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Smart Swiss production creates opportunity for Irish suppliers

Jens Altmann, a market adviser based in Enterprise Ireland’s Dusseldorf office, explains why Irish exporters are looking to Switzerland.

Fittingly for an alpine country, Switzerland offers a mountain of opportunity for Irish businesses. Although small, at just over half the size of Ireland, Switzerland is highly business-focused, boasting the second-highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the world.

The Swiss manufacturing sector includes many familiar names due to an Irish presence. These include ABB Technologies, a global leader in power, robotics and automation technology, and Liebherr, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of construction machinery, helping to shape technological advances across many industries.

The development and implementation of digital applications is supported by the country’s infrastructure, data governance, education and workforce, subsidies, and other factors. Continuous development at Switzerland’s high level requires a comprehensive and reliable supply chain. That creates a variety of opportunities, particularly for companies developing smart manufacturing and industrial internet of things (IIoT) solutions.

Ralf Guenthner, Senior Partner at Swiss consultancy TEAM-FACTORY, comments, “Most technology companies in Switzerland are aware of the value IIoT and digitalisation could create for them. Developing a new mindset and holistic approach, combining technology, organisational changes and human behaviours, as well as building up a strong ecosystem, would boost value realisation.”

Ireland’s IoT industry is one of the most dynamic in the world, with companies largely focused on the industrial space, and providing software, platforms, sensors, integrated circuits, antennas, and more. Irish companies target a range of sectors including manufacturing, transport, logistics and engineering, with the aim of increasing operational efficiency, improving productivity, and enhancing health and safety.


Focus on Innovation

Last year, Enterprise Ireland hosted a trade mission to Zurich to help Irish companies explore IIoT opportunities in Switzerland. Over two days, 10 Irish companies engaged with industry associations, visited Swiss world-class manufacturers, and attended a targeted workshop and networking session.

Swiss multinational Schindler was one company Irish attendees visited during the trade mission. Schindler is well known for its elevators, escalators, and moving walk-ways, carrying both people and materials, and connecting vertical and horizontal transport systems through intelligent mobility solutions. Schindler’s futuristic PORT Technology lab in Switzerland showcases their ideas for innovative new transit management systems and urban living concepts.

Based in Zurich, ETH University is famous for cutting-edge research in areas such as microelectronics and robotics, and is one of the world’s top ten institutions. Enterprise Ireland collaborated with the university to host an afternoon workshop that brought together Irish companies and Swiss industry experts.

Compelling questions addressed during the session include – How do machines optimally collect and share data with other machines? How can they operate with increasing autonomy? Which applications are most impacting the development of IIoT and Machine to Machine (M2M)? How can opportunities for suppliers of everything from antennae and chips, to sensors and software, be captured?


Irish Swiss relations

Enterprise Ireland’s Dusseldorf office is focused on helping IoT companies to identify and exploit opportunities arising from the digitalisation of Swiss industry, and across the wider German-language region. We are extending our engagement with Swiss companies and industry leaders to actively promote Ireland as a technology provider for the IIoT value chain.

Switzerland’s high-tech leadership and the collaboration with suppliers from an international value chain, combine to make it a high-potential market for growing new business and technology partnerships.

Brigid O’Donovan, technology business consultant facilitating collaboration between world-class Swiss and Irish technology organisations, confirmed the potential of Swiss-Irish collaboration, noting, “Both countries are well positioned to take advantage of the productivity and economic growth opportunities of digitalisation.”

There is now a significant opportunity for Irish companies to become part of Switzerland’s enhanced value chain. That is a summit worth achieving.


This article was originally published in the Sunday Independent.

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