Swiss Economic Award
The president of the the SEF-Award jury, Monika Ribar, praised the strong selection of nominees this year. She commended the courage, and perhaps a small amount of naitveté, that it takes to say yes and take risks in markets that are already saturated.
The award in the category of Production/Trade and Industry went to New Roots, the vegan cheese company founded in 2015 with a strong focus on sustainability and ethical business practices.
The winner of the Hightech-Biotech category is PXL Vision, the ETH-spin off identity security using computer-vision, machine learning and biometric facial recognition to scan ID documents and their holders.
The final award for Services goes to Pickwings, the online platform for connecting shippers with empty trucks on Swiss roads, saving resources and adding value at every level of the supply chain.
«Ich war noch nie so inspiriert und motiviert»
Im SEF-Bootcamp Next.Gen erhielten 30 Jugendliche zwischen 16 und 22 Jahren in den vergangenen Tagen Einblick in das Unternehmer-Leben. «Man bekommt jeden Tag so viel Inspiration, dass man sie kaum verarbeiten kann», schilderte die 17-jährige Gymnasiastin und Camp-Teilnehmerin Venus Mijatovic ihre Eindrücke am SEF. «Ich bin noch nie jeden Tag mit so viel Motivation aufgestanden.» Next.Gen habe sie darin bestärkt, einen Weg als Unternehmerin einzuschlagen. Der ebenfalls 17-jährige Amin Casutt sagte, ihm sei im Camp klar geworden, dass es als Unternehmer zentral sei, nicht aufzugeben, wenn auf die Anfangseuphorie das erste Loch folge. Zudem forderte Amin die SEF-Teilnehmenden auf, ihre Positionen dafür einzusetzen, einen Beitrag zur Lösung der globalen Probleme zu leisten. «Die Leute hier drin können mehr bewirken und schneller etwas bewegen als viele andere.»
The future of Brexit
The UK finds itself in an interesting moment in politics and history, according to Rt Boris Johnson. There is a clash going on, between direct and representative democracy, and the fundamental question is whether the will of the people will prevail over in these circumstances. The job of parliament is to educate, and the British parliament has failed to do so. Dire predictions of the effects Brexit would have are being tossed around without regard to their veracity. The referendum has split the country, and another would likely have an even more polarizing effect. The UK would prefer a pragmatic solution, claims Rt Boris Johnson, but for sake of progress a no deal situation must be accepted as a possibility. Switzerland is viewed as a kind of model for an ideal relationship with the EU with remaining a sovereign nation. Following the resignation of British Prime Minister Theresa May, Rt Boris Johnson declared he would be running in the next election; however, he did not wish to elaborate. The former Foreign Minister proceeded to compliment Theresa May on the hard work and effort she had put in and claimed that her successor would have a chance to do things differently.
The Future of Europe
Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi describes the Italian economy as “A good car, with a bad driver”, stressing the manufacturing power of the country and strong economic performance of northern Italy and indicating bureaucracy and especially massive public debt as the greatest problems his country faces. Radical changes are needed, investments in ICT and AI. Speaking on his time as Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi believes progress was made as well as mistakes, asserting that risk need to be taken and regardless of the consequences and that garnering hatred is inevitable when facilitating change. Regarding modern politics, he acknowledges the role that social media plays and the power behind it, attributing populist success to it. Despite the politics of Europe being in flux, Matteo Renzi believes in the ideals of Europe and see potential in younger generations ready to create change. For Italy to access its full potential, it must reduce bureaucracy and fear of tomorrow.
Nestlé as a Global Corporation
Mark Schneider begins the interview by assuring that familiar and loved Nestlé products will be staying. Even though the corporation is leaving American food markets due to the small market share, their presence in Europe isn’t going anywhere. Nestlé’s diverse portfolio awards stability, but Mark Schneider underlines that having a wide focus and a narrow one for their specific sectors doesn’t represent a dichotomy for him. Nestlé’s shareholders are made up of many different demographics, however, he believes that this responsibility isn’t too much of a burden. The way people shop is changing, there isn’t any room for even slightly higher priced products that are needed in daily live, but people are often willing to pay more for items that have more personal value, for instance a car. Nestlé’s efforts to spread around the world necessitate an equal distribution of effort throughout the corporation, and Mark Schneider reassures that Switzerland will remain central. Pertaining to the hard decisions one has to make as CEO, he posits that its about managing risks and opportunities, but one would have to be a robot to be completely unaffected. Finishing the interview, he states the importance of Nestlé giving back through environmental efforts around the globe.
AAACCELL offers a modern take on asset management, based on AI- and machine learning, quantative finance, econometrics, mathematics and statistics.
