Specific Topics (Part C)

The third part of the report examines overarching and cross-cutting issues of key importance to the Swiss research and innovation system. To do so, scientific experts conducted four studies, with project groups overseeing the preparation of their findings. This report contains a summary of the studies. The complete studies appear in the SERI publication series.

Study 1: Research and innovation activities of small and medium-sized enterprises in Switzerland

Authors: Dr. Heiko Bergmann and Prof. Thierry Volery (University of St.Gallen)

This study investigates innovation by SMEs in Switzerland, their unique traits and the influences at play. Central questions here included: How innovative are SMEs in Switzerland in different sectors and by international standards? Where do the obstacles to research and innovation activities lie?

While the share of innovative SMEs has decreased in recent years, the proportion of revenue from innovative products has risen slightly, suggesting an increased concentration of innovation activities at fewer SMEs. High costs and long amortisation periods, compounded by insufficient own resources, present obstacles to innovation activities for SMEs. SMEs in Switzerland can be regarded as highly innovative by international standards. Marketing and organisational innovations are the most widespread, followed by product and process innovations.

Study 2: Research and innovation activities of multinationals in Switzerland

Authors: Prof. Oliver Gassmann, Florian Homann and Prof. Maximilian Palmié (University of St.Gallen)

This study investigates the research and innovation activities of multinational companies in relation to their benefit to the Swiss research and innovation landscape and explores why multinationals undertake research and innovation activities in Switzerland. It also investigates the reasons for the attractiveness of various other research and innovation locations at national level and discusses possible improvements to the general environment for research and innovation activities by multinationals in Switzerland.

It appears that the benefits of the research and innovation activities of multinational companies for Switzerland arise in part from the significant contribution they make to the multinationals’ added value. This occurs by increasing the competitiveness of local companies, creating well-paid jobs in Switzerland, providing high quality training for young people, undertaking collaborative projects in research and teaching, and networking Swiss research and innovation stakeholders at home and abroad. Multinationals thus act as a catalyst in Switzerland's complex research and innovation system.

Study 3: Supply and demand in public innovation promotion

Authors: Prof. Frédéric Varone (University of Geneva), Prof. Andreas Balthasar (Interface, University of Lucerne), Milena Iselin und Chantal Strotz (Interface)

Today, public-sector innovation is promoted at all political levels in federalist Switzerland. This poses questions regarding coordination and coherence as well as the possible duplication of activities by state agencies.

The majority of the companies surveyed that had been nominated for innovation awards felt that public-sector innovation promotion was important. Over two thirds of the companies that responded had been in contact with public-sector innovation promotion agencies. The benefit of such contact was generally rated as high. Overall, the companies that responded rated highly the benefit derived from contact with cantonal and regional promotion agencies as well as from "soft" services such as information and advice. However, many of the companies cited a lack of visibility in respect of public-sector innovation promotion agencies and their services. This opinion was expressed predominantly by those companies that had never requested support.

Study 4: Universities of applied sciences in the Swiss research and innovation system

Authors: Prof. Benedetto Lepori (Università della Svizzera italiana) and Christoph Müller (socio5.ch)

This study investigates the role of universities of applied sciences (UAS) in Switzerland’s research and innovation landscape. It looks at the development of UAS and their contribution to the Swiss research and innovation system and also examines their profile and collaboration with firms and conventional universities (cantonal universities and Federal Institutes of Technology). The study also examines the way in which the UAS and the conventional universities complement each other, and highlights possible challenges connected with the new Federal Act on the Funding and Coordination of the Higher Education Sector.

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