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The book ´Swiss Made—The Untold Story behind Switzerland’s Success´ appears at a time of change and uncertainty. The world today is beset with political unrest and dissatisfaction, far-reaching economic and currency crises, and out-of-control state finances with hastily constructed bailouts whose outcomes are impossible to predict. Nature, the economy and the political world are all ailing and infecting each other. Economic growth is declining or stagnating in many parts of the world, and many currencies are losing their traditional value and strength.
Against this relief, Switzerland remains healthy, even in these turbulent times. The Swiss journey in which the country’s position on the international stage was achieved not with the weight of power and size but through pioneering spirit, a passion to perform and quality. Switzerland has known neither aristocracy or nor autocracy. What counts are ability and performance, not background and position. What matters to Swiss is what works, rather then what is right. The most important contribution Swiss success, lies in the country’s ability to innovate.
Capitalism and innovation are virtually synonymous. Without innovation, there is no growth, job or wealth creation. Talent and capital migrate to where opportunities are greatest creating a virtual or vicious circle, depending on where one is in the cycle. Think of Detroit a century ago, vs. now. Capitalism and innovation are virtually synonymous. Without innovation, there is no growth, job or wealth creation. Talent and capital migrate to where opportunities are greatest creating a virtual or vicious circle, depending on where one is in the cycle. Think of Detroit a century ago, vs. now.
Too much credit is given to restructurings and too little to innovation. 10,000 people laid off has a tendency to grab one’s attention and has the perverse effect of normally increasing a company’s share price.
Most innovations are not appreciated until after they become successful and incubation periods can be long and unpredictable. Nespresso took more than a decade to make a dent in the market and Nestle’s Chairman refused to put a machine in the board room because he was skeptical of its success. Now it is the most profitable among Nestle’s 4000 products. The average time between discovery and market launch for a drug is more than 15 years, which may eclipse 2-3 generations of CEO’s.
What interested me in writing ‘Swiss Made’ were the country’s ‘unsung heroes’. Switzerland is a place where achievement is revered, but not paraded, probably owing to protestant traditions and mountain life. Many of Switzerland’s most impressive industrial successes are ‘B to B’ businesses – so their activities and achievements are concealed to the public. Most people don’t know that Franke produces all of the McDonalds kitchen equipment or that Firmenich and Givaudan dominate the world’s fragrances and flavors business.
Who were these ‘unsung heroes’? What sort of circumstances were they up against ? Examples abound: Jean Robert designed the first 285 models of Swatch and convinced the stubborn watch industry that watches is about appealing to aspirations, and has little to telling time. Paul Friedli designed the algorithm at Schindler that offered passengers the optimal choice of elevators to reach their optimal destination. Alberto Morillas, a little known parfumist at Firmenich, created Channel nu. 5 and a number of other signature scents for Bulgari, Calvin Klein, Gucci and Versace. His name does not appear in the package, but it is his signature scent that many women douse themselves with each day.
All of these stories differ in content and context, and were independent in execution. But they converge to create something that is vastly more valuable than the sum of its parts. Switzerland has become a ‘brand’ in its own right – possessing similar characteristics to those of its most respected names like Nescafe, Rolex or the Red Cross. A brand is a promise. Customers can not test every product they buy, so they need to rely on expectations that a ‘brand’ conveys. Meeting expectations is what ‘trust’ is all about.
And this may be the country’s most precious and enduring advantage.
Best wishes and happy holidays,
R. James Breiding is the author of the book 'Swiss Made - The Untold Story behind Switzerland's success', published by Profile Books.
The book tells the story of Switzerland’s economic success and gives insight into how the country became a strong brand. Acclaimed as a ‘valuable read’ by Martin Feldstein, Larry Summers, and Paul Volker.
About the Author
R. James Breiding holds Master Degrees from IMD Lausanne and the Harvard Kennedy School. He has been elected as a fellow at Harvard’s Center for International Development in connection with his research on Switzerland. For several years he wrote for The Economist on the Swiss matters and holds American and Swiss citizenship.
Switzerland Speaks Out against the Death Penalty
Promoting respect for human rights is a constitutional objective of Swiss foreign policy. Abolishing the death penalty is a priority of Switzerland’s human rights policy. The right to live is a universal value. That is why Switzerland strongly supports abolishing the death penalty and is calling for all nations to respect human rights. Swiss officials address human rights issues at the governmental level and in multilateral fora. So does Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, Switzerland’s foreign minister. When he recently addressed the UN General Assembly, he made a strong statement for adopting a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty. On Switzerland's initiative, on October 10, 2012, a joint call for abolishing the death penalty was published by Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter and his counterparts, the foreign ministers of Switzerland's five neighboring countries, in a number of Swiss and European newspapers.
