A 300-year long tradition of innovation | High-tech technology from the watchmaking heritage | Mastery along the entire value chain | Inventions that revolutionised the everyday
A 300-year long tradition of innovation
Part of the ‘DNA’ of the State, the people of Neuchâtel can truly claim to have innovation in their blood. The Neuchâtel identity has deep historical roots, as for centuries, both the city and the region has made innovation its primary source of economic development.
In the 18th century, mountain farmers found in the watch industry a source of additional income during the winter months, whilst lace and printed textiles (known as "Indiennes") occupied others in the lower countryside.
Watchmaking quickly became the primary source of income and a need to open up to the wider world soon became clear. Neuchâtel watchmakers left to explore Europe, and later America and Asia, in order to develop new business opportunities. These early entrepreneurs undeniably had a flair for international relations as, still today, Neuchâtel remains strongly orientated towards exports whilst being welcome and open to the rest of the world.
High-tech technology from the watchmaking heritage
The people of the State of Neuchâtel soon realised that their inventions could be used in domains other than watchmaking. Quickly mastering the art of the infinitesimally small and excelling in precision work and reliability, they translated their skills to other leading edge applications, notably in the field of nanotechnologies. Today, microchips, new materials, sensors and other microtechnology components developed in Neuchatel are used not only in watchmaking but also in medical, electronic, aerospace or renewable energy devices.
Mastery along the entire value chain
The people of Neuchâtel are not only visionaries able to anticipate needs, but they know how to dream up innovative solutions - and to execute them. Over the centuries, they have developed the leading-edge machines needed to manufacture their products and have ceaselessly implemented new processes of industrialisation.
The State boasts a deep concentration of applied research institutes and companies active in new technologies, which reinforces the synergies between research and industry. As such, microsystems or microchips used for example in the medtech, aerospace or watchmaking industries have been developed at CSEM, the Swiss Centre for Electronics and Microtechnology, based in Neuchâtel city.
Thanks to high levels of specialisation and first-rate academic institutions, the State has, among its other benefits, become a veritable hothouse of skills along the entire value chain, from research to commercialisation, via production, marketing, law, finance and IT. This is coupled with a formidable capacity for senior executives to weather crises, thanks to their flair for innovative solutions and an uncommon ability to react appropriately.
Inventions that revolutionised the everyday
Not content to create products that marry very high technology with aesthetics, the people of Neuchâtel have shown themselves to be true visionaries when it comes to thinking up practical and novel solutions.
For example, the automata developed by the watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz in the 18th century are considered the ancestors of modern computers.
Two hundred years later, the watchbrand Tissot developed its famous tactile watch, the T-Touch, created in conjunction with Asulab (the central R&D laboratory of the Swatch Group). Today this technology is widely used in mobile telephony and IT applications.
With the creation of the ‘Precimed’ heartbeat stimulator in 1978, Luc Tissot from Le Locle opened up new horizons by transposing watchmaking techniques into the medical world.
With the advent of the motorcar at the start of the 20th century, Louis Chevrolet, from La Chaux-de-Fonds, distinguished himself by founding the famous automobile brand of the same name.
A few years later, Chevrolet’s compatriot, architect Le Corbusier, revolutionized city planning. His "cité radieuse" in Marseille, was a veritable vertical parallelepiped village built on stilts. Le Corbusier had harnessed a building technique that dated back 5,000 years earlier, inspired by the prehistoric pile-dwelling" Palafittes" of Neuchâtel, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.