Without personal contacts, all digitalization is meaningless
In recent years, both society as a whole and the economy have undergone major changes. New – sometimes disruptive – technologies and topics, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, automation and data ethics occupy our everyday lives. In an interview with Maya Bundt, Cyber Practice Leader at Swiss Re and Mark Meuldijk, Partner, Data & Analytics and Intelligent GRC at KPMG Switzerland, we want to explain the relevance of these developments and how sustainably they will change our lives, the world of work and the economy.
Culture cannot be changed overnight and certainly not with technology as the supposed driver of cultural change. It takes time and leadership to change cultures. Two rare commodities.
Mark Meuldijk: What opportunities is digital innovation opening up for Switzerland?
Maya Bundt: Actually, it is a fairly large field that is opening up here. In Switzerland, we have great innovative capacity in the field of technology. The many start-ups or spin-offs from technical universities are good examples of this. The extent to which they also achieve international breakthroughs and the marketability of their products is another question.
Innovation alone is not enough. The market also needs to be ready for the new ideas and products. I remember the arrival of the concept of blockchain. The whole world was looking for applications for it in a panic. It then took around six years for the first meaningful business applications to arrive. And it will certainly take a while for this technology to become established in the global economy and deliver broad benefits.
But back to Switzerland. With the ETH Zurich and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) as well as our universities of applied sciences, we are very well positioned to be up there with the leaders.
So, Switzerland is one of the most innovative countries in the world?
Many studies actually say that. Sometimes, however, I wonder whether we in Switzerland have the right environment for the best possible development of innovative ideas.
As already mentioned, what is important for innovation are the universities, universities of applied sciences and also companies that find the right conditions in Switzerland. Money is also available for investments and financing, which is a decisive factor. What worries me at the moment is that Switzerland could lose its links with European research institutions because we are no longer associated with the EU's Horizon research programs for political reasons.
Another factor that we cannot argue away is the relatively small size of the Swiss market. An innovation can only become accepted if it successfully masters the transfer of technology from research to the market. And if the home market is too small, you have to think about international expansion early on, which is always complex and often goes wrong.
How does a company recognize which technology is hype and which promises sustainable success?
Actually, that is not easy. A company must always start from its own business. The question is: What is our business strategy and what do we need in order to implement our business strategy?
We often make the mistake of starting from a technological innovation and then asking, "What can we do with it?". That is the wrong approach. Do our customers need and want this innovation? Does this make our product or service better, safer, faster or cheaper? These are the crucial questions. A company does not need a digitalization strategy, but rather a business strategy; digitalization can drive or support the business strategy.