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What is a multinational and which criteria makes it Swiss? Why are there so many in Switzerland, what's their economic impact on the job market? What is a multinational and which criteria make it Swiss? Why are there so many large global firms in Switzerland and what's their economic impact on the job market? Here's a short video to answer these questions.
1 min
This summer the world's first electric-powered aircraft was certified and flew its maiden flight in Switzerland. In 1903, the Wright brothers heralded the aerial age with the world's first successful flight in a motor-powered airplane. 117 years later, a new aerial revolution is underway. This summer, the world's first electric-powered aircraft was certified in Switzerland. The Velis Electro from Slovenian manufacturer Pipistrel costs CHF188,620 ($206,00) and comes with a 78 horse-power electric motor. The company AlpinAirPlane, run by Marc Corpataux from Fribourg, imported the plane into Switzerland. As it can only remain airborne for 50 minutes, it’s used as a training plane at the moment, but it’s thought that the technology has potential for development and may lead to an increase in electric-powered short haul flights.
1 min
The inauguration of the Ceneri base tunnel in southern Switzerland marks the symbolic completion of the Alptransit project. The inauguration of the Ceneri base tunnel in southern Switzerland on Friday marks the symbolic completion of the Alpine rail link project. The idea to dig the three tunnels under the Alps was approved by Swiss voters in 1992. The Ceneri, which extends over 15.4 km, is not as spectacular as the Gotthard, the world’s longest railway tunnel. But the new tunnel connecting Camorino and Lugano in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino will help extend high-speed rail connections between northern and southern Europe. For example, it will shorten the 3 hour-40-minute Zurich-Milan rail journey by 23 minutes. and play a big role for the mobility of the Italian-speaking canton, slashing travel times between Locarno and Lugano, for example. The inauguration, which was planned for 650 people, will take place in a reduced format. Because of the pandemic the project was also slightly delayed. The first passenger trains will start using the tunnel in December when the timetable is updated. Several long-distance connections will be introduced in April 2021.
2 min
Switzerland is eye-wateringly pricey. But do the people earning a Swiss wage see these sky-high costs the same way? You might have experienced it first-hand, or even just heard the legendary tales: Switzerland is eye-wateringly pricey. But do the people earning a Swiss wage see these sky-high costs the same way? Get this question and many others answered in this episode of ‘Switzerland Explained’ by SWI swissinfo.ch. Compared with the European average, most products are more expensive in Switzerland. And the Swiss are very much aware of the price differences. A recent study concluded that Swiss businesses and consumers could save over CHF3.3 billion ($3.6 billion) a year if they were able to source such products abroad directly. However, despite the high prices in Switzerland, the population’s financial situation is relatively more comfortable than that of neighbouring countries – and of most countries in the European Union. Nevertheless, some 660,000 people in Switzerland are still living under the poverty line. [This article was updated on August 26, 2020. The following incorrect sentence was removed: '1 in 8 people has difficulty making ends meet']
6 min
A start-up lets you make a Swiss mechanical watch and take it home with you at the end of the day. Imagine assembling your own Swiss mechanical watch and taking it home with you at the end of the day. swissinfo.ch tried out the popular new concept run by Jura start-up Initium. For fans of Swiss timepieces, the watchmaking world can sometimes seem like an impenetrable castle. The uninitiated rarely get the chance to observe or even touch delicate mechanical watch parts. This is what gave Mathieu Gigandet and Gilles Francfort the idea of creating Initium five years ago. Their start-up offers beginner watchmaking courses open to all ages. The firm, which employs eight people, has workshops in Noirmont, canton Jura, and in Geneva and Zurich. It proposes various half- and full-day courses, which cost from CHF1,690-2,690 ($1,860-2,950). The price includes a handmade watch – created by yourself. The little-known concept has taken off in recent years. Several rival firms now also offer similar courses. Today, Initium faces an uphill challenge as it attempts to rebuild its business amid the difficult economic situation resulting from the coronavirus lockdown. Fewer foreign tourists, who made up half of all visitors to Initium’s Geneva workshop, are taking the courses. This has caused a big dent to the start-up’s finances.
6 min
Swiss couple Helene and Thomas Stohr run their own bakery in Massachusetts. Every day, they produce an array of Swiss and European treats. Swiss couple Helene and Thomas Stohr run their own bakery in Massachusetts. Every day, they produce an array of Swiss and European treats, including croissants, jelly doughnuts and braided bread. From a young age, the Stohrs dreamed of seeing the world, so they left Lucerne for North America 20 years ago. Thomas, a professional baker, worked in Canada and the US for various eateries, including Mövenpick, while Helene looked after their sons Tobias and Nicolas. The push to launch their own bakery came from the boys, who missed homestyle crusty bread. As orders increased, the Stohrs eventually converted their spare room and watched the business expand like fresh dough. Today, the whole family contributes to the success of swissbäkers. They now have three stores in the greater Boston Area, including the central bakery café complete with a Swiss-themed playground. The warm-hearted Stohrs refer to their employees as “guest huggers”, although Covid-19 has forced them to adapt their business in some creative ways.
