Header GZA Perspektiven

Zurich – The Greater Zurich Area remains a first-class location even in difficult times. Its innovative strength and diversification continue to benefit established and new companies alike. This was made clear at the annual event of the Greater Zurich Area AG, which was held virtually for the first time ever. 

Anna Martin-Niedecken and a partner founded Sphery in 2018, a Zurich-based startup that has set itself the goal of revolutionizing the fitness and health industry with its innovative game designs and fitness concepts. Martin-Niedecken, an entrepreneur and researcher at the Zurich University of the Arts, is impressed by the Greater Zurich Area.

Hub for deep tech

“Zurich is a fantastic location,” the German-born Martin-Niedecken said at GZA Perspectives in Zurich on Tuesday, pointing to its good universities and innovative mindset. The Greater Zurich Area is also a good test market for her field, adding that the coronavirus crisis has shown just how well cohesion between startups works here.

Moderator Urs Bucher (TEDxZurich) and the entrepreneurs Anna Martin-Niedecken (Sphery) and Séverine Chardonnens (IDUN Technologies) discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their start-ups (from left to right).
Moderator Urs Bucher (TEDxZurich) and the entrepreneurs Anna Martin-Niedecken (Sphery) and Séverine Chardonnens (IDUN Technologies) discuss the impact of COVID-19 on their start-ups (from left to right). 

Séverine Chardonnens has a similar view of Zurich’s advantages. “We find talented people here,” said the co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer of IDUN Technologies. A spin-off from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), IDUN Technologies develops headphones that measure and analyze brain waves in real time. “Zurich is also a good place to build relationships with investors,” said Chardonnens, calling it a “hubspot for deep tech”.

The two entrepreneurs, Anna Martin-Niedecken and Séverine Chardonnens, appeared together at GZA Perspectives. The annual event of the Greater Zurich Area AG (GZA) took place virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus and was broadcast from the Swiss Mill Tower. With its photovoltaic facade, the world’s tallest grain elevator is one of the architectural highlights of the up-and-coming Zurich West district.

Relocations despite a crisis

The coronavirus crisis was the topic of the event, called COVID-19: Catastrophe or Catalyst for the Greater Zurich Area? In the short term, the crisis is placing a strain on the economic area between Chur and Solothurn, Schaffhausen and Ticino. 

GZA Managing Director Sonja Wollkopf Walt pointed out that in the first six months of the year, 29 companies relocated to the nine cantons, though this was 46% less compared to the previous year.v
GZA Managing Director Sonja Wollkopf Walt pointed out that in the first six months of the year, 29 companies relocated to the nine cantons, though this was 46% less compared to the previous year.

 

But Wollkopf Walt could also point out that key industries in the region, such as life sciences and medtech, and important corporate functions like R&D have barely been affected by the crisis, and she is confident that Switzerland has come through the crisis better than other countries.

American startups look to Zurich for talent

Lukas Sieber continues to sense the interest of foreign companies. “We are still receiving many inquiries,” said the Executive Director of GZA in North America. According to Sieber, the coronavirus crisis is reinforcing a trend towards decentralization. “Companies are increasingly going to where the talent is,” said Sieber. And this is something that Zurich can benefit from. Sieber mentioned the example of an American IT startup, founded by “top-notch managers”, which has had a branch office in Zurich since July precisely because of its proximity to ETH Zurich. 

It goes without saying that the work of location marketing agencies is changing because of the coronavirus, explained Sieber. Many contacts are being maintained digitally even more than before. Sonja Wollkopf Walt added that virtual meetings and events are also more important now.

Innovative and diversified

Location promotion is becoming more and more important, Carmen Walker Späh said in her speech. “We have to defend the appeal of our location,” said Walker Späh, member of the cantonal government of Zurich and President of the Foundation Board of the Greater Zurich Area Foundation. “A joint, cross-cantonal location promotion service creates added value for the entire economic region.” 

Carmen Walker Späh, member of the cantonal government of Zurich and President of the Foundation Board of the Greater Zurich Area Foundation
Carmen Walker Späh, member of the cantonal government of Zurich and President of the Foundation Board of the Greater Zurich Area Foundation, talks about the importance of location marketing.

 

Thanks to its innovative strength and economic diversification, the Greater Zurich Area can make a decisive contribution toward ensuring that Switzerland as a whole is well positioned for the future, she said.

Sonja Wollkopf Walt believes that the Greater Zurich Area can make an important contribution to this, as the relocation of forward-thinking companies from abroad strengthens the entire region. “We’re living up to our slogan: ‘Connect to tomorrow’.”

Watch the recording of the GZA Perspektiven of 25 August 2020 and have a look at the photo gallery of the event.

All pictures © Greater Zurich Area Ltd (GZA)

The pictures may only be used for non-commercial purposes and with complete credit (Greater Zurich Area Ltd / Jean-Luc Grossmann).

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