The Swiss Innovation Park plays a part in reinforcing Switzerland’s leading position as a location for innovation and maintaining the country’s economic competitiveness. It began operations in early 2016, with two network locations centred on the two federal institutes of technology in Zurich and Lausanne and four further sites in Aargau, Northwestern Switzerland, Biel and Eastern Switzerland. The Confederation plays a subsidiary role in the innovation park.
The Swiss Innovation Park is a private-public partnership of national importance funded and operated by the Confederation and cantons, science community and the private sector. Its purpose is to develop private research and development investment in Switzerland and so provide a valuable addition to the established funding instruments in Switzerland. This new approach seeks to make Switzerland attractive to international research and development players by providing developed parcels of land and floor space with expansion potential in the vicinity of existing higher education institutions and businesses.
In 2014 the Federal Council approved the configuration proposed by the Conference of Cantonal Directors of Economic Affairs (VDK) in 2014. Under this proposal, the innovation park would have two main locations centred on the two federal institutes of technology including two sites in Aargau and Northwestern Switzerland, forming a single network. In May 2015 the Federal Council decided to add Biel to this configuration. In April 2021 the Federal Council approved a further site in Eastern Switzerland as the sixth component of the Swiss Innovation Park network. In the same year, the Central Switzerland innovation park and the Ticino innovation park were added to the national network under the auspices of the Switzerland Innovation Park Zurich.
The current federal funding instruments for research and innovation can also be used for activities at the Swiss Innovation Park's sites. The Confederation has two further measures to provide additional funding for the park:
- Federal guarantees: A time-limited framework credit of CHF 350 million provides the site hosts with collateral for earmarked loans. With this capital t hand, they can obtain capital funding at advantageous conditions in order to finance research infrastructures at the various park sites. The guarantees are limited in duration and earmarked for specific purposes.
- Land use: In order to support the Innovation Park, federally owned land can be leased with construction rights.
Foundation as umbrella organisation
The Confederation does not play an operative role in the Swiss Innovation Park. This is assumed by the Swiss Innovation Park Foundation. The foundation coordinates and promotes networking among the park's sites, raises its profile in an international context and plays its role in promoting Switzerland as a location for science and innovation along with other players such as Switzerland Global Enterprise and Innosuisse. The foundation act as an interface to the Confederation and is responsible for the further development of the park.
The network locations and site hosts are primarily funded by the site cantons and private investors in a public-private partnership. The cantons and private sources fund the operation and maintenance as well as the provision of premises for businesses. The network locations and sites generate income from renting out premises and from service provision. The medium-term aim is for them to become self-financing.