ICT as a location factor, export product, and cross-departmental function for a top position among global digital locations in a highly competitive environment
Production, use, and ICT exports are pivotal to enhancing Switzerland's economic strength. ICT is seen as cross-departmental technology, which is increasingly and gradually reaching into all spheres of life. Highly developed information and communication technology are an important location factor. They increase the efficiency of the overall economy, being an important export product for advancing Switzerland as a «digital economy» by international comparisons.
Concerning the current status
Switzerland has scored good to very good in international studies on competitiveness and innovative strength. ICT studies also show that Switzerland is well positioned in this sector, which is driven by the following factors:
- Top talents from all over the world, high-class universities and universities of applied sciences, a vibrant spin-off culture: Thanks to the world-class computer science departments of ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne, which have almost 2,000 registered IT students, Switzerland can draw upon a vast pool of talent (ETH is ranked 19th, and EPFL is ranked 92nd according to the Shanghai Ranking, 2016). 43% of all employees in the Swiss ICT sector hold a university degree. Spin-offs and start-ups are founded at universities not only by graduates and former students. Venture capital investments in Swiss high-tech companies are growing annually, reaching a new peak value of CHF 271 million (excl. Medtech investment Mind Maze) in 2016 (2017 Venture Capital Report).
- Strong global networking, world-class players: Switzerland is one of the most interconnected countries worldwide – having a global share of 1.2% of global export volume, and attracting 4.3% of foreign direct investments. Consequently, international top players locate their business in Switzerland, aiming to profit from the country’s high innovative strength and quality of life which is attracting talent from all over the world. Google and Walt Disney Company are only two examples of many to give proof if this. There are a few areas where Switzerland has potential to improve. Compared to international standards, it takes comparatively a lot of effort and time to incorporate a company in Switzerland. Despite the increasing investments in ICT companies, it is still comparatively difficult to raise growth capital in Switzerland. Companies are often forced to raise large capital rounds abroad. Swiss ICT companies face another problem in order to stay internationally competitive. They are burdened by the hurdles of the migration policies to hire the necessary qualified ICT specialists that cannot be found in Switzerland. Quotas for third-country visas for IT professionals from, for example, the US, Israel or India are regularly exhausted early in the year in the largest cities. It is equally challenging for Startups to meet salary requirements given in large cities for skilled IT specialists from Schengen countries.