What is behind the fact that Switzerland has been at the top of the innovation rankings with the regularity and precision of a metronome over the past 10 years? Is the innovation ecosystem in Vaud or French-speaking Switzerland as efficient as it seems? To answer these questions, the most effective way is to compare yourself to others.

Throughout the chapters of this study, a specific effort was made to compare it with other innovation ecosystems. At the level of the canton of Vaud, French-speaking Switzerland or Switzerland as a whole when the available data did not allow otherwise.

And since the world is a vast place, eight regional ecosystems, or their countries when data were missing, were selected for analysis.

1. Zurich, both close and different. Subject to the same framework conditions, but with a really different economic fabric and different networks.

2. London, a global innovation centre and financial capital.

3. Paris, close linguistically, whose start-up and technological scene is growing rapidly.

4. Berlin, home to an intense activity of digital innovation and business model in the heart of Europe.

5. Stockholm, one of the fastest growing ecosystems in Europe in recent years, started at the same level as Switzerland in 2010.

6. Tel Aviv, the hub of IT science and security, with an internal market and population in Israel very close to Switzerland.

7. Singapore, the Switzerland of Asia, in direct contact with the dynamism of this region of the world.

8. Boston, very active in life sciences, is a reference place and closer to European ecosystems in size and culture than Silicon Valley.

In the country of the first in class

While the European Union's Innovation Scoreboard makes Switzerland the most innovative country in the Old World, the Global Innovation Index (GII) awards it the same first-class title, but this time for the whole world. Published by Cornell University, INSEAD and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) since 2007, this index has even given Switzerland this ranking continuously since 2010.

Switzerland has been at the top of the innovation rankings for many years


In detail, these studies point to Switzerland's particular strengths in explaining its ability to innovate. "Attractiveness of the research system, quality of human resources and business investment" in the case of the European Innovation Scoreboard. The Global Innovation Index not only scores very well on investments in research and development, but also on the transformation of these investments into new knowledge, patents, technologies and, more generally, into new services and creative products.

«These studies point to Switzerland's particular strengths in explaining its ability to innovate»

Strengths and areas for improvement

However, Switzerland's performance needs to be tempered somewhat. Innovation rankings are converging with university rankings, such as those of Shanghai or Times Higher Education, which regularly place Swiss universities at the top of their hierarchy. From this point of view, the quality of academic research is undeniable. But Switzerland's ranking is strongly influenced by a unique feature of our country: the weight of its academic system, which is among the densest in the world in relation to the size of the economy.

Switzerland's ranking is already more nuanced when you look at it theme by theme


Swiss performance is also a little more nuanced on the themes of finance, culture and, above all, on the theme of framework conditions. These topics are detailed in the chapters of the "Vaud Innove" study devoted to them.

A recessed size

If you change the magnification factor to compare the rankings at the regional level, the picture is quite different. On the one hand, the rankings are mainly focused on entrepreneurship and the start-up component of ecosystems and, on the other hand, the Swiss regions are well behind the top group.

Swiss start-up ecosystems still lag far behind European and world leaders


These results are highly correlated to a fundamental variable of an ecosystem for entrepreneurial activity: its size. It is this that determines the number of possible meetings. It is what makes the breadth of the range of opportunities and therefore the attractiveness for talent and capital. This race for size is a structural obstacle for a region like French-speaking Switzerland, despite the good progress observed in recent years. With a clear consequence: it is necessary to seek to reach a critical size in specific areas to exist on the map of the innovation world.

«This race for size is a structural obstacle for a region like French-speaking Switzerland»

A positioning on innovations with a high scientific content

However, as soon as the focus is on the areas most present in the region, the canton moves closer or joins the leading group. The Start-up Genome study ranks the Lake Geneva region 22nd in its 2018 ranking thanks to its concentration of players in the life sciences. This ranking even places the Lake Geneva region in 7th place worldwide for ecosystems in life sciences, five ranks behind Boston, but ahead of Seattle, Munich or Paris.

Similarly, the Boston Consulting Group's and Hello Tomorrow's annual ranking of the top 500 scientific start-ups by city places Lausanne in 9th place worldwide with around 10 start-ups ranked, just behind Berlin and ahead of Tel Aviv and Singapore.