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The Swiss Longevity Valley: How Switzerland Will Become a Global Longevity Financial MegaHub by 2025

- By Stefan Hascoet, Partner at Deep Knowledge Group and Longevity.Capital

Key Points

        

  • Switzerland possesses completely unique strengths and synergies in the spheres of BioTech, Preventive Precision Medicine, International Policy, the Financial Industry and Advanced AI-Empowered InvestTech Solutions

  • This unique intersection of frontier technologies and domains can be leveraged to transform the nation into a world-leading Longevity Valley in the coming years

  • Its specific strengths in international finance and FinTech in particular make it poised to become the world-leading Longevity Financial Industry Hub, if its unique advantages and potentials are leveraged in the right way

  • Deep Knowledge Group has been increasing their activities in the Swiss Longevity ecosystem for some time, with the recent launch of Deep Knowledge Swiss and the Longevity Swiss Foundation, and the planned launch of AI Centres for Longevity and Financial Wellness in Switzerland, as components of the global Longevity AI Consortium, recently launched and inaugurated at King’s College London

 

As a Switzerland-based Financial Industry Professional, the nation’s unique strengths in the financial sector, and the international policy sector, have been clear to me for a long time. But it was not until I met Dmitry Kaminskiy, Co-Founder of Deep Knowledge Group, that Switzerland’s equally-unique strengths and prospects in the Longevity Industry - and its potentials to reap extremely promising synergies between these two domains - became apparent to me. I am excited to promote this agenda and to help steer the direction of ongoing Swiss-based Longevity activities towards a future that can enable the nation to become a world-class Longevity MegaHub.

        

The present article, which is an excerpt from my guest chapter in the upcoming book, “Longevity Industry 1.0: Defining the Biggest and Most Complex Industry in Human History, co-authored by Deep Knowledge Group Co-Founders Dmitry Kaminskiy and Margaretta Colangelo, distills just some of that knowledge and understanding, and outlines some of Deep Knowledge Group’s current and upcoming activities which aim to transform Switzerland’s potentials to become a leading Longevity Hub into reality.

          

Longevity Industry in Switzerland

      

Switzerland is thought to be second only to Japan in terms of the number of people who have reached 100 (Switzerland has the highest life expectancy in Europe at 83.7 years, according to Eurostat). According to a study conducted by the Institute for Social and Preventive Medicine, about 40 out of every 10,000 people born in 1900 in Switzerland made it to their 100th birthday. Life expectancy has increased by 98 per cent for men and 96 per cent for women in the past century and a half. A slight dip was due to an influenza epidemic in 1918. 

               

Switzerland is an international center of finance where investment banks are acutely aware of the demographic challenge and the incentives to do something about it. Switzerland’s financial sector is of significant importance to the national economy, employing about 5% of the total workforce and accounting for 9% of economic output. The financial sector ensures that the Swiss economy is never short of the necessary capital or financial services. Switzerland has been leading transformative developments emerging from the digitalization of its banking and financial sector. Even the Swiss Board of Advisors name now digitization as the most important topic. Switzerland is also one of the most efficiently regulated and supervised financial centers in the world today.

Switzerland has made large strides towards accommodating innovation - both domestic and foreign - in the fields of fintech, blockchain, and cryptocurrencies in the last few years. For example, there were 220 fintech companies in Switzerland by the end of 2017, with 32 new companies being incorporated throughout the year.  It is leading the digitization of financial markets and establishing itself as a catalyst for financial innovation on a global level. 10% of all global European FinTech enterprises are located in Switzerland, with 46% of them located in Zurich. Switzerland sits at one end of the BioValley, one of the leading life science clusters in Europe. The cluster is unique in that it spans across three countries Switzerland, Germany and France. This includes the global life science hub of Basel, Switzerland. BioValley brings together important ingredients for a successful biotech cluster, a concentration of companies, rich availability of skills and experience within Life Sciences and a research base that is world-class. 

