Swiss companies are at the front of the pack when it comes to investing in research and development (R&D) worldwide, according to a global business survey.
Accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young (EY) found that Swiss companies spend 6.6% of their turnover on R&D, compared with an average of 3.8% worldwide.
The authors of the study, which was published on Thursday, analysed the investments of the 500 top-spending international companies in R&D. Expenditure in the sector increased by 6 percent in 2017 to 532 billion euros (CHF 601 billion), the report found, while two-thirds of the companies boosted research spending.
"Investment in research and development is increasing worldwide because rapid technological progress, ever shorter product cycles and rapidly changing consumer demands are driving companies to innovate," explained Marcel Stalder, chief executive officer of EY Switzerland.
The Swiss companies in the selection earmarked the largest share of their turnover (6.6% in 2017) to research and development, ahead of competitors from the United States (5.9%), Sweden (4.4%), and Germany (4.1%).
The results show that Swiss companies have recognised early "the importance of innovation for their long-term international competitiveness and the need for high margins", the study said.
Digital and pharma in the spotlight
In absolute terms, the top of the ranking is occupied by tech giants Amazons and Alphabet (Google's parent company).
In Europe, the Volkswagen automotive group is the top spender, with an R&D budget of 11.6 billion euros in 2017.
Pharmaceutical companies are also well ranked, with Roche, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck & Co all making the top 10.
In all, eleven of the top 500 companies are Swiss, and their combined R&D investments came to some 23 billion euros in 2017.