According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 23% of adults and 81% of adolescents attending school worldwide are not physically active enough. Lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as strokes, diabetes and cancer. Regular exercise also protects the brain (memory, language and learning) from age-related damage.
New technologies contribute to education programs and the promotion of sport in general, as well as to regular and safe practice. In particular, precision technologies for personal tracking (quantified self), based on sensors (watches, clothing) and real-time analysis help increase comfort and performance and reduce physiological risks. They also enable the development of online medicine for continuous remote diagnosis and monitoring, particularly for the treatment of chronic diseases and addictions, as well as support for the elderly.
Switzerland enjoys a density of international sports organizations that is unique in the world : there are 38 in total, including 25 in the Canton of Vaud, close to the International Olympic Committee, established in Lausanne since 1915. The most popular sports federations have their headquarters in Switzerland, such as soccer (FIFA and UEFA), cycling and athletics. Numerous bodies linked to sports management are also established here, such as the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which plays the same role in the Olympic world as the Court of The Hague among nations. Switzerland’s neutrality, political stability, tax exemptions specific to international federations and quality of life make it a logical choice for sports organizations. Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, had thus motivated his choice : “ Olympism will find in the independent and proud atmosphere to be breathed in Lausanne, the guaranty of freedom it needs to progress. ”
Sport plays an important role in daily life in comparison. Switzerland is ranked in the top three of Europe’s most sporty nations with more than 80% of its inhabitants meeting the recommendations for physical activity. The proportion of the population that does at least three hours of activity per week has risen from 44% to 51% over the past six years. The proportion of people who describe themselves as non-athletes has dropped from 26% to 16%.
The economic sector related to the practice of sports is well developed, with a quality infrastructure for mountain skiing and water sports. A few hidden champions have managed to establish themselves in the middle and high-end segments of cycling (BMC, SCOTT, Stromer) and skiing (Stöckli) for example. The most promising start-up at the moment is On Running, described in the previous chapter. Many companies are innovating in personal tracking (Gait Up, Magnes, Myotest), smart materials (BComp) or digital platforms (I believe in you) or image analysis tools (uniqFEED, Seervision, Bodygee).
Switzerland has failed to build a connected watch industry for medical and sports use. Yet it is a major development opportunity for a country that is very active in watchmaking, micro-technology and health. It is even a strategic imperative on the defensive level ! Many projects have been launched, both by large (Swatch, Hublot) and small companies (Ava Women, Limmex, MyKronoz), but without reaching critical mass. Switzerland started with a massive delay compared digital Giants, such as Apple and Samsung. This is very worrying. The watchmaking ecosystem, so efficient for traditional watches, seems passive on the subject. Some CEOs of digital start-ups trusted with me that they have a hard time capturing the attention of watch leaders regarding digital issues.
It is therefore necessary to fundamentally rethink the issue of connected wearables(watches, jewelry, clothing, glasses etc.). If watchmakers and jewelers do not invest massively in this sector, should the leadership on this subject be taken by the digital players, because it is indeed an online platform ? Or those in the health and well-being sector ? After all, they are the primary beneficiaries of the physiological data captured. Should Roche, Novartis, Nestlé or Swisscom be actively involved ? Or should they simply wait for GAFAM and Samsung to set up connected health mega platforms integrating ecosystems of biometric sensors (watches, blood pressure monitors, sleep sensors etc.) and digital applications (medical, sports, environmental etc.) ? Should we, as investors, have the sole ambition to resell Swiss start-ups, and therefore Swiss know-how and innovation, to these global platforms ?
Unfortunately, this is currently the only way out. To break out of this vicious circle, a Swiss player must consolidate this sector with an ambitious acquisition strategy, as the historic Swiss champions know very well how to do. Could Fitbit (acquired by Google) and Withings not have been bought to launch the foundations of a Swiss connected watch with the ambition of becoming the European leader and the first credible alternative to Apple (55% market share) and Samsung (14%) ?
- To become the leading sports innovation cluster in Europe, particularly around watches, accessories and connected clothing
- To be a Swiss mega cluster of wellness in the broadest sense (Health & Wellness Valley). The sport-tech cluster is important in terms of image for Switzerland and as a complement to the pharmaceutical and food clusters.
- Three start-ups valued at more than CHF 1 billion