                     

Switzerland spends the highest percentage of GDP on healthcare (around 11.4 percent) compared to all EU countries. Basic health insurance is compulsory in Switzerland, although you are free to choose your own Swiss health insurance company. In the EU’s latest statistics, Switzerland was the only country compared to the EU to total more than EUR 4,500 per inhabitant on healthcare expenditure. Healthcare is largely organised by Switzerland’s individual communes. The health ministers from all cantons form the Swiss Conference of the Cantonal Ministers of Public Health (GDK), which aims to promote cooperation and implement common policies between cantons.

          

Moreover, Switzerland is known to be one of the most longevity-progressive countries, and has a strong reputation of being a nation not only having high investment in biotechnology, but also as one of those most capable of integrating AI into its economic, financial, and healthcare systems.

        

What Makes Switzerland a Longevity-Progressive Country?

          

Longevity-progressive countries normally have large aging populations.

      

The Swiss population is one of the oldest on the planet. This is a consequence of low fertility, increased life expectancy (in 2018 Swiss life expectancy ranked 5th in the world, with an annual life expectancy of 83.489 years) and a societal appreciation for preventative health and healthy aging.

        

An aging population has two Longevity-progressive benefits:

⦁ Voting power: It galvanises government action. The challenges of an aging society make themselves felt at all levels, and this forces governments to confront the global 'silver tsunami' head on.

⦁ Spending power: Wealth is concentrated in the hands of the elderly, and more likely to be directed toward solutions which improve the lives of the elderly.

This voting power factor is especially strong in Switzerland because of its tradition of direct democracy and popular initiatives. As a consequence, the Swiss political establishment is acutely aware of the democratic consequences of its demographics, and has therefore taken extensive initiatives to address Switzerland’s demographic challenge. 

The digitization of finance, and novel financial systems which treat Longevity as a dividend and asset rather than a deficit will play an integral role in the future Longevity industry and economy.

Switzerland an international centre of finance where investment banks are acutely aware of the demographic challenge and the incentives to do something about it. Switzerland’s financial sector is of significant importance to the national economy, employing about 5% of the total workforce and accounting for 9% of economic output. The financial sector ensures that the Swiss economy is never short of the necessary capital or financial services. Switzerland is also one of the most efficiently regulated and supervised financial centres in the world today.

      

Switzerland therefore has all the elements necessary to become a leading Longevity financial hub, due to such factors as a lean political system that facilitates rapid implementation of integrated government programs, a strong research environment for geroscience, a strong research and business environment for digital health, and most importantly, international financial prowess.

 

Some specific programmes that Switzerland has the power to develop in the next several years include the development a Longevity progressive pension system and insurance company ecosystem that accounts for both population aging (which threatens to destabilize the current business models of insurance companies and pension funds) and the potential for widespread healthspan extension, and the development of a national strategy for intensively developing its geroscience and FinTech to a state so advanced that it propels Switzerland into a central role in the internationally competitive Longevity business ecosystem, where it can rise to become a global leader in the specific field of Longevity finance.

         

Switzerland sits at a crossroads of European geroscience, and has a strong and productive geroscience community, The Swiss Institute for Bioinformatics for example has recently identified large numbers of genetic markers directly linked to human life expectancy. The top universities in Switzerland for clinical medicine, based on their reputation and research in the field are Zurich, Bern, Basel, Geneva, Lausanne, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Switzerland is also home to the prestigious Vontobel Prize for Aging Research.

While the word “Longevity” is often associated with the likes of ‘Silicon Valley’ and the life extension community of supporters, according to the Aging Analytics Agency this may soon change. The Longevity Swiss Foundation, a Geneva-based non-profit and think-tank is aiming to turn the nation into a world-leading Longevity hub, calling it a new ‘Longevity Valley’. While tech had Silicon Valley as its incubator, Longevity will require something more powerful. It is not just about vast amounts of money for investment, nor the innovation that draws talent. It covers complex phenomena that include political drive, synergy between finance and new biotechs, and demographics that allow the new therapies to have a huge impact on the economy and people’s wellbeing.

