At the crossroads of the world

The economic agreements signed by Switzerland with multiple countries make the canton of Vaud the perfect gateway for the European market and indeed the rest of the world. The region also has an international reputation thanks to the prestige of its institutions and the events it organizes on a global scale.

For any company, setting up business in Switzerland is the equivalent of having almost unlimited access to the 520 million consumers of the European Union (EU), whilst still benefiting from the advantages that the Swiss system has to offer. Switzerland is geographically at the heart of Europe and benefits from an extremely high-performance public transport network as well as road infrastructure that is just as impressive. European connections are plenty and easy to access. Two international airports, at Geneva and Zurich, are linked to hundreds of European and international destinations.

Set-Up Guide

Switzerland and Europe

Switzerland and the EU have a very close economic relationship, with 54% of Swiss exports being sent to its sizeable neighbor and 72% of imports coming from there. What could be more natural than these partners taking measures to facilitate their exchanges?

The main bilateral agreements give the citizens of Switzerland and the EU the right to freely choose their place of work and domicile across these states, and this also enables Swiss companies to hire labor from the EU more easily. The suppression of border controls in the Schengen area meanwhile makes tourism easier. The abolition of double inspection, i.e., having to prove that merchandise conforms to both Swiss and European community standards, makes trade far easier. Regulations concerning CE marking and drug approvals, for example, benefit from these agreements of mutual recognition between Switzerland and the EU.

It should also be noted that while the Swiss franc remains the official currency, the euro is accepted in most hotels and in plenty of stores. It can also be withdrawn from the vast majority of ATMs. Switzerland is not merely a springboard to Europe, however. Its free-exchange agreements signed with the EU and EFTA (31 countries in total), as well as with 38 other nations including China and Japan, constitute one of the densest networks in the world. Its simple and transparent customs procedures provide a significant competitive advantage over competition from abroad, in particular for the luxury goods industry.

The canton of Vaud obviously benefits from this favorable situation, and its advantages have not escaped the attention of various multinationals such as Medtronic, Nissan, Chiquita, Sunstar, Honeywell, Starbucks Coffee, Nestlé, Logitech, Bobst, Cisco, Incyte, and Becton Dickinson, which have set up their global, European or EMEA headquarters here. The image of these companies, much like that of the prestigious research and education institutions, attracts specialists of all nationalities.

The canton of Vaud has been investing significantly for a number of years in innovation and technologies. Start-ups of all varieties are able to flourish thanks to the density, variety, and cross-disciplinary nature of the research institutes. The EPFL in particular, which is in the top 20 universities in the world in several international rankings, plays a key role in this sector. Switzerland also features fourth among countries in the world with the highest number of universities in the top 100 places in the Shanghai ranking.

In terms of the companies themselves, there is great diversity with a combination of start-ups, small and medium-sized businesses and multinationals throughout the canton of Vaud. In terms of the quality of research and education, the Ludwig Institute, which specializes in cancer research, as well as the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) and the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) are world leaders in their respective fields. Lastly, cultural events and institutions such as the Montreux Jazz Festival and the Ballet Béjart, as well as international organizations such as the IOC and around 50 international sporting federations (which are the focal point for Think Sport – the cluster dedicated to sport and innovation) all add to the image of the region throughout the world.