Western Switzerland, an innovation hub for micro and nanotechnologiesTuesday 8 November 2022
Inspired by its watchmaking heritage, the Greater Geneva Bern area has developed a unique know-how in micro and nanotechnologies and has become a leader in the field.
Western Switzerland is well known for its watchmaking heritage and the canton of Neuchâtel plays an important role in the Swiss micro and nanotechnologies industry. Although watchmaking appeared in the middle of the 16th century in Geneva, the industry developed itself in Neuchâtel’s mountains in the 17th century. The inhabitants of the region used to graze their cattle in during summer and repair their agricultural tools during winter. Thanks to their ingenuity, they quickly learned to repair and then manufacture timepieces. This is how watchmaking started, with artisans eventually becoming master watchmakers. Indeed, the region has since seen the birth of world-renowned watch brands such as Piaget, Zenith or Parmigiani.
Western Switzerland has subsequently developed a unique know-how in the interconnected fields of precision mechanics, MEMS (microelectromechanical systems), microelectronics and nanotechnologies, used in the watchmaking industry, but also in the medtech sector for example.
Numerous international companies from these sectors have established themselves here, such as microelectronic semiconductor solutions specialist Melexis Technologies, direct drive technologies manufacturer Etel, and Semtech, who supplies semiconductors for analog and mixed circuits.
Technology and high-precision innovation
The region is home to many renowned academic and research institutions that provide companies with access to quality resources.
Located in the heart of the Watch Valley in Neuchâtel, Microcity is Europe's largest microtechnology competence center with 7 teaching and research institutions and 1000 researchers, as well as state-of-the-art infrastructures.
Affiliated to the national “Switzerland Innovation” program, Microcity's mission is to support and promote innovation in the canton of Neuchâtel by enabling technology transfer in the fields of micro and nanotechnology, micro-fabrication and industrialization processes. Microcity works in partnership with several research and training institutions, in particular the Institute of Electrical and Micro Engineering of the EPFL or the Swiss Foundation for Research in Microtechnology (FSRM), which offers a wide range of training programs covering all aspects in the field, from quality control in precision positioning and engineering to micro-optics.
Microcity is located near the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM), one of its other partners whose mission is to develop and transfer knowledge in microtechnology to the industry.
The region can also count on the Micronarc platform’s expertise, which develops and promotes the region's scientific, technical and economic position in the field of micro and nanotechnologies, boosting the ecosystem with training, R&D, and technology transfer activities, as well as with providing hosting infrastructures.
All these research and academic institutions, combined with a strong industrial fabric of companies, enhance the dynamism of a dense innovation ecosystem in the field of micro and nanotechnologies.
International events in the heart of Western Switzerland
Western Switzerland also hosts prominent events dedicated to micro and nanotechnologies and precision engineering, which provide the opportunity to strengthen business relationships in a welcoming international setting.
These include EPHJ, the leading international trade fair for high precision watchmaking, microtechnology and medtech. The SIAMS industrial trade show brings together exhibitors from all over Europe every two years, and mAm The Microproducts Annual Meeting, an international conference on microfabrication, is renowned for the quality of its program and its networking opportunities.
Today, Western Switzerland is a world reference for its expertise in the field of micro and nanotechnologies, where many investors can find new business opportunities. The density of academic and research structures positions the region as an exceptional pole in the field and encourages international companies active in the sector to choose the Greater Geneva Bern area for their commercial operations thanks to all the synergies the region offers.