         

Dmitry Kaminskiy was correct when he said, in a press release on the publication of Aging Analytics Agency’s Longevity Industry in Switzerland report earlier this year, that:

“Switzerland has a long-standing reputation as a hub for both international policy and the financial industry. The nation has extremely strong potentials to leverage these existing assets in order to become the leading European hotspot for the rising Longevity financial industry.”

 

In examining Switzerland’s Longevity-progressive characteristics, we find that the country possesses the following unique strengths:

     

  • A lean political system that facilitates rapid implementation of integrated government programs

  • A strong research environment for geroscience

  • A strong research and business environment for digital health

  • An abundance of political will to address the demographic challenge

  • International financial prowess

 

And the following weaknesses:

    

  • The absence of an integrated, unified Longevity business community. For example, it is a site of very many digital health summits, but not a substantial number of Longevity summits

  • The absence of any industrial strategy for Longevity, like the UK’s recognition of ‘aging in society’ as an industrial challenge

  • The heterogeneity of health data infrastructures has slowed the development of a nationwide personalised health ecosystem as compared to countries with more homogenous national health systems

 

Given Switzerland's small geographical size, and its reliance on international cooperation, its inevitable function will be as a small but important node. The most productive way forward for Switzerland, given its strengths, might be as follows:

      

  1. Develop a Longevity progressive pension system and insurance company ecosystem that accounts for both population aging (which threatens to destabilize the current business models of insurance companies and pension funds) and the potential for widespread healthspan extension

  2. Develop a national strategy for intensively developing Longevity, precision medicine and FinTech to a state so advanced that it propels Switzerland into a central role in the internationally competitive Longevity business ecosystem, where it can rise to become a global leader in the specific field of Longevity finance.

    

The Current State of Longevity Progressiveness in Switzerland

       

In a recent open-access analytical report,  “Global Longevity Governance: 50 Countries Big Data Comparative Analysis of Longevity Progressiveness”, Aging Analytics Agency performed fact-driven benchmarking of 50 nations using 200 parameters per country and 10,000 data points in total to rank their respective levels of Healthy Longevity and their current gaps between health-adjusted life expectancy and unadjusted life expectancy, and to provide tangible policy recommendations on how to optimize their National Healthy Longevity.

By identifying the factors with the greatest likelihood of enabling governments to develop integrated Longevity strategies and ecosystems to scale, and to reduce as much as possible their national gap between life expectancy and Healthy Longevity, the special analytical case study is able to offer tangible and practical recommendations tuned to the specifics of individual countries, providing the necessary set of tools to allow countries currently leading the international Healthy Longevity race to maintain and improve their current standing, and to allow countries currently lagging behind others to reduce their Healthy Life Expectancy gap and improve their comparative global standing to the mutual benefit of their citizens and their economy.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Switzerland was ranked well among the 50 countries analyzed, but was still surpassed by other nations, such as Singapore and Cyprus, indicating that Switzerland does indeed have a reputable international standing in terms of its levels of Healthy Longevity and Longevity-progressiveness, but also signalling that there is still room for improvement.

      

Some specific practical recommendations given by the special analytical case study on ways that Switzerland can work to maximize its National Healthy Longevity, minimize the gap between its  Health-Adjusted Life Expectancy and unadjusted life expectancy, include:

        

  • Greater use of medical guidelines, investments in patient safety, and the reduction of waste by improving coordination within and between different levels of care would further improve efficiency.

  • Follow trend towards greater transparency in healthcare, extending the amount of healthcare data and rising consumer expectations of patients and the public.

  • Improving financial protection and fairness of financing is becoming more important because rising premiums and OOP payments place an increasingly large financial burden on households with lower and middle incomes.

  • Enable patient-centered care with information technology systems. Embracement of technology in health care will lead to personalization and improvement of the quality of medical care through close coordination between patients, caregivers, and professionals.

  • Strengthening disease prevention and health promotion with a focus on non-communicable diseases remains an issue. Favourable living conditions in Switzerland, such as good housing conditions, a high-quality education system and low rates of unemployment contribute to healthy living conditions. 

