In Humane magazine, Dr. Rebekka Reinhard speaks with Dalith Steiger, Co-Founder of SwissCognitive about Switzerland’s AI ecosystem. Steiger highlights strong university R&D, notably from ETH Zurich, and Public-Private Partnerships. Switzerland’s infrastructure, consensus-driven culture, and events like “Expedition 2.0”, showcasing AI applications, demonstrate the nation’s forward-thinking approach to technology and collaboration.
Credit: This interview by Dr. Rebekka Reinhard with Dalith Steiger has been published in German and part of the artilce “Der Käfer von morgen” – “Interview with Dalith Steiger: AI, Innovation and Collaboration – Perspectives on Switzerland”
What makes Switzerland a hub for AI innovation?
Dalith Steiger: What sets Switzerland apart is its strength in research and development, especially in university institutions. Many startups and spinoffs emerge from this. There are numerous AI startups in Switzerland, including the unicorn Scandit. The country’s AI ecosystem greatly benefits from ETH Zurich, which alone has produced nine AI startups. A robust ecosystem and the famous Triple-P-Partnership (Public-Private Partnership) foster close collaboration between universities, research institutions, and industry. Coupled with political stability and high quality of life, this attracts many talented individuals and large corporations like Google, IBM, Oracle, and Disney, who have set up their research centres in Switzerland.
And then there’s Geneva…
Yes, “International Geneva.” Organizations like the UN, ITU, and WEF oversee crucial global AI activities from Switzerland.
As for the importance of a stable infrastructure for innovation, could you elaborate further?
A robust infrastructure, like reliable internet and railway connections, is a cornerstone for innovation. Switzerland has been ranked the best infrastructure in the world for the third time, providing a strong foundation for businesses and innovation. Exceptional connectivity promotes collaboration. Here, an entrepreneur can find the entire value chain within a three-hour train journey.
What lessons could Germany learn from Switzerland’s experience with disruptive technologies like AI, especially in terms of mindset and corporate culture?
A key element is openness within and between companies, promoting cross-sectoral exchange and learning. Moreover, Germany might be interested in Switzerland’s federalist approach, which enables decentralized innovation support. A good example is Hamburg, a pioneer in projects like Smart City in Germany, promoting close collaboration between the government and businesses. The city has also successfully organized events and programs to foster innovation, often in close collaboration with the government. There are also individuals and organizations actively advocating for the ecosystem, promoting collaboration between various players.
You mentioned collaboration between companies and students. How does that contribute to talent development?
Engaging talent early allows students to start spin-offs or pursue similar projects. This kind of collaboration is essential and reflects Switzerland’s consensus-driven nature, evident in both businesses and institutions.
That sounds very practical. In Germany, we tend towards cautious perfectionism. Is speed and dynamism a specific advantage in Switzerland?
In Switzerland, we’re also quite perfectionists. Our consensus-driven culture promotes a proactive approach. We’re seeing a shift in Switzerland towards more of an 80/20 mentality or even more dynamic, which eventually pays off, even if not immediately apparent.
At the “Expedition 2.0” event in Vienna, concrete application examples were presented. What was special about it?
There were sometimes two or three people on stage from various companies from Switzerland and Austria, showing exciting use cases they’d developed together in partnerships – the integrator, the solution provider, and the customer. The focus was on showing precisely what we want to see or where we can learn from one another, where we can share our experiences directly. It wasn’t just about increasing sales and efficiency through AI, but also about genuinely questioning existing beliefs and developing new business models to leap to the next level. Three Swiss startups were involved: Flowit AG, a digital platform for HR development and retention based on Generative AI; Copresence, which can digitally recreate user faces using AI; and Next Hype, which uses AI tools to create digital media.
Dalith Steiger is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of SwissCognitive, a leading global AI network advocating for AI in business, acting as a venture partner and startup accelerator worldwide. Photo: Remo Neuhaus
Dr. Rebekka Reinhard
Philosopher. SPIEGEL-Bestseller author. Founder & Editor-in-Chief „human“. TEDx UniversitätHeidelberg Speaker
Dr. Rebekka Reinhard is a philosopher, SPIEGEL bestselling author, and prominent keynote speaker. She passionately believes in making philosophy accessible, asserting it belongs in real life, not just academic towers. Emphasizing the significance of self-reflection and inquiry at any age, Reinhard advocates for embracing one’s humanity in an era marked by crises and advanced AI. As a consultant for global entities, she champions the idea that in our current times, deep understanding and human essence are paramount. For her, “Human is the next big thing.”