The small canton of Schwyz within the Greater Zurich Area is where Switzerland got its name from. And Schwyz is no stranger to investors and business leaders, especially known for its favourable tax regime but also its excellent location near Zurich and Lucerne. What else makes this canton stand out from its peers, and how does it envision itself as investment location? Urs Durrer, Head of the Office for Economy, Canton Schwyz, tells us in this interview.
The interview is part of our series of paid (and thus open access) features aimed at introducing you to high-potential business locations in Switzerland and around the world – and to the person in charge of foreign investment attraction and economic development promotion. If you’d like us to introduce your city or region, please contact us.
Urs, Schwyz is one of the founding cantons of Switzerland and also its namesake. To your mind, what does the canton (region) stand for today?
In 1291, Switzerland was founded by Uri, Unterwalden and Schwyz and, as the legend goes, Schwyz gave Switzerland its name. The Canton of Schwyz offers excellent economic conditions in the dynamic business area of Zurich, combined with a high quality of life. We have mountains and lakes here and yet we can reach the city of Zurich or its airport in 30 / 45 minutes.
In your view as Head of the Office for Economy of Canton Schwyz, what makes the region attractive as a business location?
Sonja Wollkopf, CEO of the Greater Zurich Area, in her recent TPBO interview summed it up well: the Greater Zurich Area is a world leader in innovation and offers great access to talent. Excellent universities, including the ETH Zurich, as well as research institutes of various renowned technology companies, are located in the immediate vicinity.
Of course, you will not only find a wide range of highly qualified employees but also tax rates for companies and individuals that are among the lowest in Switzerland. And – as you’d probably expect from a Swiss Canton – the infrastructure is excellent and the political framework is stable.
Which companies have you been able to convince of your location advantages so far?
In recent years, Canton Schwyz has become an attractive location for companies in the financial and health technology sectors. In addition, various international companies have moved their headquarters to our canton.
Which are the main challenges in promoting a region such as Schwyz to potential foreign investors or skilled workers?
Schwyz is a small canton and little known abroad. We, therefore, have to constantly analyze current trends and always find new ways to draw attention to ourselves and our advantages. And so this year we have launched a festival for artificial intelligence – a festival that now takes place annually in Pfäffikon SZ, under the patronage of the Swiss Minister of Economic Affairs, Guy Parmelin.
Yes, a festival. You see, there are already many conferences, maybe too many. We wanted something bigger. Our “AiCon” festival (www.ai-con.ch) is a conference, award ceremony, networking, experience and party all in one. “AiCon” aims to make outstanding achievements in the field of artificial intelligence visible and tangible, bringing together science, business, politics and society once a year.
An important part of this initiative is the award, which honours the most promising and innovative AI start-ups. Under the umbrella of “AiCon” and thanks to the initiative of Pascal Kaufmann, CEO of Mindfire, this year’s largest start-up/tech awards have come together and presented the first nationwide AI Award.
In short: “AiCon” and the “Swiss AI Award” will show in the coming years where the journey in the field of AI technologies is heading.
Why is the comparatively small canton of Schwyz focusing on the topic of artificial intelligence?
The potential for artificial intelligence is enormous. We in the canton are convinced of this. This future technology will change our future and influence both society and the economy. Even our many SMEs will be able to benefit from AI.
On the one hand, as a canton, we would like to actively use the opportunities offered by AI. On the other hand, we want to make a positive contribution to the development of artificial intelligence. After all, the technology also entails risks. It is therefore important to us that AI is developed for people and for society. We would like Switzerland to become an AI hub that focuses on the benefits for people, and we are doing our utmost to ensure that Canton Schwyz becomes the heart of this hub.
How close are you to achieving this vision?
We are already an attractive location for AI companies, but of course, we want to become even more attractive. As mentioned earlier, the ultimate goal is access to talent. We can already offer these talents to future companies today. We are close to universities and research institutions, such as ETH Zurich and IDSIA in Lugano, which are among the world’s best in AI. And renowned technology groups, such as IBM, Google and Microsoft, also conduct their AI research in Switzerland.
Our financial and health technology companies located here offer interesting cooperation opportunities and the attractive tax rates and high quality of life is the icing on the cake.
Our interview with Urs Durrer of Canton Schwyz is part of our series of (paid) features introducing cities and regions as potential places for talent and investors to consider as a location to live and invest in. If you’d like us to introduce your business location to our global audience, please get in touch here.
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