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19 May, 2022 - 19:47 By Tony Quested

Cambridge high on the agenda for Swiss delegation in UK trade push

A high level Swiss delegation has earmarked Cambridge and Oxford – in particular the life science and hi-tech communities – as key staging posts in an upcoming UK trade tour.

The roadshow in June is in many regards a backdrop to broader discussions between the Swiss and UK governments as they endeavour to build on a current alliance and broker a more comprehensive trade deal.

The ‘We are Switzerland’ UK Tour 2022 focuses on a Cell & Gene Therapy event in the Cambridge leg on June 6.

A conference is being held at the Babraham Institute followed by a VIP dinner at Trinity College, University of Cambridge. The Swiss Ambassador, H.E. Markus Leitner, as well as Science Minister George Freeman will be opening the conference. 

The Cell and Gene Catapult, the Stevenage Cluster and One Nucleus are supporting the event as well as top academics from the University of Cambridge, University of Basel, ETH Zurich and the University Hospital of Lausanne.

The SBH UK and Ireland, as well as the Embassy of Switzerland in the UK, have chosen to look beyond London to promote Switzerland and forge closer relationships across the four Nations in the UK – England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

The tour will be split into two routes: 1) the Northern Route with stops in Cambridge, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Belfast, Manchester and 2) the Western Route, visiting Bristol, Cardiff and Oxford.

The programme of activities at each stop will highlight the many links between Switzerland and the UK that can be found in five priority areas of innovation, economic development, the Swiss-UK bilateral relationship, finance and sustainability.

The UK and Switzerland share many interests, ranging from technology adoption and strong research to a focus on a sustainable future. Switzerland is already the fourth most important trading partner of the UK after the EU, US and China. 

Natalie Thomas, head of Swiss Business Hub UK and Ireland, Embassy of Switzerland, tells Business Weekly that Switzerland and the UK have a longstanding relationship with common political and economic values, which form the basis of successful cooperation in many fields. 

“We are very like-minded on trade topics and share the same principles of open, barrier-free and rules-based international trade.”
Thomas added: “Switzerland and the UK concluded a so-called ‘roll-over-agreement’ on trade after Brexit and there is still great potential for a more comprehensive and modern free trade agreement (e.g. in the areas of services, digital trade, intellectual property rights, trade & sustainability etc.). 

“Switzerland is looking forward to exploring these topics as soon as the UK has concluded their recently launched consultation towards an up-dated free trade agreement with Switzerland.”

To strengthen this collaboration between the two nations, in March the Confederation of British Industry and Economiesuisse announced the launch of a Bilateral Trade and Investment Council which will help politicians and businesses to make better use of the strong momentum in bilateral relations on both sides. 

Switzerland has been ranked the most innovative country in the world by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) for the 10th consecutive year and further achieved top scores in international location rankings, including quality of life, favourable tax environment as well as political stability. 

Its strengths include the high innovation capability, an excellent education system with renowned universities and research institutes as well as an efficient and stable infrastructure. 

A stable currency, federal state system, strong purchasing power and economic, social and political stability offer a high level of security for investments in Switzerland. 

Switzerland has 41 separate FTAs signed (more than the EU has as a whole). Therefore investing in an independent country like Switzerland significantly reduces the risks associated with international expansion. 

Switzerland has strong clusters in life sciences, ICT and advanced engineering and is especially strong in vertical integration technologies such as Biotech, Medtech, Fintech, Cyber Security, Robotics, Industrial Design and others. By choosing Switzerland, a company profits from a platform that allows it to test in real-world environments and transfer these learnings quickly to the European market.

With the current strong private sector and public sector momentum in forging close ties between the UK and Switzerland, there are strong collaboration opportunities between our two leading innovation territories in the fields of: life sciences, artificial intelligence, space technologies, drone technologies and sustainable finance. The We are Switzerland Tour is focusing on these areas of innovative excellence.

Switzerland and the UK are home to globally unique life science clusters. In addition to chemical and pharmaceutical firms like Novartis, Roche, and Syngenta, the Swiss ecosystem encompasses a dense network of medtech, biotech, and nanotech companies. 

Chemical-pharmaceutical products are the most important exported good in Switzerland (this segment represents a 33 per cent share of Swiss export goods).

Switzerland says it is well prepared for the new era in which data and healthcare will interact, where health will become personalised and digitised. The UK is very much at the forefront of digital healthcare innovation, building the basis for the healthcare of the future: personalised, digital by default and truly patient centric.

Switzerland also remains the global patent leader. Swiss companies filed almost seven times as many patent applications per million inhabitants last year as companies in the United States.

Artificial Intelligence 
Switzerland is home to world-renowned universities (e.g. ETH Zurich and EPFL) and research institutes (IDSIA in Lugano and IDIAP in Martigny) in the area of AI. 

This proximity to cutting-edge research is an important reason why global tech companies such as Google, IBM, and HPE conduct their research from here, bringing their innovative products to the market quickly due to the highly efficient transfer of technology. 

AI is a main component of the Swiss digitalisation process and an interesting side note is the fact that Switzerland already boasts the highest number of AI companies per citizen. 

The biggest region by AI companies is Northern Switzerland – more than 37 per cent of organisations are located there and almost half of AI companies are involved in three spheres: Marketing and Analytics, Healthcare and Life Sciences, Science and Engineering.

There is strong UK-Swiss collaboration opportunities in this field. The huge global opportunity AI presents is why the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy white paper identified AI and data as 1 of 4 Grand Challenges – in which the UK can lead the world for years to come.

Switzerland may not have its own space programme but it has contributed significantly to international space missions, from scientific apparatus to powering Mars rovers or sending astronauts to the International Space Station. 

Switzerland is also a pioneering place for sustainable space solutions. A Swiss startup, Clearspace, won a tender by the European Space Agency (ESA) to run the first space mission removing space debris out of the orbit. Clearspace will be showcasing their technology at the Swiss Business Hub’s event in Edinburgh on June 8.  The space industry in the UK has also trebled in size since 2000 and is currently growing at 3.3 per cent each year.

Drone Technologies
The UK drone sector is evolving beyond its military origins to take a leading role in the global market. Switzerland is the world’s leading location for the development of core technology for drones and commercial applications (spearheaded by Switzerland’s traditional strength in the field of mechanical engineering and precision manufacturing). 

In a global context, Switzerland ranks first in market size per capita and Swiss drones will have a global share of about two per cent, growing from CHF 435 million in 2021 to CHF 720 million in 2026.

Oxford leg of the tour: June 30 – Global Health and Digital Technologies
Conference held at St. Hugh’s College, University of Oxford followed by a VIP dinner at the Bodlein Library Divinity School. The Swiss Ambassador, H.E. Markus Leitner, as well as Stephen Timms MP will be opening the conference. Leading Swiss and UK life sciences stakeholders will be participating with a strong line up of speakers.

For more details about the Swiss delegation’s visit see:

• PHOTOGRAPH: Interaction between human and machine at The lLaboratory of algorithms and learning systems, EPFL Innovation Park Lausanne. Photograph by Alain Herzog

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