Utilizing an array of 64 nano-satellites in low orbit, Astrocast offers a global and lost cost model of low-latency and high security coverage.
PXL Vision offers a scalable software platform for identity verification using latest computer vision and machine learning to increase security and reduce fraud.
Optimism in science
Carlo Rovelli speaks on two main points, optimism in science and science on a global, political scale. He describes science as optimistic in nature, what we don’t understand today may be understood tomorrow. Optimism in science is based on a kind of pessimistic view, however, questioning what we already know. Throughout human history, scientific progress has been intermittent, stagnating when society balked at pursuing ration knowledge in fear of changing values. Carlo Rovelli feels that something similar is happening today, when half the population of on of the most powerful countries on earth rejects evolution and there is a revolution against the intellectual elite of the world. He differentiates between two kinds of optimism, a blind optimism of satisfaction with the way things are, and optimism that the future holds answers worth pursuing and problems worth facing. He urges everyone to apply political pressure to confront the problems facing us today and not to merely be satisfied with the state of the world.
The SEF Niesen Bergpreis was awarded to Luiza Dubre, CEO and founder of Komed Health. Komed Health is a start-up which offers an improved platform for the exchange of information between patients, doctors and nurses and is about to be integrated into 35 hospitals in Switzerland, German and Great Britain.
The power of “No”
Donna Carpenter goes against the grain of the conference so far, speaking about the power of “no” and optimism in the face of rejection. Burton has dealt with no shortage of “nos”, especially as a startup. As a new sport, snowboarding was deemed too dangerous and reckless by the ski industry, being banned from resorts and even having to defend their booths at trade events from trade unions. Difficulties didn’t stop there, finding a manufacturer who wouldn’t say no offered another challenge, with five rejections being followed by a partnership with Keil, who is now one of the largest snowboard manufacturers. The next snow came when Burton outgrew local banks and was written off as a fad by the larger ones. Donna Carpenter attributes these “nos” with a lot of Burton’s success and adaptability, and with two majors shifts. Women’s leadership and sustainability are two points that Burton takes a lot of pride in and has made central to their values, along with fair labor and stronger climate policies.
Lifetime-Achievement Award to Prof. Klaus Schwab for his work with the WEF
Prof. Klaus Schwab received the Lifetime Achievement Award through the Swiss Economic Forum for the founding of the WEF and his work in the organization. The WEF was founded with idea of serving society as well as shareholders by offering a global platform for world problems to be addressed. Prof. Schwab talks viewing Europe not as a commercial union, but as a cultural identity, seeing Europe lose global influence without unity, and the necessity WEF becoming a global organization reflecting the Swiss principle of neutrality. In response to criticism of the WEFs increasing size, Prof. Schwab maintains that the conference in Davos is merely the tip of the iceberg, and the more governments and NGOs that can be involved, the better. With all the changes that occur with growth, Prof. Schwab has stayed true to his ideals and principles. Even while the WEF definitely has offshoots in plenty of different countries, Switzerland remains vital to the organization as a neutral platform.
What can one do to sustain optimism? Tal Ben-Shahar divides the answer into 3 main elements. First of all, it is ok the be human. It is important not to reject negative emotions, but rather accept them, let them flow through you, and move on. Social media especially creates an illusion of happiness everywhere and leads to repression of fear, concern, envy and so on. The paradox in this is that repression intensifies these negative emotions. Secondly, stress isn’t the problem. We are good with dealing with stress, and stress is even good for us to a certain extent. The problem is with the lack of recovery. Tal Ben-Shahar iterates the calming effect of consistent breathing exercises, getting a good night’s sleep and vacation. Finally, it’s important not to avoid pain and hardship, but to embrace it and find what is learn from it. The optimists code is not to think that everything happens for the best, but rather to find the best in whatever may happen.
Optimism, planning and vision
Prof. Andrea Pfeifer speaks on her efforts in Alzheimer and Dementia research as a scientist and as CEO of AC Immune. As a child with parents affected by the disease, she has always seen a dire need for solutions to something that afflicts an enormous part of the population. Despite the intangibility of a lot of the research in her field, Andrea Pfeifer stresses the importance of structure and planning while striving for progress. Optimism is also a factor, as well as the ability to see progress, even if it is only in the sense of having learned something new. It’s important to be an optimist, but in research, it’s important to also have a vision. In AC Immune, financing, company culture and structure were carefully considered with the future growth and development of the company in mind. One decision Prof. Pfeifer would make differently today would be to look for American investors earlier, seeing as the USA is more advanced concerning medical research. It remains her dream and passion to find a lasting treatment for neurodegenerative diseases.
