Medtech Tour in Switzerland: Stories from the Road

By Victor Steininger, Junior Manager – Entrepreneurship & Innovation, June 2017

From June 12th to 16th I have been traveling to and fro in Switzerland with my colleague Swetha, to turn the gaze of Swiss innovators towards India. This may sound confusing… a Swiss student representing India in Switzerland on behalf  of a Swiss organization in the frame of his internship in India. The task is challenging but also highly rewarding. Only 4 months ago I was packing to leave for the first time my comfortable and quiet Switzerland for the unknown. And now I was standing at the interface of two nations whose apparent distance hid a goldmine of partnership opportunities. To shed light upon this potential for my Swiss fellows, I had to point out the many common points Switzerland and India share, and turn the ‘different’ into ‘complementary’. I invite you to go back with me on this week through a Swiss-Indian binocular vision.

In the perspective of swissnex India’s Medtech and Healthcare Startup Tour to be held in October, the Switzerland Medtech Roadshow was planned to get in touch with dynamic Swiss Medtech startups or actors looking at international prospects. Coming from a Life Sciences background and having an interest in innovation, I immediately jumped at the prospect.

But what is the common factor between Medtech, Switzerland and India? Let me give you a few facts. Medtech & Healthcare will be a 25 billion CHF market by 2025 in India. As a springboard for this growth, the Indian Government has recently passed new laws and regulations in harmony with international standards. Switzerland is recognized by many as the most innovative nation worldwide and medical technologies account for a large part of it. In numbers, it represents 1,500 companies and 2.5% of the country’s GDP. Finally, while the Medtech Indian market is mostly import driven, Switzerland exports 90% of its medical equipment production. With this in mind, one can imagine the opportunity India represents for Swiss startups.

We arrived in Zurich on Sunday. Summer had started and we were warmly welcomed by a blue sky and a bright sun. Starting in the biggest and most dynamic city of the country is the occasion to meet with a large spectrum of people ranging from academia to corporation, from students to entrepreneurs. Hosted in ETHZ by the Life Sciences Zurich Young Scientist Network (LSZYSN in short) we organized a session on swissnex India’s programs and the Indian Medtech ecosystem at the Hönggerberg campus. Our very attentive public of yet-to-be entrepreneurs PhDs and postdocs, medtech startups looking at the Indian opportunity and curious students showed a rewarding enthusiasm about our activities. We had the opprtunity to connect and exchange with them during the nice aperitif prepared by LSZYSN and to see two familiar swissnex India faces: Salome Aggeler & Salome Fischer.

The annual Swiss Medtech Day took place on Tuesday 13th at Kursaal, Bern. Together with our STC fellows from the London Embassy, we ran a booth advertising our offers for startups, an international touch in a lot of Swissness. I gained useful insights of the structure of the Medtech ecosystem of Switzerland and the many governmental, corporate and innovation actors driving it.

After a quick visit to Basel, our duo crossed the Röstigraben, this invisible border separating the German speaking part from the French speaking part of the country, to go to Lausanne, a goldmine for medical technologies. What a galvanizing feeling to be back on the very familiar ground of EPFL where I pursued my bachelor. However, rather than class rooms, we headed for the Innovation Park, entrepreneurship forefront of the school. Using our two hats of bioscientists and consultants we were able to understand the need of the startups and bridge their business with the Indian market.

On the last day of our roadshow, we met with entrepreneurs from the Geneva area. We discovered the latest startups from Aesthetical innovation, Geneva being one of the biggest hub worldwide for this industry. And what better ending for our Medtech Tour than this introduction to a new and exciting topic?

Looking back, this roadshow has been for me a unique opportunity to efficiently combine my Swiss background with my Indian experience. As my Swiss fellows can be lost in translation, my role is to turn अवसर into opportunities.