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13 May 2014

Exporting innovation 

Switzerland’s trade surplus has taken a novel turn: the country is exporting its entrepreneurial spirit.

Despite having a population of just 8 million people, Switzerland has an outsize reputation for encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship. By many measures, it’s one of the world’s best places to do business.

Building on that asset base, the Department of Foreign Affairs has partnered with the State Secretariat for Education to form Swissnex, an initiative to bolster education and economic opportunities around the world and to establish Swiss leadership in technology, science and industry. 

Swissnex is operated out of Swiss embassies in centers of innovation such as Bangalore, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco and Shanghai. Several more global cities host science counselors who can mentor local entrepreneurs. The main goal is to bring together business people, scientists, researchers and policymakers to inspire each other to do great things.

In August 2013, Swissnex expanded to New York City to tap into its vibrant start-up scene and lend its expertise to entrepreneurs there. Swissnex created a startup accelerator, the CTI Market Entry Camp, to provide companies with office space and training on how to deal with complex immigration and cultural issues that challenge Americans trying to do business in Europe and elsewhere around the world.

Another focus is partnering with top U.S. universities such as Harvard and MIT. In its first decade, Swissnex has helped more than 250 U.S. startups.

While this is great news for people hoping to work with Swiss industries, it’s also a cause study for other countries looking to strengthen their competitive position in an increasingly globalized economy.