Open-minded into the future
How does one remain optimistic during times of political turmoil and a daunting future? According to Johan Norberg, we’ve always been worried about the future. Every generation has always rejected disruptive new technology while longing for “the good old days”, without even specifically knowing when or what “the good old days” were. The cycle of growing up, being confronted with the horrors of the world and worrying is one that has been perpetuated for as long as there has been progress. This is compounded by the fact that the 24-hour news cycle exposes us to primarily negative stories, while the more positive aspects of the modern day take a backseat. In the last 25 years, immense humanitarian progress has been made. He compares Switzerland to Sweden in the 1960s, successful and on top of the world, but warms that Sweden lost this status after taking it for granted and rejecting new, disruptive things. The three main conclusions Johan Norberg draws from these observations are the necessity of accepting that the world isn’t as bad as it seems, of change to preserve what has already been achieved and y of open-mindedness towards new, “disruptive” things.
Innovation in Asia, Prof. Howard Yu
In the technology rivalry between China and the USA, what leads to China’s continuous innovation? Prof. Howard Yu describes the state of the internet in China as one in which there is still room to grow, due to the internet not yet being as saturated as the USA. There is no dominant country that has filled every niche yet, and with a larger group of people using online shopping and, mobile payments and general e-commerce, there is plenty of competition. Competition leads to innovation and many Chinese companies start off as copy-cats and corner their market through low-tech but creative innovation before moving on to larger goals. Additionally, China has a much larger pool of end-users, continuously providing essentially free optimization. As to the role of Switzerland in this “spliternet”, Prof. Yu sees the country in an advantageous position as a potential liaison between the two sides.
SEF.KMU with Martine und Jean-Paul Clozel
Martine and Jean-Paul Closel are CSO and CEO of Indoria Pharmaceuticals, the company they spun out of their previous biotech company, Actelion, in 2017. After the sale, stopping the kind of work they did was unimaginable for the couple. Still driven to pursue research, the couple saw founding Indorsia as a perfect solution. Optimistic from the beginning, they describe the early process as being much easier than their first company. Being able to draw on familiar employees, more financial resources and still highly motivated significantly ameliorated the process. Indorsia maintains a fascinating portfolio of research, including sleep medication in the third phase of testing that could provide a more natural sleep than other concurrent medications. Jean- Paul Closel describes the world as changing, and believes that while one shouldn’t forget past successes, it is still important to adapt and prepare for the future.
New Roots is a company based in Thun, producing vegan cheese through innovative, ethical and sustainable practices.
NIKIN is a clothing brand that matches every product purchased by planting a tree, reflecting their philosophy of sustainability and quality.
SwissShrimp produces high quality shrimp in Rheinfelden with environmentally friendly practices.
Optimism and global geopolitics, Ian Bremmer
Opening by denoting the initially apparent rift between optimism and geopolitics, Ian Bremmer continues by describing how the world is entering a “geopolitical recession”. Nations worldwide are upset; the public is willing to vote for people they didn’t used to be willing to vote for. This is the result of economic inequality, despite a strong global economy and leads to a lack general openness among people who feel abandoned. The effect of social media is very prominent among the disenfranchised, creating echo chambers and further “weaponizing” this frustration. At the same time that many people are feeling the system has failed the, China, as an alternative economy not based on a democratic, free market system, is becoming the strongest economy in the world. What, during this monumental change coupled with political unrest, is the cause for optimism?
For Ian Bremmer, its global warming. All the suffering it has and will cause is of course regrettable, but global warming has pushed entrepreneurs to extraordinary innovation and progress in recent years, and globalization has led to more diversification on an international scale.
Opening speech by the President of the Federal Council
Federal President Ueli Maurer highlights three key points; protectionism, geographical shifts, and new technologies. Protectionism is problematic for a neutral country such as Switzerland and demands that the country positions itself in a manner to avoid being crushed between international gears. International relations are critical for Switzerland as a small, neutral economy, and protectionism must be managed carefully. Pertaining to geographical shifts, it is equally important for Switzerland to maintain trusting relationships with China and the USA, as well as burgeoning economies with large potential, such as that of Indonesia. As a neutral country, Switzerland must remain active and present on the international stage as an unbiased liaison. New technologies are ever developing, and the government must strive to offer an ideal environment for their development as well as platforms to optimally utilize them. Blockchain technology, as an example, offers promising applications. The question of what is possible and what is ethically supportable is one that Switzerland is capable of answering.
Politician and former British Foreign Minister
Former prime minister of Italy
Co-CEO and Co-Owner
Founder and Executive Chairman
Author, lecturer and serial entrepreneur
Chief Executive Officer
Author, lecturer and documentary filmmaker
LEGO Professor of Management and Innovation
Chief Scientific Officer & Chief Executive Officer
President and founder
President of the Swiss Confederation and head