Monday 15 October 2018

Smart Swiss sector creates opportunity for Irish suppliers

'There is a significant opportunity for Irish companies to be part of Switzerland's enhanced value chain.' Stock photo
'There is a significant opportunity for Irish companies to be part of Switzerland's enhanced value chain.' Stock photo

Jens Altmann

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.

Its manufacturing sector includes many names with 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.

The development and implementation of digital applications is supported by the country's infrastructure, data governance, education and workforce, subsidies, and other factors. This requires a comprehensive and reliable supply chain, creating opportunities, particularly for companies developing smart manufacturing and industrial internet of things (IIoT) solutions.

Ralf Günthner, senior partner at Swiss consultancy Team-Factory, said: "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.

It targets a range of sectors including manufacturing, transport, logistics and engineering.

Enterprise Ireland hosted a trade mission to Zurich in June 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 targeted workshops.

Swiss multinational Schindler was one company Irish attendees visited. It is well known for its elevators, escalators, and moving walkways, carrying both people and materials, and connecting vertical and horizontal transport systems through intelligent mobility solutions. Schindler's futuristic Port Technology lab showcases ideas for innovative new transit management systems and urban living concepts.

Based in Zurich, ETH University is famous for cutting-edge research in microelectronics and robotics, and is one of the world's top 10 institutions. Enterprise Ireland collaborated with ETH to host a workshop that brought together Irish companies and Swiss industry experts.

Compelling questions addressed included: 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?

Enterprise Ireland's Dusseldorf office is focused on helping IoT companies identify and exploit opportunities arising from the digitalisation of Swiss industry, and across the wider German-language region.

We are extending this to actively promote Ireland as a technology provider for the IIoT value chain.

Technology business consultant Brigid O'Donovan facilitates collaboration between world-class Swiss and Irish technology organisations and believes there is huge potential: "Both countries are well positioned to take advantage of the productivity and economic growth opportunities of digitalisation."

To further scale those opportunities, Enterprise Ireland will host a series of targeted events including, in October, a cross-sectoral trade mission to the Zurich area entitled 'The digitalisation of work'.

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

Jens Altmann is a market adviser based in Enterprise Ireland's Dusseldorf office

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