On a strategic level, what are the key assets of Greater Zurich as a business location for Kistler?
Rolf Sonderegger: The company’s founders, Walter P. Kistler and Hans Conrad Sonderegger, had close ties to Winterthur and thus the Greater Zurich Area as a result of studying at the ZHAW School of Engineering. We have been able to grow here even though the Swiss market only accounts for about one percent of our business. We have a clear international focus; for instance, we work with all car manufacturers. However, the location offers numerous advantages, such as Swiss legal certainty, which is crucial to us. In addition, the proximity to universities such as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH)and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) is of high importance in terms of research collaborations and finding highly skilled talent. Furthermore, the tradition of industry in Winterthur adds considerable value.
What are the benefits of the industrial environment here for Kistler?
There has been a tradition of engineering in Winterthur for more than a century. We find the work ethic to be excellent. We have ten production sites, the largest of which is located in Winterthur. There, we can find workers who are passionate about manufacturing and testing highly complex sensors. We focus strongly on research and development to provide our clients and business partners with innovative, tailored solutions to their challenges.
To what extent is the future of autonomous driving being shaped out of Greater Zurich?
We make a contribution to the entire value chain, from combustion engines to hybrid systems and from production to individual solutions. Safety is our top priority. We primarily provide our services as a market leader in testing facilities. Driverless cars must meet even more comprehensive safety requirements to enable the most comfortable driving experience possible. This means that we test the systems in all kinds of ways. Nowadays, a lot of this is done virtually, which brings great advantages with regard to time to market. Finally, vehicles must also pass physical crash tests. Our systems also help to optimize manufacturing processes. Our sensors facilitate enhanced digital networking and more holistic conceptualization. Automotive companies spearhead this with their efficiency standards, above all due to the large quantities of data that must be processed, but sectors such as medtech are also leveraging the new opportunities, for example gaining new or additional insights using digital twins.
Why Greater Zurich Area
Why Greater Zurich Area
As a global leader in innovation and talent attraction, combined with Switzerland’s business friendly, stable and reliable environment, Greater Zurich offers international companies real added value for strategic expansion.
Which trends are the greatest drivers for your work?
First and foremost, research and development as well as digitization are crucial in advancing the innovations of tomorrow. Then as a manufacturer and in product development, sustainability is very important for us. There is another trend that is linked to this: network capability over the entire system is playing an increasingly central role in a collaborative approach. Our sensors are still one hundred percent Kistler, from the idea to development, production, distribution, and service. However, every solution and product must be designed in such a way that it functions optimally within an overall system. Our solutions and systems play a key role in this.
Thinking specifically of innovations, which of the 30+ research collaborations with universities are particularly significant to Kistler?
We focus on long-term, deepened collaboration here. We have close links with at least ten professorships at the ETH Zurich. There are traditional collaborations, for example with the Department of Mechanical and Process Engineering, such as with Professor Lino Guzzella. The former president of ETH also sits on our administrative board. Across Switzerland, we are also part of the innovation park of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). Furthermore, we are interested in the Swiss and international startup scene in this regard: networks are becoming increasingly important. In total, we have integrated 15 companies over the past 20 years. These days, the availability of knowledge and its development play an ever more vital role.
Interview: Yvonne von Hunnius
About Rolf Sonderegger and Kistler Group
Rolf Sonderegger has been CEO of Kistler Group, which is family-owned, since 2001. He is the son of Co-Founder Hans Conrad Sonderegger, who established the company in 1959 together with Walter P. Kistler. Today, Kistler is a world market leader in dynamic measurement technology for recording pressure, force, torque, and acceleration. Kistler’s sensor technology is used in automotive development and industry automation as well as numerous other sectors. Kistler has around 2,000 employees worldwide at more than 60 locations. Turnover of 411 million Swiss francs was recorded in 2021, of which 7 percent went toward research and development. The company holds a total of 973 patents.