Companies are intimately linked to the innovation process and, more often than not, they are the ones who drive it. But they also create or destroy jobs based on their ability to adapt to these same innovations. In the same way, the canton of Vaud is both the actor and the theatre of this global game.

Technological or not, it is most often up to companies to deploy inventions to benefit the greatest number of people. The gains brought by an innovation, whether economic or not, whether intended for the end user or intermediaries, constitute a powerful commercial driver and a fundamental lever for the creation of value for companies.

Incidentally, it should be noted that not all innovations are driven by these purely commercial motivations. Just look at Tim Berners-Lee's World Wide Web, the Linux Foundation or the Wikimedia Foundation to see for yourself. But although web protocols were born in the nearby CERN laboratories, the economy of the canton of Vaud remains overwhelmingly supported by more traditional models.

The canton of Vaud, land of deeptech

With an ETH on its soil, advanced industrial sectors and a fast-growing medtech and pharmaceutical cluster, the canton is increasingly turning towards innovation that is strongly based on science. The density of deeptech companies in the canton of Vaud is thus among the highest in the world, ahead of the United States and behind Israel according to a report by Hello Tomorrow and the Boston Consulting Group (see the article "Innovation, the key to Vaud's prosperity"). Another illustration is the proportion of start-ups in the canton with links to a university, which is around 50%.

"EPFL, a great source for innovation"

For the Zurich-based Investiere platform, EPFL is one of the most important sources for finding good start-ups. More than a quarter of the funds brought in by Investiere have been invested in EPFL start-ups.

One out of every two start-ups in the canton has a link with science 


«The canton is increasingly turning towards innovation that is strongly based on science»

The tech sector makes an important contribution to the canton's economy

To analyse this phenomenon, the "Vaud Innove" project team has grouped together a number of sectors. This is a partly arbitrary choice, but very similar to the one made by Eurostat for its composite "high-tech products and services".

Companies in the Vaud technology sector have an overproportional effect on employment and value production


With just 5% of the total, the number of companies in the technology sector is rather limited. But on closer inspection, the size of these companies is above average: Vaud technology represents almost 10% of the canton's jobs. One would think that it would be modest. If we compare this with California, the cradle of Silicon Valley, we can see that the share of employment in sectors with a high technological component is below 15%. It is difficult to compare in this case, but it is clear that with 10% of jobs, the Vaud technical sector is already important, because these companies produce value and generate exports. Today, they contribute more than 15% of the canton's GDP. This share is all the more significant since 20 years earlier these same sectors represented barely 10% of the Vaud economy and their growth has been faster by an average of 2 to 3% per year than that of Vaud GDP, itself already high over this period.

Sectors with a technological component are becoming increasingly important in the canton's economy


But beware: this trend hides very different variations between economic sub-sectors. (More on this subject in the article "Vaud Tech".)

Not only large groups

Despite their larger average size, companies in the technology sector are not just large groups. The share of the latter is of course important, as is the case in other economies, because the deployment of technology requires a certain scale. This is the case for Kudelski, SICPA, Medtronic or Merck Serono, each in their own field.

More than 40% of jobs in Vaud technology are in large companies


In addition to these players, however, the canton also has a wide range of companies ranging from large technology SMEs, such as APCO Technologies SA in the space sector (see the interview with its CEO Aude Pugin), to start-ups.

With less than 1% of companies and jobs, the start-up model remains largely in the minority in the canton. But if we look at these employees in terms of the technological sector alone, they represent nearly 10% of companies and jobs. And it is within these companies that the future SMEs or large groups of tomorrow are potentially located.

«Despite their larger average size, companies in thechnology sector are not just large groups»

A factor of economic stability

Sectors with a technological component, or at least some of them, have a real value for the canton's economy: whether it is through their ability to be export-oriented, their tendency to be active in high value-added sectors, their resistance to the strength of the franc, or their potential to contribute to the renewal of the economic fabric.

In any case, these characteristics seem to influence the propensity of these sectors to generate job growth. And not only in the canton of Vaud.

Sectors with a technological component tend to be more resilient to crises


Even on 300 data points (6 regions, 10 years and 5 sector groupings of equivalent size), this analysis does not have the force of proof. But it reinforces the idea that innovation is truly strategic for the region and for Switzerland. Because if innovation is not carried out here, it will necessarily be done elsewhere.

«Sectors with a technological component, or at least some of them, have a real value for the canton's economy»

[1] The following "NOGA" codes have been grouped together for the composite of technology-intensive sectors used by the "Vaud innove" study:


19 Coking and refining

20 Chemical industry

21 Pharmaceutical industry

26 Computer, electronic and optical product manufacturing

27 Manufacture of electrical equipment

28 Manufacture of machinery and equipment

29 Automotive industry

30 Manufacture of other transport equipment

62 Computer programming, consultancy and other IT activities

63 Information services

72 Scientific research and development