At the crossroads of the world

The economic agreements signed by Switzerland with multiple countries make the canton of Vaud the perfect gateway for the European market and indeed the rest of the world. The region also has an international reputation thanks to the prestige of its institutions and the events it organizes on a global scale.

For any company, setting up business in Switzerland is the equivalent of having almost unrestricted access to the 450 million consumers of the European Union (EU), whilst still benefiting from the advantages that the Swiss system has to offer. Geographically at the heart of Europe, Switzerland has an efficient public transport network as well as equally impressive roads. European connections are plenty and easy to access. Two international airports, at Geneva and Zurich, are linked to hundreds of European and international destinations.

Handbook for investors

Switzerland and Europe

«The EU is by far Switzerland most important trading partner.»

Switzerland and Europe share close economic ties. As the destination for 52% of Swiss exports and with a share of 70% of Swiss imports (as per 2018), the EU is by far Switzerland most important trading partner.

The main bilateral agreements give the citizens of Switzerland and the EU the right to freely choose their place of work and domicile across these states, and this also enables Swiss companies to hire labor from the EU more easily. The suppression of border controls in the Schengen area meanwhile makes tourism easier. The abolition of double inspection, i.e., having to prove that merchandise conforms to both Swiss and European community standards, makes trade far easier.

It should also be noted that while the Swiss franc remains the official currency, the euro is accepted in most hotels and in plenty of stores, and can also be withdrawn from the vast majority of ATMs. Switzerland is not merely a springboard to Europe, however. Its free-exchange agreements signed with the EU and EFTA (31 countries in total), as well as with 38 other nations including China and Japan, constitute one of the densest networks in the world. Its simple and transparent customs procedures provide a significant competitive advantage over competition from abroad, in particular for the luxury goods industry.

A priviledged location for many multinational companies

The canton of Vaud benefits from this favorable situation, and its advantages have not escaped the attention of various multinationals such as Medtronic, Parker, Chiquita, Sunstar, Honeywell, Starbucks Coffee, Nestlé, Logitech, Bobst, Cisco, Incyte, and Becton Dickinson, which have all set up their global, European or EMEA headquarters here. The image of these companies, much like that of the prestigious research and education institutions, attracts talented specialists of all nationalities.

Significant investments in innovation

The canton of Vaud has been investing significantly in technology and innovation for numerous years. Startups of any kind can flourish thanks to the density, variety, and cross-disciplinary nature of the research institutes. EPFL, which is in the top 20 universities in the world in several international rankings, plays a key role in this sector. Switzerland also features five of its 10 universities in the top 100 places in the Shanghai ranking.

Synergies between SMEs, startups, large companies and multinationals

Amongst the companies themselves, there is great diversity with a combination of start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses, large companies and multinationals throughout the canton of Vaud. In terms of the quality of research and education, EPFL, UNIL, HEIG-VD,  the Vaud University Hospital Center’s Ludwig Institute, which specializes in cancer research, as well as the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) and the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) are world leaders in their respective fields.
There is an important crossover between financing and R&D as well as within the public and private sectors creating an important mix that thrives in conjunction with the academic research system. Since 2010 the budget of the canton’s research and higher education institutes has doubled. This collaboration between Swiss universities and global R&D also extends to a considerable interconnection with the rest of the world and is responsible for the strength of the Vaud innovation ecosystem.