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Swiss learn lessons from the Finns

The Swiss delegation took a critical look at the Nokia success story

(Keystone Archive)

A Swiss business delegation in Finland has been trying to discover the secrets of the country's high-tech success.

Secretary of state for economic affairs David Syz said Switzerland had learnt a great deal about the transfer of innovation and know-how to the economy.

Syz told swissinfo Finland owed much of its success to the fact that its economy had developed "in a very organic way" over the past two decades. Different economic bodies worked together and had clearly defined roles.

He contrasted this with the situation in Switzerland, where the different economic structures had developed slowly and operated independently.

Syz said the main lesson for the Swiss government was the need to be more proactive, to structure innovation and improve the transfer of technology.

"We could do quite a bit, and if we do that in a very coordinated way, I think we can increase our productivity of our economy," Syz said.

But he also pointed out one big difference between the two countries' economies:

"They had one major goal: to go into information technology, and this is one thing," Syz said. "We have of course much more diversity in our economy: we have nanotechnology, we have biotechnology, and we have information technology. We have much a broader base."


Syz said Finland recognised it had to broaden its economic base in order to remain stable. The telecommunications company, Nokia, was Finland's "one success", with much depending on it.

The company took most of the credit for the fact that many foreign firms had recently opened up in Finland, he said.

"Nokia really is a centre of attraction," Syz told swissinfo. "When you have a centre where you have one company, which has communication as a core business, which is a world leader, you attract many, many companies which are trying to make use of this technology."

Education model

Switzerland was also able to learn from Finland's example in the way it educated its children, Syz said.

He said the fact that Finland was clearly focused on education explained why the country had come out top in the Pisa study on reading standards, while Switzerland had come just 18th.

"They have very clear plans on where they want to go," Syz said. "And that gives the whole population an incentive which you cannot find in Switzerland."

The system, I think, is not much better than what we have... but the people are more willing, they are more motivated to participate in the education process and this gives better results."

A key factor that stands the Finnish education system in good stead is its commitment to equal opportunities, said Charles Kleiber, the Swiss secretary of state for science and research.

"Finland has a comprehensive school system which integrates all individuals and gives everyone a chance to learn," Kleiber told swissinfo.

Switzerland can learn from the Finnish way of giving children who are weaker in the classroom special attention.

"The special investment in that (weaker) child means that education is very much focused on individuals. What we could do in Switzerland is have an education system that offers more support to those who need it," he said.


In brief

A Swiss business delegation has been finding out what lies behind Finland's recent economic success.
Officials believe that Switzerland could learn from Finland's example by bringing its different economic agencies into harmony with one another.
They discovered that Finland's attitude towards education was one which Switzerland should adopt.

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