3 min
Switzerland’s Alpine farmers are suffering from a lack of volunteers from the EU due to closed borders. The Catholic charity Caritas has appealed for 1,000 volunteers to see them through the rough patch. There’s a lot to do – milking cows, making hay, raking stones, chopping wood and fixing fences. The farmers are offering a rich learning experience against a backdrop of pristine Alpine scenery. Caritas often intervenes to help farmers in need. Volunteers, often from abroad, can opt to work on farms with particularly low incomes. But because of Covid-19, only one third of the normal potential volunteer pool is available this year. The borders are set to open in mid-June but it is unclear how many foreign volunteers will be free to help. Beatrice Klaus, who’s normally employed as a passenger assistant at Zurich Airport, volunteered as she doesn’t have much work at the moment. She travelled to Alp Ruodsperri above Melchtal in canton Obwalden to help farmers Res and Karin Gasser. She says it’s hard physical graft but very rewarding.
1 min
Swiss people are being discouraged from travelling abroad, even after the borders open, because of the continuing danger of catching Covid-19. Many are therefore booking holiday homes in Switzerland instead. Reservations are said to have quadrupled on one large holiday home site. Swiss residents have been told by the government that they will not be stopped from leaving, but many neighbouring countries are set to keep their borders closed for the foreseeable future and that vacations in Switzerland would be preferred. There are plenty of guesthouses open for business, as well as farms with guest rooms, alpine huts and heritage buildings. Most holiday homes have cooking facilities for families who would rather avoid restaurants for the moment. Hotels are likely to have plenty of rooms available because of the shortfall in foreign tourists. As parks and mountain railways prepare to open, they are prioritising safety. The Arosa Bear Sanctuary in the eastern canton of Graubünden has designed a path that helps visitors keep a distance from each other. People planning to ride on Jungfrau region trains in the Bernese Alps can book seats and even whole carriages for their families, to avoid contact with the public. Many holidaymakers prefer to avoid public transport, however, and drive to their holiday destinations instead.
1 min
Swiss companies overcome supply bottlenecks and ramp up mask production. Switzerland has struggled to import enough face masks to protect its population, but help is in sight. A company in the northeastern canton of St Gallen has just started producing them in large numbers. Flawa Consumer GmbH is planning to make several hundred thousand pieces per week of the universal masks intended for individuals and companies rather than hospital staff. Production began a few days ago. The company had planned to start production in March, but the corona crisis has taken its toll on deliveries of raw materials. CEO Claude Riese was able to purchase supplies in Germany and Poland, while the nose clip and elastic bands are made in Switzerland. Smaller companies are also working around the clock to help contribute to domestic supplies. Lanz-Anliker in canton Bern produces mostly handmade reusable masks, and plans to step up production from 2,000 to 3,000 per day. Wero, a company in canton Aargau, is starting to produce hygiene masks for health professionals. Meanwhile, in a change from his regular business of real estate, hotels and restaurants, a Geneva-based businessman is now chartering planes from China to bring in more ready-made masks. Abdallah Chatila, director of m3 Groupe, has ordered 140 million masks.
46 s
Production has been stepped up at a company in eastern Switzerland that makes breathing machines. Production has been stepped up at a company in eastern Switzerland that makes breathing machines, as health services struggle to help a growing number of coronavirus patients. Switzerland is one of the countries most affected by the virus, with more than 17,800 positive tests and more than 488 deaths. There are 82 intensive care units, which have a total of 950-1,000 beds; around 850 of these are equipped with respirators. The army has around 100 additional respirators and has ordered 900 more. Switzerland is not alone in depending on this equipment to support the lives of people with serious breathing difficulties. The Hamilton respirators made in Ems, canton Graubünden, are shipped all over the world. Around 100 new machines leave the factory every day. This is a portrait of Laura Werth, one of Hamilton's dedicated employees, who works seven days a week to help out in this crisis. Her job is to calibrate the respirators. "I try to keep cool and calm in this situation, not to panic," she told Swiss public television, SRF. "And every day I come to work in the knowledge that I’m doing something good."
