R&D collaboration in Switzerland

By Stefan Kohler and Lukas Zuest, VISCHER

For the seventh consecutive year, the Global Innovation Index (GII) 2017 has ranked Switzerland the world’s most innovative country. In 2016, China entered and became the first middle-income economy among the top 25 most innovative countries in the world. From 2016 to 2017, China rose three positions to 22.

Stefan KohlerPartnerVISCHER
Stefan Kohler

China has been steadily improving its innovation in traditional industries, but also in sophisticated high-tech fields such as life science, automation and the digital industry. For innovative Chinese companies striving for new business, Switzerland can be an ideal place to develop and enhance creative ideas and products. And many of Switzerland’s innovative entrepreneurs are looking for Chinese business partners who want to transform their innovation to market-ready products.

This article provides an insight into the research and development (R&D) collaboration environment in Switzerland and the specifics of the related Swiss law.

Collaboration of universities

Swiss technical universities are at the forefront of fundamental research, and they serve as incubators for innovative start-up entrepreneurship. A perfect example of this is the Swiss federal university of technology and science (ETH) which has generated more than 350 start-ups in the past 20 years.

The technical universities are generally open to various forms of R&D collaboration, such as:

  • Research collaboration. An industrial partner supports a research project through funding. The parties typically expect the generation of new intellectual property rights, and therefore, agree, for instance, on an option to negotiate a licence, an exclusive licence or even the assignment of the developed new intellectual property rights;
  • Contract research. An industrial partner uses existing knowledge of the technical university to conduct research in a certain area. The generation of new intellectual property is usually not expected; and
  • Licensing arrangements. The technical universities license the usage of their intellectual property to an industrial partner.

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Stefan Kohler is a partner at VISCHER. He can be contacted by phone at +41 58 211 34 19 or by email at skohler@vischer.com
Lukas Zuest is a counsel at VISCHER. He can be contacted by phone at +41 58 211 34 35 or by email at lzuest@vischer.com