Geneva is home to many NGO organisations and inter-governmental organisations such as the UN as well as a large number of corporate headquarters offices; as such it provides a multi-lingual international hub within easy reach for a global audience. Furthermore, the state of Geneva and the Swiss government are providing fantastic support for the European Future Energy Forum in 2011, as Cleantech becomes a fast growing industry across Switzerland.
The hub of green invention
How Geneva is positioning, itself for the growth of cleantech
Geneva has been at the forefront of thinking about sustainable development since 1987, when the ground breaking report of the Brundtland Commission, “Our Common Future”, popularized the concept. Mankind, that report warned, must either curtail growth or develop new technology able to balance development with environmental limitations. Yet, 23 years after “Our Common Future” was launched from Geneva, we are still struggling to incorporate this fact into short-term economic realities.
Suddenly, the pace has quickened. Not only has global warming and rapidly depleting stocks of fossil fuels focused attention, but there is now another incentive: the clear and tremendous economic potential represented by sustainable technology itself.
The next decade should be an interesting industrial era as governments and corporate management the world over channel resources into developing so-called “cleantech”. A fascinating array of new technology and ideas are already hitting the market. The hope is that the Cleantech Revolution will solve environmental and energy pressures and make the economic landing a soft one.
“Environmental is the next challenge,” says Daniel Loeffler, Director of the Geneva Economic Development Office, “and we must develop an industry able to respond to this shift. That means new business opportunities in terms of environmentally friendly energy and waste treatment.”
The Lake Geneva Region is positioned to have a privileged corner on the development of cleantech. First, Geneva is a major economic hub of a nation that itself has an enviable position. Some 160,000 Swiss (4.5 percent of the country’s total employment) are already active in cleantech and Switzerland has a reputation for both performance and innovation, obvious prerequisites for excellence in this new field.
Second, any new industry needs money and cleantech needs more than most. Geneva is fortunate in that the Swiss have a track record in sustainable and cleantech investing. Geneva-based private bankers Lombard Odier Darier Henstch and Pictet et Cie. Were among the first banks to offer socially responsible investment funds, while one of the top venture capitalist firms, Index Ventures, is also based in Geneva.
Third, the Lake Geneva Region has top research universities and labs and innovative companies that can bring their findings to market. “Geneva has the concentration of knowledge to develop a cluster with key players like Dupont and ABB Secheron, innovative new companies like Dalkia, an excellent R&D base and the stimulus of public and private projects,” says Daniel Loeffler.
Fourth, Geneva is a hub of research, lobbying and planning concerning the environment and sustainability-related issues. Such international organisations, NGOs and innovation/trade actors as the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Intellectual Property Organisation, the International Emissions Trading Association (working to develop an active, global greenhouse gas market), the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, and the WWF (which just signed its new global partnership with Procter & Gamble to develop sustainable practices for the consumer-driven industry) all have headquarters or major offices here.
The cleantech cluster
Finally, Geneva has political will to make the most its assets. Over the past year, public authorities at the national, regional and cantonal level have made their support clear for the development of a cleantech cluster. A federal Master Plan for developing Switzerland’s cleantech industry is now under development; the Western Switzerland region has launched the Cleantech Alps cluster; and the Geneva Department of Regional Affairs, Economy and Health recently mandated an independent analysis by Claude Béglé, General Director of SymbioSwiss, that calls for the creation of a cleantech “catalyser” including an incubator and an international centre for corporate policy on cleantech.
(source: article from www.whygeneva.ch produced by the department of regional affairs, economy and health, Geneva Economic Development Office)
The opportunity of cleantech growth
"Since the Industrial Revolution, we have been in permanent debt to the future in terms of energy and the environment. We must now reflect on how we can have growth that is not based on this debt. I see this as not just an opportunity but as a duty. Cleantech is a means of preserving economic growth by orienting our industry to sustainable resources. The issue is complex, but in complexity lies opportunity.
For Geneva, cleantech is an opportunity to sustain, develop and diversify our economic base in innovative fields. For companies based here, Geneva's strategy of innovation offers exciting new business opportunities.
The Lake Geneva Region has all of the elements to make the most of this historic opportunity. It is part of Cleantech Alps, a new hub of innovative companies and R&D institutes in the seven cantons of Western Switzerland. The Lake Geneva Region has world-class universities and engineering schools active in developing new materials and techniques as well as fundamental science. It has a concentration of expertise in the dense network of international bodies and NGOs based here. Geneva is also the home of a number of companies in very different sectors, like Merck Serono, Rolex and Pictet et Cie., whose commitment to cleantech shows even in the architecture of their headquarters.
Convinced that it is both possible and necessary to reconcile environment and economic value creation, the Swiss authorities, both on national and federal levels, have undertaken concrete steps to promote the development of the clean technologies. In this context, hosting an event of such statue as the European Future Energy Forum is appropriate to embody our commitment towards those aims."
Pierre-Francois Unger, Minister of Regional Affairs, Economy and Health, Republic and State of Geneva