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy SFOE, Axpo, CSEM, Empa NEST, and Stäubli – jointly implement high-quality pilot projects to test the financial viability and technological feasibility of smart technology solutions proposed by international startups.
Together, all involved parties advance smart technology solutions that increase the sustainability, connectivity, productivity and resilience of Swiss businesses and cities, and ultimately, contribute to the attractiveness of Switzerland as place to live and to do business.
About the Author
Ray Neubauer is Kickstart’s Smart City & Technology Vertical Lead. He also holds positions as business developer and advisory board member in different Swiss energy startups and smart city non-profit organisations. During his career he worked for established and startup companies in the Swiss machine industry, as well as the real estate, the building material, and the energy sector. He graduated as BSc. in Electrical Engineering and MSc. in Sustainable Energy Technologies and Management.