Find out more about Switzerland’s human rights policy commitment
Reducing Poverty Remains a Top Priority in Swiss Development Aid
Global problems such as poverty, migration, food security, and armed conflicts are of great concern to the Swiss people and their government. That is why Switzerland is committed to constantly investing in the aid and development programs of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs.
The principal objective of Switzerland’s international cooperation remains poverty reduction. Global risks such as lack of food security, water shortages, and inadequate state structures in fragile states are among the factors that increase poverty. In February 2011, the Swiss Parliament decided to raise official development assistance to 0.5% of the gross national product (GNP). For the years to come (2013--2016), the framework credit dedicated to official development assistance will amount to $11 billion.
It would be wrong to think that a small country like Switzerland could solve such global problems alone. In its effort to help, Switzerland works with local governments and actors in the field. In collaboration with thirteen multilateral organizations including the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank, Switzerland’s contribution can have a significant influence. To ensure the greatest possible effectiveness of its work, the SDC concentrates on selected subject areas that are particularly crucial to development processes and in which Switzerland has particular expertise thanks to experience gained to date. Besides focusing more strongly on global challenges, SDC programs include relief operations and reconstruction, prevention and protection against disasters, improving access to resources and services for poor population groups, promoting sustainable trade as well as providing a stimulus for climate-friendly growth, and support for transition and reform processes in the countries of Eastern Europe.
Watch videos featuring selected projects
Introducing the Swiss Concept of Professional Education and Training to the U.S.
Did you know that nearly half a million people in the U.S. work for a Swiss company? Or that Switzerland was the number one foreign investor in the U.S. in 2010, and number two in 2011, topping investment from the U.K., Japan, France, and Germany?
Bühler Inc. is one of the approximately 500 companies providing jobs in the U.S. The Swiss grain milling and food processing company has been operating in the U.S. since the 1950s. The company has a long lasting collaboration with a number of universities and research institutes such as the University of Minnesota, Kansas State University, and the Northern Crops Institute. Bühler’s needs in research and science are mostly covered by those partnerships. But the company has difficulty finding well-trained professionals. To fill that gap, Bühler Inc. turned to the Swiss concept of professional education and training.
Flashback to the WorldSkills professional world championship in London in October 2011.
The world’s foremost machine design trainees, among the approximately 1,000 junior professionals from 45 vocations and 53 countries, put their skills to the test. Bühler machine design apprentice Pascal Brunner was a member of the Swiss team and ranked third in machine design. The Swiss team as a whole brought home six gold, five silver, and six bronze medals. According to total medal points, Switzerland ranked third behind Korea and Japan this year. Nothing out of the ordinary for the Swiss teams because they usually score well. One of the reasons why is the solid foundation provided by a special type of vocational education and training called apprenticeship.
The Swiss Confederation, the cantonal professional organizations, and private-sector companies all contribute to the success of apprenticeships. During an apprenticeship, after graduating from high school, young people receive two to four years of training in a specific profession. To become a certified landscaping gardener, auto mechanic or nurse, for instance, students become apprentices for four years. During that time, they work at a company in their respective fields, learning “on the job.” The other two days, they attend school, where the curriculum covers general education from languages, geography, history, accounting and so forth to specific courses in their fields of expertise.
Bühler offers some 400 apprenticeships for training young people in commercial or technical vocations, 290 of which in Switzerland. The company has already set up apprenticeship training programs based on the Swiss model in affiliated companies in Germany, India, China, South America, and Africa. Now Bühler Inc. offers apprenticeships to young U.S. professionals in Plymouth, MI. In collaboration with the Dunwood College of Technology, Bühler Apprenticeship Academy began the new training programs in August with six apprentices. Bühler Inc. aims to have the apprenticeship officially recognized, the company writes.
Read stories of people and apprentices working for Bühler Inc. in the U.S.
Overview of Swiss winners in the last three years
Information about vocational education and training in Switzerland from the Federal Office for Professional Education and Technology
Eat Chocolate and Become a Genius
By now, it is a well known fact that dietary flavonoids found in chocolate can be beneficial to our health, for instance, lowering blood pressure and improving cognitive function. But who knew that they could also help you to win a Nobel Prize? Swiss-born Professor Franz Messerli, M.D, Cardiologist and hypertension expert at Roosevelt Hospital and Columbia University in New York City published a study linking scientific success to chocolate consumption.
