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Prionics takes top prize for entrepreneurship

Economics Minister Pascal Couchepin told the forum that Switzerland had to continue liberalising its economy to stay competitive with Europe

(Keystone)

Prionics - a pioneering company in the field of mad cow disease testing - has won this year's prestigious Swiss Economic Award.

The young company took the prize at a gala dinner in Interlaken on Friday evening at the end of this year's Swiss Economic Forum.

Prionics, located near Zurich, has made a name for itself with its fast tests that reliably detect BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) in animals.

The second prize was presented to Chemspeed, a Basel-based company that has developed a technology to speed up chemical analysis for the pharmaceutical industry.

Integral Drive Systems of Zurich, which develops technology for wind energy, came third.

The award has become Switzerland's most important prize, recognising the achievements of small and medium sized companies (SMEs).

SMEs - very much alive

The president of the competition jury, Vreni Spoerry, a member of the Swiss senate, said Switzerland's young companies were very much alive, showing to the outside world that they were both creative and successful.

"The quality of the entries is continually improving. Our pre-selection jury was overwhelmed by the number of good, promising ideas," she said in reference to the 107 companies that entered the competition.

Spoerry pointed out that entrants were increasingly aware of the realities of today's business world, noting that traditional branches were gaining more attention after the wane of the "Internet hype".

"All the finalists are highly educated, know their business from A to Z, and work very hard."

Commenting on the finalists, she observed that the lion's share of their sales were made abroad and had an international outlook, with English often used as their language of communication.

Fish in water

"From their home base of Switzerland ... our young entrepreneurs and prize winners are swimming in the global environment like fish in water."

In his speech recognising the achievements of Prionics, Peter Weibel, a managing partner of PricewaterhouseCoopers, cited the company's "outstanding performance".

"Our winners, true pioneers in their fields, have managed to create a market for the ideas they have developed.

"The two young founders of Prionics have found the right people to enable their company's enormous growth. They belong to the stars of Swiss biotechnology and are global market leaders."

Portraits of all the three award winners can be found at the links below.

by Robert Brookes and Karin Kamp

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