Zurich’s clusters are gaining in importance

Zurich’s clusters are gaining in importance

Future-oriented clusters such as life sciences, ICT and finance are developing very successfully in the Canton of Zurich. This is revealed in a new study by the Canton of Zurich’s Office for Economy and Labour. The high density of innovative companies and start-ups, world-class research and educational facilities as well as international accessibility all play a significant role.

Research-intensive development and production in the life sciences cluster benefits from the broad academic base in Zurich formed by the ETH, the University of Zurich, the University Hospital Zurich and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Wide fundamental and applied research is an essential prerequisite for the thriving life sciences industry. The gross added value in the Canton of Zurich in this sector grew annually by around 9% between 2001 and 2014. In 2013, 11% of Switzerland’s gross added value – or CHF 4.7 billion – was generated in life sciences in the canton. 18,500 persons were employed in the life sciences cluster in 2013, corresponding to 14% of Swiss employees in this field.

As a typical cross-sector industry, the ICT cluster generates productivity increases in nearly all other industries of the economy and boosts Zurich as the Swiss innovation and economic motor. The approximately 50,000 ICT employees in the Canton of Zurich in 2013 – equivalent to 30% of Swiss employees in this sector – generated a gross added value of CHF 10.7 billion or 34% of the total Swiss ICT added value in 2013. No other canton has more skilled workers and company set-ups in the ICT field. In the past few years, major international corporations such as Google and Disney Research have also located research and development facilities in Zurich; and IBM has been operating its renowned research and development center here for several decades.


With 92,500 employees or 36% of the total number in Switzerland in 2013, the financial cluster remains one of the most important economic pillars in the Canton of Zurich. The gross added value amounted to CHF 27.3 billion, corresponding to 43% of the Swiss value added in this field. The financial sector of the Zurich region, which includes the cantons of Zug and Schwyz, is clearly the most productive. In 2014, 154 Swiss francs per hour were generated here, while the amount for the whole economy was 86 Swiss francs. Many new company set-ups in the financial cluster are currently taking place in fintech, especially in the area between the Crypto Valley Zug and the planned blockchain hub in the Switzerland Innovation Park Zurich.



The study also demonstrates the importance of the clusters creative industries, cleantech, aerospace and tourism in the Canton of Zurich. This diversified industry structure is better able to cushion the consequences of structural economic changes within single industries. For all clusters mentioned, the study presents lists of cluster players based or active in the Greater Zurich Area.


About the author

Matthias Inauen is the Director New Business Units at the Canton of Zurich’s Office for Economy and Labour. He assists investors in setting up new business units and networking them to local industry and academic institutions. He holds a PhD in Management and Economics from the University of Zurich, and in his dissertation analysed the effects of opening innovation processes in companies. Prior to joining the canton, he was active in research and teaching, and subsequently worked for an ETH biotech spin-off.

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