With an annual chocolate consumption of 26.2 lbs per person, Switzerland ranks number 1 in worldwide chocolate consumption. Switzerland also has the highest number of Nobel laureates per capita. Dr. Messerli was able to show a close, significant linear correlation between a nation’s chocolate consumption and the number of Nobel Prizes per 10 million citizens.
Switzerland Calling spoke to Prof. Franz Messerli about this stunning fact.
Professor Messerli, you reportedly like your daily dose of Swiss chocolate. How do you benefit from it?
Usually I eat two squares at noon and two in the evening. That amounts to almost the average annual chocolate consumption of 22 lbs per person in Switzerland. I have no idea whether or not I benefit from it. I don’t particularly gain weight because I am physically very active. I run and ski and hike. But how much the chocolate contributes to my mental capabilities, I haven’t the slightest idea. So far my marbles seem to spin reasonably well.
You said you eat mostly dark chocolate?
Yes, it is actually an advantage for me to eat mostly Lindt chocolate because they clearly state how much cocoa is in it. I usually take the ones with 85% to 97% of cocoa.
Would you say there is a direct causal relationship between eating chocolate and scientific brilliance or do you think a high number of a country’s Nobel laureates is related to a dynamic and productive environment for scientists?
That is actually the big question. It was fun research, and I am surprised at how much publicity it got. But whenever there is a correlation, we can say very simply that a causes b or b causes a or both are influenced by a common factor. We should remember that correlation is not synonymous with causation.
Jokingly I asked an old friend of mine, Swiss Professor Rolf M. Zinkernagel, M.D., who won the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1996, how much chocolate he ate when working on his Nobel Prize research on how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells. It turned out that he is an outlier; he only eats 0.8 lbs per year. Here goes my theory!
Are you planning to further your research on that particular question, for instance, to determine whether the consumption of chocolate is the underlying mechanism for the observed association with improved cognitive function?
I do want to have a better explanation for why that is. BBC came up with a few interesting theories and we are going to look at this very very carefully to see if there is any good reason why we find such a powerful correlation. Obviously this is too good to be only by chance!
Professor Messerli, thank you for the interview.
Read the original article in The New England Journal of Medicine
Read more at BBC
More about Swiss chocolate
Swiss Foreign Direct Investment in Georgia
Eleven thousand people in Georgia work for a Swiss company. In the entire U.S., nearly half a million people have a Swiss employer. That makes Switzerland one of the top investors in the U.S. Switzerland was the number one foreign investor in the U.S. in 2010, and number two in 2011, topping investment from the U.K., Japan, France, and Germany.
Attracting new business that creates jobs is crucial in this economy. Manufacturing jobs are particularly important in boosting the job market. Swiss companies are strong in the manufacturing sector. Georgia’s location on the East Coast makes it especially attractive to Swiss investors: the six-hour time difference eases everyday exchanges with Swiss headquarters and the conveniently located Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport makes traveling to Europe easy. And last but not least, Georgia Tech and other universities are a potential source of highly qualified future employees.
On a recent trip to Switzerland, Governor Nathan Deal, Georgia Department of Economic Development Commissioner Chris Cummiskey and other officials met with current investors in Georgia, including the Swiss firms Landis+Gyr, Novartis and Habasit. But the main goal was to put Georgia on the map for future investment by Swiss companies.
Two recent examples illustrate that Georgia’s attempts to attract new businesses are actually working: in July, Swiss-based InterrollGroup announced that it would open a $10 million plant making conveyor system components in Paulding County and offering 70 new jobs. This past summer, Sputnik Engineering AG headquartered in Biel, Switzerland, also opted for Georgia to set up Sputnik Technology USA Inc., the research and development service provider to the Swiss headquarters.
Based on the past, it seems safe to assume that there will be more Swiss investments in the U.S. in the future.
Stay informed on Georgia business news
Read more about Swiss investment in the U.S.
Swiss firm building plant in Paulding County, Georgia
The Success Story of Swiss Foreign Direct Investment in the United States
Despite its small geographical size and population as compared to the U.S., Switzerland plays an important role in the U.S. economy. Swiss businesses are among the top investors in the U.S. as well as among the major foreign providers of American jobs. In 2010, Switzerland was the number one foreign investor, topping other important countries like the UK, Japan, France and Germany. The recently published 2012 report on Swiss Foreign Direct Investment in the U.S. reveals that Switzerland’s cumulative investment reached $212 billion and that Swiss affiliates support 430’600 jobs across all 50 states. The highest concentration of Swiss investment is found in the financial, manufacturing, and research and development sectors. It should be noted that Swiss companies invested more in research and development than any other country in 2009, for a total of $9.1 billion.