1 min
While most businesses have temporarily shut down, others are starting up or finding new ways to reach the public in their homes. Some Swiss farm shops, like Thierry Miauton's in Oleyres, canton Vaud, are delivering local produce to people’s doorsteps, so the clients don’t have to risk possible contact with virus-contaminated shoppers in supermarkets. The well-stocked farm shop can hardly keep up with demand and has taken on volunteers to help pack the produce. Sales have quadrupled since the government recommended that all citizens stay at home. Home food deliveries have been around for a while, but there are some new cultural services that can also be enjoyed by the public in their front rooms. For instance, now you can tap into a rich archive of films from different eras, thanks to the “Lichstspiel”cinematheque association in Bern. The association maintains a unique collection of cinematographic material, which it is sharing with the public via livestream. The programme also includes live presentations from cultural experts. But if you’re more of a radio than a film buff, there’s a new online service called Radio 40, set up by two artists from Lausanne whose performances were cancelled because of the virus. Agathe Raboud and Semion Sidorenko wanted to create a platform for DJs and music performers. Listeners are invited to contribute to the featured artists, who are finding it hard to make a living in the current climate.
2 min
Jon-Andri Bisaz-Schnyder, who runs a pharmacy in Bern, explains what can be done about the supply chain problem. Coronavirus is putting a strain on the medical supply chain, causing shortages of some vital drugs in Switzerland. swissinfo.ch talked to Jon-Andri Bisaz-Schnyder, who runs the Murifeld pharmacy in Bern, about what can be done about the problem and how he sees the situation developing.
1 min
Innovative distillers in Bern have stopped producing gin in favour of hand sanitiser. The Matte Brennerei distillery says it’s improvising in order to save its business and help people fend off coronavirus contamination. Washing your hands with alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses. From Monday, the distillery started using the strong alcohol intended for making gin, absinthe and vodka to produce its 'Desilat' disinfectant hand rub instead. Extra amounts of ethanol and packing materials have been ordered and they just have to top up the alcohol with a few additives to make it skin friendly. They have rented a former boxing club venue to store the bottles with their unassuming labels. The client is the Coop, one of Switzerland’s largest supermarket chains. When gin becomes more of a tonic The Matte Brennerei, set up in 2016 with the help of crowd funding, runs a bar offering regular tasting sessions and gin-making workshops, which normally supplement the company’s income. But things went quiet when the virus began to spread and Switzerland went into lockdown, so they had to find new ways of keeping their five employees in a job. In the meantime, demand for disinfectant increased with pharmacies and supermarkets unable to keep up with demand. The Federal Office of Public Health gave distilleries a special dispensation so they could top up supplies. Now the Matte Brennerei staff are working flat out to get the orders ready. Deputy director Adrian Gass told swissinfo.ch, “Two weeks ago everybody thought we were crazy. Then one week ago everybody thought, “maybe it’s a good idea”. And now everybody thinks, “where are you with your stuff?” "Gin is still our thing" Demand for disinfectant is so strong that the Bern distillery is planning to team up with other partners if they can’t cope. However, Adrian Gass does not expect to continue with hand sanitiser production indefinitely. “I don’t think we can compete once all the bigger companies start mass producing again. It’s a good thing that we could jump in this gap and help out, and also keep our revenues going.” The Matte Brennerei is not the only drinks producer helping out in a crisis. On the website of the Schwab distillery in Oberwil near Büren, also in canton Bern, they write: “We can supply you with either high-proof alcohol or disinfectant we produce ourselves”.
2 min
(SRF/swissinfo.ch)
56 s
Largest cross-border regional rail network in Europe launched in Geneva. Commuters got their first proper taste on Monday of what's been hailed as the largest cross-border regional rail network in Europe, the Léman Express. The network, which opened officially on Sunday, is the result of decades of planning and almost eight years of construction work. It offers a fast cross-city rail link from Geneva's central train station to Annemasse in France. The regional cross-border network is much bigger, extending across into canton Vaud in Switzerland and the Haute-Savoie and Ain regions in France. Once fully operational, officials estimate that 50,000 people will take one of the 40 Léman Express trains criss-crossing the network every day. The new rail network is aimed at cutting road traffic and commuting times. Currently, about half a million vehicles cross Geneva’s borders from France and canton Vaud every day, snarling up local roads in rush hour. Commuters from France are attracted by the higher wages in Switzerland, among other things.
