We had the opportunity to speak with Peter Kistler, the Senior Project Manager of Foreign Investment at the Bern Economic Development Agency (BEDA), who shared his insights on why Switzerland presents an exceptional entry point for innovative drone companies looking to break into the thriving and evolving European market.
Peter explained that, although Switzerland has consistently aimed to lead in innovation, recent efforts have placed particular emphasis on drones and emerging advanced air mobility technologies. He mentioned that federal authorities have explicitly expressed their interest in fostering these innovations for the future and are eager to observe how a bottom-up approach can stimulate fresh ideas and business opportunities within the sector. Furthermore, the government, alongside federal authorities, has demonstrated their receptiveness to understanding the needs of organizations at both the federal and cantonal levels.
As a representative of the Bern Economic Development Agency, Peter shared his first-hand experience with the Swiss mentality that drones are a critical topic for the future. He also expressed his desire to empower companies to advocate for necessary adaptations, enabling them to establish sustainable business practices in this rapidly evolving field.
If you weren’t already familiar with the city, Bern is the capital of Switzerland and boasts of both a rich history and a vibrant cultural scene. It’s located within the Swiss Plateau and has a well-preserved medieval old town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As a hub for innovation and economic development, Bern also offers an excellent quality of life for those who work there. Due to its location in the middle of Switzerland, it makes it accessible to many different organisations throughout Switzerland as well.
Bern's unique status goes beyond being the capital of Switzerland and its geographically accessible location from various parts of the country. The city also benefits from its proximity to two of Europe's most prominent technical universities, situated in Zurich and Lausanne. Furthermore, as Peter explained, Bern is situated at the linguistic crossroads of the French, Italian and German-speaking regions, which has historically contributed to a rich blend of the three cultures throughout the city.
The strategic location of Bern enables organisations to easily access federal authorities as well as tap into the vast talent pool of recent graduates from the renowned technical universities mentioned earlier. These universities stand out from other models, as students acquire practical experience alongside theoretical knowledge, making them well-prepared for the industry's demands.
Bern is also home to the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA), which simplifies communication between drone industry stakeholders and government regulators, providing a significant advantage for implementing airborne drone operations. As Peter explained, this collaborative mindset is not just a result of the physical proximity in Bern but also stems from the active involvement of cantons in shaping the drone industry's future. While the initial decisions on a government level may originate from legislative actions or at the federal level, these still ultimately take place in Bern.
In terms of revenue potential, Bern provides a diverse urban environment that allows organisations to go beyond UAV-supported deliveries, encompassing industrial applications for various sectors, such as medical devices and watch manufacturing. These use cases include warehouse inspections and the potential to streamline supply chain management, showcasing the city's versatile opportunities for the drone industry to step in and support the innovative environment.
This is on the back of the Innovation Park, a specialised science park, that builds on Bern's appeal. Supported by the Swiss government, these facilities are designed to foster the growth of local organisations while maintaining strong connections to universities or government and private research institutions through geographical proximity, ownership and governance structures. This collaborative atmosphere encourages knowledge sharing, sparks innovation, accelerates technology transfer, and assists in transforming research findings into commercially viable products.
Additionally, science parks are often seen as catalysts for national economic progress, prompting the establishment of new high-tech enterprises, drawing foreign investment and enhancing exports.
This could also be a reason why Switzerland is now pushing for widespread solar panel farms that would need to be inspected, which could be done through drones or drones to support the attempt to reduce the number of carbon emissions produced by the country.
The Bern Economic Development Agency (BEDA) is an organisation dedicated to strengthening and developing the business landscape in the Canton of Bern. Through a variety of criteria and established legal practices, BEDA supports projects, companies and plans aimed at fostering economic growth and innovation within the region.
As a key point of contact for businesses seeking support within the cantonal administration, BEDA provides comprehensive advice and targeted services to companies based in Bern. The agency assists businesses in navigating their interactions with both public and private sector organizations, ensuring they connect with the appropriate resources and contacts.
Support offered by BEDA includes financial assistance for investment projects, export plans, business establishment or relocation, and selected Innosuisse projects. Tax breaks may also be available in consultation with tax authorities. In collaboration with be-advanced AG and the Switzerland Innovation Park Biel/Bienne, BEDA offers to coach start-ups and SMEs.
The scope of financial support provided depends on the specific project, and businesses eligible for support include those based in Bern, new businesses and foreign companies with innovative, growth-oriented investment projects and forward-looking strategies targeting national or international markets.
Peter Kistler is currently the Senior Project Manager of Foreign Investment at Bern Economic Development Agency (BEDA). His primary role is to ensure the success of Bern-based organisations and foster a robust economic environment in Bern, where he has been working since 2013.
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