Swiss Atlas of Digitization

Advanced digitization instead of fuzzy digitization definitions

Digitization is the technology of the hour and the future. However, the definitions of digitisation are just as varied as the discussions. With the Digitization Atlas, EconSight focuses on advanced digitization – technologies that will most likely drive digital transformation in all industries and technologies in the future. In addition to artificial intelligence, cloud computing, big data, virtual/augmented reality and encryption technologies are considered advanced digital technologies.

New findings on a detailed regional level based on a unique database

The digitization atlas shows the patent activities of companies in advanced digitization technologies in Switzerland – by company location and regionalized down to the postcode level. This makes Switzerland’s technology landscape visible in detail. It becomes clear where the most important companies have settled and which local technology clusters have formed. For the first time, by far the most comprehensive collection of regional patent data in Switzerland was used for the digitisation atlas (see below: “What are we doing new, different and better”).

Zurich is the digital centre of Switzerland

The result shows that the Zurich region is the digital centre of Switzerland. Around one third of all patents in advanced digitalisation come from companies in the canton (around 700 patents). In second place is the canton of Vaud with around 460 patents, followed by Baselwith around 200 patents and the canton of Aargau with around 150 patents.

Focus on encryption in Vaud and artificial intelligence in Basel

While Zurich is well positioned in all five technologies, the other regions have individual technological focuses. The canton of Vaud has a strong focus on encryption technologies, and around half of the patents can be attributed to these technologies. The same applies to the canton of Geneva. In Basel, 75% of advanced digitisation patents are attributable to artificial intelligence. Companies in the canton of Aargau are also primarily active in artificial intelligence (60%), while Schaffhausen has two focal points with artificial intelligence and big data. In the canton of Zug, around 45% of patents in advanced digitisation technologies are attributable to artificial intelligence, followed by Big Data with around 30%.

Kudelski leads ahead of ABB, Roche, Alphabet and IBM

Among companies, Kudelski leads with 213 patents ahead of ABB (196 patents), Roche (149 patents), Alphabet (131 patents) and IBM with 125 patents. These five companies are responsible for about one third of all Swiss patents in advanced digitalization. Accordingly, these companies are dominant in the cantons where they are headquartered. Kudelski is responsible for almost half of the advanced digitisation patents in the canton of Vaud. Roche holds two thirds of the patents in the canton of Basel-Stadt and ABB two thirds in the canton of Aargau. The canton of Zurich has a broader base with Alphabet and IBM, among other things.

Technologies dominated by a few companies

Individual advanced digitisation technologies are also strongly dominated by a few companies.  In artificial intelligence, Roche (115) and ABB (108) lead by a wide margin ahead of Alphabet (40), Nestle (39) and EPFL (39). Kudelski dominates in encryption technologies with 187 patents and thus holds as many patents as the following five companies combined. In Big Data and Cloud Computing, competencies are more widely distributed.

EPFL as by far the leading university

Switzerland’s universities are also active in advanced digitisation technologies. EPFL leads with 59 patents (39 in artificial intelligence, 11 in encryption) ahead of ETH Zurich with 17 patents (10 in artificial intelligence, 3 in encryption) and the University of Zurich with 14 patents (11 in artificial intelligence).

Company rankings in advanced digitalization

Number of patents, 2019

Advanced digitisation by canton

Number of patents, 2019

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Background: By far the largest regionalization of patent data in Switzerland

Patents are national property rights which are recorded in national databases (Swissreg, DPMA, EPO, etc.). There is no uniform database for bibliographic address information. In Europe, the database of the European Patent Office (PATSTAT) is usually used to locate inventors and/or application firms. This data is also used by the OECD and other institutions and is sufficient for most purposes. However, Patstat only covers part of the inventions relevant for Switzerland, namely EP patents and EP patent applications. Not covered are national property rights, such as Swiss patents (CH), but also no German, American, Chinese patents or worldwide patent applications (PCT/WO), even if the applicant company is located in Switzerland. In fact, PATSTAT data for Switzerland cover only about 55-60% of all effective, valid or pending patents.

EconSight has set itself the goal of regionalising Switzerland as far as possible and for the first time has achieved a coverage rate of 85%-95% (depending on the analysis). The data of the Institute of Intellectual Property (Swissreg) were used as a basis, supplemented with Patstat/EPO data and extended by available address information (in particular WO/PCT applications) from various, partly commercial databases (Lexis Nexis TotalPatentOne, Patentscope). In addition, a manual addition was carried out for multinational companies if the invention location was given on the basis of the information on inventors and unique address localization (e.g. IBM Rüschlikon, Google Zurich, Roche Basel). These patents were then assigned to postal codes, municipalities and cantons using data from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office and Swiss Post. The result is by far the most extensive regionalization of patent data in Switzerland.