Innovation ist der wichtigste Rohstoff der Schweiz – Kurzinterview mit Dr. Georges Haour

Die Schweiz gehört zu den innovativsten Ländern Europas. Im jährlichen EU-Ranking (Innovation Union Scoreboard 2014) rangiert die Schweiz einmal mehr auf Platz 1. Dieses Resultat ist zwar beeindruckend – aber für viele nicht sonderlich überraschend. Schliesslich ist Innovation der wichtigste Rohstoff der Schweiz. Starke Hochschulen sind für eine hohe Innovationsleistung zentral – genauso wie deren enge Zusammenarbeit mit Unternehmen. Dr. Georges Haour, Professor für Innovationsmanagement am IMD und Co-Autor von ‚From Science to Business‘, skizziert im folgenden die Hintergründe der Schweizer Innovationskraft.

Switzerland does the best job of transferring technology to the private sector. Figures show that, in license deals and number of start-ups, per unit of research money invested, Switzerland is doing exceptionally well. What is the reason to this best kept secret?

Fifteen years ago, the Swiss government decided to put in place technology transfer offices in the main Universities (all are public). In a typical Swiss way, this was done by staffing these offices with suitable people. The human factor is indeed particularly crucial, when it comes to innovation and the extremely complex function of bridging academic research and market success.

This was done in a non-bureaucratic way, with a sensible time horizon. These offices are staffed with only small teams. Quality, not quantity, is of the essence.

Besides the effective technology transfer from public research to the private sector, excellence in research and education, particularly at the graduate level, and sound entrepreneurial orientation constitute less well known characteristics of the Swiss scene that are its high ratio of Nobel prizes and of patents per inhabitant.

This portrays the picture of an innovative country ‘punching well above its weight’. However, what can still be improved?

Although Switzerland is excellent at technology transfer; it has to become much better at business growth.

One area of improvement is for the government to provide stronger incentives for more effective inter-institutional work. In this area, Swiss business schools must become more diligent in effectively boosting the emergence and growth of job-creating, new activities. Switzerland is excellent at technology transfer; it has to become much better at business growth.  A caricature of this situation is the fact it took Nestlé thirty five years to turn Battelle-Geneva’s invention (in the late 1960s) of Nespresso into a commercial success…

About the author
Dr Georges Haour is Professor at IMD. He also acts as an adviser to companies on effectively managing innovation. Born and raised in Lyon, France, he holds a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Toronto, Canada. Prior to IMD, for nine years, he managed a 35 staff business unit at Battelle, in Geneva, carrying out innovation projects funded by firms. He has 8 patents and 110 publications. His most recent books are: Resolving the Innovation Paradox (2004) and From Science to Business (2011), both with Palgrave, London.

A detailed article by Prof. Georges Haour has been published on http://www.innovationmanagement.se/.