Innovation is highly supported at the Hightech Zentrum Aargau in Brugg

Industry 4.0: How Businesses in Aargau are Mastering Technological Change

March 25, 2016 • Global Business, INNOVATION, SPECIAL FEATURES, Strategic Spotlight, STRATEGY & MANAGEMENT, TECHNOLOGY

Businesses operating in Switzerland are particularly exposed to global competition. High production costs and the strong Swiss franc mean that they are forced to constantly optimise their business processes. The fourth industrial revolution presents an additional challenge. The high-tech Canton of Aargau offers companies an attractive location for doing business, active support and extensive technological expertise in Industry 4.0.

The Canton of Aargau is the fourth-largest canton in Switzerland and has a strong high-tech industry. Aargau is an excellent location in terms of its transport connections as it is situated at the heart of Switzerland’s strongest economic region. Businesses benefit from attractive property and land prices, below-average taxes, moderate salary costs and liberal employment laws. Aargau is also home to world-class research institutes and educational establishments. The canton is rated AAA by Standard & Poor’s, reflecting its great attractiveness as a location.


Water influenced Aargau's industrial history. Limmat woodbridge in Baden (c) agis

Water influenced Aargau’s industrial history.
Limmat woodbridge in Baden © agis



Pioneers in industrial history

Aargau has always been one of the technological frontrunners in Swiss industrial history. Four of the five largest rivers in Switzerland converge in Aargau. Water has had a strong influence on the canton’s economic development and importance. At first, water served as a means of transportation. Later, it was used as a way of producing energy. It therefore provided the basis for some major technological advances.

Resourceful entrepreneurs in Aargau recognised the potential of new technologies early on. These pioneers laid the foundations for the success that Aargau’s high-tech industry now enjoys. To give some examples:

The oldest water supply structure in Switzerland is in Aargau: the water pipeline from Hausen to Vindonissa dates from Roman times and still exists today.

Switzerland’s first railway line, opened in 1847, went from Zurich to Baden in Aargau. Many Swiss and international travellers took the Schweizer Nordbahn to enjoy the healing springs in the spa town of Baden.

A milestone was reached in 1891 when Charles Eugene Lancelot Brown and Walter Boveri founded the BBC (now known as ABB Schweiz AG) in Baden. This led to the creation of today’s unique cluster of energy and electrical engineering companies in the east of Aargau.




Industry 4.0: the fourth industrial revolution

A new technological change is on the horizon with the digitalisation of industry. The term “Industry 4.0” is used to describe the organisation and management of the entire value chain throughout the product life cycle. The Internet of Things involves networking production machines with one another and thereby designing entire manufacturing processes more efficiently. It is based on real-time availability of all the relevant information as a result of networking all parts of the value chain together, and on the ability to use the data to devise the optimal value stream at any time.

This development offers a range of different opportunities:

It can significantly increase competitiveness, with forecasts suggesting productivity increases of 2.6% a year.

Real-time information can be used to reduce inventory costs and expenditure on staff, logistics, quality control and production.

Businesses can only remain competitive if the complexity of the value chain is successfully managed.

Optimising communication and transparency throughout the value chain helps businesses to plan and implement their products more effectively.

Innovative business models and services are now possible, particularly for small and medium-sized companies.

Industry 4.0 also presents some major challenges.

Digitalisation of production involves generating, collecting, analysing and interpreting data. Such data is critical for businesses, and it is important to protect it.

Systems all have to speak a comprehensible and consistent language so that they can communicate with one another and exchange information.

Human interaction and the skills of your workforce also play a vital role in digitised production.

Independently operating machines and ‘smart’ software take decisions that affect humans. Who is responsible for these decisions and what are the potential legal consequences?


Power Electronics Advanced Research Laboratory in Dättwil,
Aargau © ABB


Support in the form of experts and research funds

Aargau is the place to be for innovative companies. Due to its proximity to renowned research institutions such as the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) and the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), companies are certain to find strong R&D partners. The government of Aargau places great stock in research and development as well as the transfer of knowledge to SMEs. For this reason, the Cantonal Executive Council launched the “Hightech Aargau” programme four years ago. Hightech Aargau promotes exchanges and collaboration between SMEs, universities and research institutes, as well as large international corporations.

The Hightech Zentrum Aargau AG offers initial consultations on issues regarding Industry 4.0. It guides and supports businesses from all sectors as they introduce innovation processes.

To ensure that local and newly settled businesses in Aargau are ready to face the challenges of Industry 4.0, five renowned Aargau organisations offer a number of services, some of which are free of charge.

In the context of “Hightech Aargau”, the institution Hightech Zentrum Aargau was founded in 2012. This high-tech consulting centre makes it easier for resident SMEs to gain access to know-how, technology, universities and industry partners. It performs innovation check-ups, analyses innovations, and looks for solutions, appropriate innovation partners and financial support. The Hightech Zentrum Aargau AG offers initial consultations on issues regarding Industry 4.0. It guides and supports businesses from all sectors as they introduce innovation processes, especially in the fields of nano and energy technology, engineering, life sciences, medical technology, information and communication technology, and micro and environmental technology.

This helps SMEs in a number of different ways. On the one hand, they can reduce the risks that the innovation process poses to the business and thereby save on the costs of innovating. On the other hand, they spend less time looking for the knowledge, technology and partners required, and conduct their own initial analysis. Companies can also take advantage of an active network of public and private research facilities and technology providers. The Hightech Zentrum Aargau also provides access to financial support at either cantonal, national or EU level. The centre also organises several practitioners’ groups. The key concept here is speed to market.

The University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW) and the Office for Innovation and Technology Transfer (FITT) offer surveys, feasibility studies and strategies, either via inexpensive student projects or Bachelor’s and Master’s dissertations. The Industry 4.0 Competence Centre has access to all the latest findings from applied research and helps to link businesses with experts at the FHNW. It facilitates Swiss and European subsidies and organises specialist events and workshops.

The Aargau Chamber of Commerce and Industry (AIHK) offers various specialist events and workshops on Industry 4.0 in collaboration with FITT. As well as advising on exporting, its Industry 4.0 consultancy services focus on providing legal advice.



PARKinnovAARE, the Swiss innovation park in Aargau
© Hornberger Architekten


PARK innovAARE, the High-Tech Business Park

Being home to the PSI, the largest research centre for natural and engineering sciences in Switzerland, Aargau offers even more opportunities for innovative companies. The PSI is a strong advocate of applying research results to the development of new industrial products and procedures. A collaborative project of the canton of Aargau and the PSI is PARK innovAARE, a high-tech business park. It will be located right on the doorstep of the PSI in Villigen. Businesses that settle at PARK innovAARE will profit from the institute’s top-flight research and unique infrastructure. Companies that settle there benefit from the proximity and direct access to the PSI’s unique large-scale research facilities, its experts and specialists and their particular and detailed know-how.


Starting up and growing the local network

To help companies and their employees settle and grow in Aargau, the Economic Promotion Department of the canton of Aargau – Aargau Services – provides a network of valuable industry contacts. The organisation acts as a direct link to both cantonal and federal authorities, easing the administrative burden of moving to a new location. There are teams to deal with migration, tax and trade registration issues, as well as consulting partners such as lawyers and tax advisers. Aargau Services networks entrepreneurs with the key trade associations, research institutes and business partners involved in Industry 4.0, and helps them to find premises for research and development, production and administration.

Please get in touch with us for more information on how you can take advantage of these services.

Aargau Services Economic Promotion

Rain 53, CH-5001 Aarau / Switzerland

Telephone: +41 62 835 24 40


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