Text: Benoît Dubuis
Photo: DR

The history of Switzerland is a story of successful integration.

We need to carry on that tradition.


Benoît Dubuis is Director of the Campus Biotech site and Chairman of BioAlps

Integration and diffusion of wisdom

In the 16th century, leading researchers in medicine such as Paracelsus, André Vésale and Erasmus of Rotterdam came to Basel to print their theses and treaties. The city played a role in the humanist movement during the Renaissance and in its scientific progress. And continuing into modern times, a key to Switzerland’s success has been its ability to innovate. To bring about this innovation, our higher education establishments work to attract the best talent, both Swiss and foreign, in a globalised environment. This diversity is a precious asset that can be measured by our country’s competitiveness in the international academic arena.

Integration and valorization of know-how

Our industrial development has been built on generations of entrepreneurs who have come from beyond our borders. Some of the most important contributions include those of the Huguenots, who brought us chemistry and watchmaking. Fleeing their home country after the Edict of Nantes was revoked, silk weavers and merchants made Basel a hub for silk ribbon. The need for dyes attracted the chemical industry, which diversified into fine chemicals and then pharmaceuticals. The history of watchmaking followed a similar path, with skilful artisans bringing their watchmaking know-how to Switzerland as well as the capital needed to develop this new industry.

Integration of entrepreneurs and values

Behind any great innovation are people. Here again, the examples are legion.

Nestlé was founded by German-born chemist Henri Nestlé. Xavier Givaudan was French. Charles Eugene Lancelot Brown, who was half English and half Swiss, teamed up with Bamberg, Germany native Walter Boveri to found the company Brown, Boveri & Cie. More recently, a number of industrial groups, such as the Bertarelli and Mauvernay families, have come to our country to set up and develop their company.

Integration of knowledge

In the Preliminary Discourse of his famous Encyclopaedia, Diderot wrote that there are two means of developing the Sciences: “by our own discoveries and by the investigations of other men.” It was a fact in the 18th century.

It is now a necessity in the 21st. An interdisciplinary approach, although less visible to the general public, is what truly drives change. It is our most valuable asset in upholding our leading position in a number of industrial sectors.

Integration of new trajectories of innovation

Innovation could never survive on internal resources alone. And the line between an organisation and its ecosystem is fading. Open innovation is currently the road to take. This means seeking knowledge and resources outside the organisation.

In short, we would not survive without our ecosystem. Collaborating and sharing bring constant value. Switzerland understood this before everyone else by favouring integration and openness. We need to hold on to those values and continue developing them.



For more information

The platform for life sciences in Western Switzerland

To read

Number One: Tome 3 - Next, Les Clefs du savoir, 2014