46 s
Swiss lakes are facing a new threat: molluscs. The Quagga mussel, originally from the Black Sea, is spreading rapidly in Swiss lakes and gobbling... Swiss lakes are facing a new threat: molluscs. The Quagga mussel, originally from the Black Sea, is spreading rapidly and gobbling up the food that fish need. The worst-hit area is Lake Constance, where 15,000 Quagga mussels per m2 cover the lakebed. The invasive species has also been found in lakes Neuchâtel and Geneva. The Quagga mussels, measuring up to 40mm, were first noticed in the bed of Lake Constance in 2016. The species is a prolific breeder and a major threat to indigenous fish. They are prodigious filterers, removing substantial amounts of phytoplankton from the water and decreasing the food source for zooplankton – small, floating animals that fish need to eat to survive. Water supply threat They also disrupt water supplies by clinging to and blocking supply pipes. Four extra staff had to be hired at Lake Constance to remove them. Ozone is used to kill the Quagga mussels’ larvae. Sand filters then remove them from the water. A spokesperson from the Lake Constance Water Supply Association said they expect to spend millions in their efforts to eliminate the threat to water supplies. The Swiss federation, various cantons and the European Union have invested several million francs into a research project at the Water Research Institute of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, to find out more about the mollusc and its effect on the ecosystem. The Quagga mussel originally comes from the Black Sea catchment area and was introduced by boats or even, possibly, from the Rhine via waterfowl. The species has also hit fish stocks in the Great Lakes of North America, with scientists blaming the effects the mussels have had on the lake’s food chain.
1 min
On November 19, 1999, after eight years of construction, the Vereina Tunnel opened in eastern Switzerland. Connecting the Landquart – Davos Platz and the Bever – Scuol-Tarasp lines, the tunnel is 19 kilometres long and the journey through takes 18 minutes. In 20 years, it has brought various improvements to locals, tourists, and businesses. However, its construction had initially been opposed by some as it was feared that the tunnel would lead to increased road traffic and a decline in the Romansh language. The tunnel was built to improve all-weather transport links in the eastern part of Canton Graubünden, as the Flüela Pass is prone to heavy snowfall and avalanches in the winter months. The hourly regional train service between Scuol-Tarasp and Chur is also complemented by freight trains and car shuttle trains transporting road vehicles. In 2019, an estimated 500,000 will travel through the largely single-track tunnel. The planners had assumed a volume of 400,000 vehicles a year. The increased use of the tunnel has prompted for a boost in investments on the part of the Rhaetian Railways.
59 s
The cantonal authorities hope the Genilac project can cut 70,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per year by 2035. When it is complete in 2035, the Genilac project, which cools and heat buildings in Geneva using lake water, will be the biggest thermal exchange network in Switzerland. Some 30 kilometres of water pipes will be laid, extending the network to the city centre, the airport, Grand-Saconnex, Bellevue, Pregny-Chambésy, the “Praille Acacias Vernets” district and the Geneva University Hospital. They will be connected to a CHF800 million ($805 million) new pumping station under construction. The cantonal authorities hope it can cut 70,000 metric tonnes of CO2 per year, or the equivalent released by 7,000 homes, by 2035.
1 min
When two Swiss students went for a jog in the eastern Swiss region of St Gallen, they couldn’t help but notice the unpicked heaps of apples... When two Swiss students went for a jog in the eastern Swiss region of St Gallen, they couldn’t help but notice the unpicked heaps of apples scattered across meadows, orchards and private gardens. Instead of letting them go to waste, they turned to another underused resource, people with disabilities, to pick the apples. Then they made juice. That was the genesis of Gartengold, a socially and environmentally minded company to the core. Its business model is firmly anchored on the three Ps – profit, people planet – known in management circles as the Triple Bottom Line. That business concept is gaining traction in Switzerland, where more and more companies are getting B Corp Certification, recognition that they are successfully balancing profit with purpose.
1 min
Born in Switzerland, Eric Gutknecht came to the US with his parents. Today he runs a sausage factory in Colorado. Born in Zurich, Eric Gutknecht came to the US with his parents when he was a little boy. Today he runs a sausage factory in Colorado. Gutknecht did two charcuterie-making apprenticeships in Switzerland. His professional experience includes teaching economics and working as a business analyst. In 2003, he and his wife, Jessica, took over the family sausage business in Denver. Today, CharcūtNuvo provides grocery stores and Swiss clubs all over the United States with traditional Swiss-style Bratwursts as well as more unusual varieties, like chicken-spinach and mac-n-cheese. The factory uses European production techniques and even some Swiss equipment. “We try to get our supplies from within a 500-mile radius,” says Gutknecht, adding that the meat, which comes from smaller farms, is not treated with antibiotics or hormones. “The challenge is getting it fresh. Sometimes we have to buy frozen.” The award-winning company has also launched an organic line. “I miss Swiss things like Ragusa and Rivella,” says Gutknecht, who hasn’t lived in Switzerland since his apprenticeship time. He has a 17-year-old son and a 15-year-old daughter, so there is some chance of passing on the family business.
2 min