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Innovation nation Swiss firms slow to embrace digital revolution

3D printing is part of the new technology wave that has the potential to transform the manufacturing industry

(Gaetan bally / KEYSTONE)

Swiss companies are struggling to adapt to the pace of the digital revolution, according to a study by consulting firm Deloitte. This could affect Switzerland’s position as a centre of innovation.

While a large majority of Swiss companies surveyed (84%) see new technologies like 3D printing, autonomous drones, artificial intelligence, intelligent robots and sensors as an opportunity to boost competitiveness, they are slow to introduce them, the report published on Friday showed.

Advances in information and communication technology (ICT) known as “Industry 4.0” have shaken up the traditional manufacturing industry. These new technologies are changing the way products are designed, produced and transported.

But only a third of the Swiss companies surveyed by Deloitte described their ICT infrastructure as adequate. Even though the potential of 3D printing is for example recognised by 64% of those surveyed, 68% of them do not use 3D printing at all.

This is a worrying development that could jeopardise the future of Swiss innovation, Deloitte warned. Switzerland ranked first in the 2014 Global Innovation Indexexternal link, making it the fourth time in a row for the Alpine nation. However,  it ranked only 17th when assessed in terms of ICT use, reinforcing the gravity of the results of Deloitte’s survey.

“To ensure that Swiss industrial enterprises arrive successfully in Industry 4.0, they need to evolve into learning organisations that take advantage of these radical changes,” says Ralf Schlaepfer, managing partner, manufacturing industry, Deloitte.

The main problems the Swiss companies cited are a lack of adequate staff and concern about increased cyber risks due to the digital transformation.

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