The new report also indicates that Swiss businesses paid the second highest income taxes of all foreign businesses in the US and that the average salary paid to employees of Swiss companies tops the salaries of those employed by other foreign-owned companies in the US.
On November 27, the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York together with the Graduate School of Business at Fordham University and the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce (SACC) organized an event centered on “The Success Story of Swiss FDI in the US”. SACC CEO Martin Naville presented the 2012 report on Swiss FDI in the US, followed by a lively panel discussion with Eric Smith, CEO of Swiss Re Americas, Tazeem Pasha, Manager of Global Business Attraction at the US Department of Commerce and Fordham Business School’s Dean David Gautschi as a moderator. The panelists shared their points of view, including reasons they believe there’s a large amount of Swiss investment in the US, in addition to factors explaining the success of Switzerland’s economy. They also emphasized the current challenges Swiss businesses face in the US, such as increased regulations introduced through the implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act. The discussion broadened as the panelists talked about other countries and, in particular, China’s rise to compete with the US as the biggest FDI recipient worldwide. The panel closed with ideas on how the US could ensure it remains attractive for FDI in the future, and the audience was invited to participate in a Question & Answer session. Close to 100 participants from American and Swiss companies, business promotion institutions, academia, the diplomatic sector, and media were present. It was a well-received event and a wonderful opportunity to showcase Switzerland’s Foreign Investment in the US.
Download FDI brochure (PDF)
Remember the Name: Valentin Carron, an Outstanding Young Swiss Artist
The 55th International Art Exhibition, the Art Biennale in Venice, is known as the most important international platform for contemporary art. For the next exhibition in 2013, the Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia’s Biennale jury selected Swiss artist Valentin Carron to represent Switzerland. The artist born in 1977 in Martigny, Switzerland, will design the Swiss Pavilion.
His numerous solo and group exhibits speak for his talent. International solo exhibits include the Swiss Institute in New York in 2006 and Art Basel Miami Beach in 2012. Other solo exhibitions include shows at the Palais de Tokyo, Paris, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo La Conservera, Ceuti, Spain, Kunsthalle Zürich, Switzerland, and Fri Art, Fribourg, Switzerland.
From October 26 to December 8, 2012, Valentin Carron’s new works titled Inca, Cargo, and Goal, could be seen at the David Kordansky Gallery in L.A. The artist included the gallery’s walls in the exhibition of his sculptures. All his artwork was sold even before the opening. Carron is certainly an outstanding figure among young Swiss artists.
The Swiss arts council Pro Helvetia selects Valentin Carron for the 2013 Biennale in Venice
Valentin Carron’s exhibition at the Swiss Insitute in New York in 2010
The 2013 Biennale in Venice
A Better Initiative Process: Washington State & Switzerland
Citizens of Washington State certainly know how important ballot initiatives and referenda are to governance. But few know the history of the process--and how the introduction of direct democracy 100 years ago was inspired by the example of Switzerland, a country with the oldest continuously operating initiative and referendum system in the world. The processes in Switzerland and Washington State are still so similar that a comparison between the two is powerful--and could serve as an instrument for improving direct democracy in both places.
Consul General of Switzerland in San Francisco Julius Anderegg and the Center for West European Studies at the University of Washington hosted a forum on "A Better Initiative Process: Washington State & Switzerland" on October 29, 2012. In his opening remarks, Julius F. Anderegg pointed out that political and social stability are directly linked to Switzerland’s economic success. “As you know, investors hate surprises and a government out of touch with its people can do exactly that, surprising investors, but sooner or later reality hits,” Anderegg said. The consul general also stated that Switzerland, as a 710-year-old country with a tradition of direct democracy for over 150 years, has a tremendous amount of learning experience. “Switzerland has grown into a mature democracy. It’s not perfect, we can still learn and improve,” Mr. Anderegg noted.
The panel discussion which followed dealt with such questions as “What are the differences in how Washington State and Switzerland practice direct democracy? What are the similarities? And what could Washington take from the Swiss experience to improve the process? And vice versa?" The panelists included Tim Eyman, political activist, Bruno Kaufmann, author, IRI Europe, Joe Mathews, journalist, New America Foundation, and Mark Smith, associate professor, University of Washington, and the moderator was Professor Peter May, Department of Political Science, University of Washington.
Watch the event video