  • Utilising Artificial Intelligence in preventive medicine. AI has great potential in terms of tackling the problem of bureaucracy and inefficient administration, relieving doctors from time-consuming administrative tasks and giving them more time to spend with their patients. By automating and improving processes, artificial intelligence can benefit both patients and medical staff. By optimising patient processing planning it can reduce the waiting time and length of stay for patients, and it can also help medical staff in their day-to-day work.  

  • Promotion of healthy lifestyle and health education, could potentially have a large impact on further improving the very good health status of the population, while avoiding the costs associated with the treatment of these diseases.
     

The Launch of the Longevity AI Consortium at King’s College London, and its Expansion into Switzerland

       

Last week Europe’s first Longevity AI Consortium (LAIC) launched at King's College London with strategic and financial support from Deep Knowledge Group and the Biogerontology Research Foundation. 

     

AI for Longevity is an underrepresented sector in the Longevity Industry despite having more potential to increase Healthy Longevity in the short term than any other sector. The Longevity AI Consortium will work to facilitate the shift from treatment to prevention and from preventive medicine to real-world precision health. The initial aim will be to identify novel longevity and healthy ageing biomarkers to accelerate diagnosis of age-related health decline. Then researchers will develop personalized physical, mental and financial health to better implement and promote healthy lifestyles for longevity, such as modifying patterns in sleep, nutrition, physical activity, environmental exposure and financial planning.

The Longevity AI Consortium will serve as the leading R&D hub and industry-academic hotspot for advanced AI-driven AI-driven personalized preventive diagnostics, prognostics and therapeutics.

This represents a paradigm shift from treatment to prevention and a new frontier - from precision medicine to precision health, enabling the UK to become the #1 global hub for the application of AI to Longevity and Precision Health. Precision Health through AI will be developed by a combination of AI-Driven Precision Diagnostics, AI-Driven Advanced Prognostics, Personalised Treatment Optimization, and AI-Driven Preventative Treatment. In addition, the Longevity AI Consortium also plans on dedicating resources to R&D in other niches where the science is ahead of the funding: e.g. microbiome diagnostics and therapeutics, recent advancements and innovations in advanced cosmetics in particular.

As part of its continuing development efforts over the next several years, the Consortium will expand to include centers in Switzerland, Israel, Singapore, United States and Japan through a £7 million commitment from Deep Knowledge Group.

The first country where the Consortium is expanding to is Switzerland. The LAIC is developing collaborative research projects with Dynamics of Healthy Ageing and the Digital Society Initiative at the University of Zurich initially funded by Deep Knowledge Ventures. The collaboration will utilize AI technologies to predict future cognitive ability of individuals using multimodal neuroimaging and risk factor data. 

 

The lead academic in Zurich will be Mike Martin, Director of DynAge and DSI, and the London team will be Richard Siow, Director of ARK, in collaboration with colleagues at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience. By mid-2020 we expect LAIC to have established several collaborative projects with University of Zurich, including some funded through the KCL Longevity AI Accelerator. The joint R&D between Ageing Research at Kings and University of Zurich forms the first phase of the global Longevity AI Consortium that will be extended to Israel, Singapore, Japan and the US.

   

A major component of the Switzerland-base AI for Longevity Center, besides cutting-edge Longevity R&D and biomarkers of Longevity research and clinical translation, will be the concept of developing AI-enabled technologies for extended wealthspan: financial wellness over prolonged healthspans.

 

The planned development of AI Centers for Financial Wellness will enable financial stability over extended periods of healthy Longevity for Swiss citizens, Applying Advances in WealthTech and AgeTech. Given both its status as an international BioTech epicentre, combined with its reputation for being one of the most progressive countries in terms of its financial industry and FinTech sector, the prospects for Switzerland to lead the world in the development of its Longevity Financial Industry are extremely strong. 

As a core component of its mission to develop Switzerland into a leading international Longevity Financial Industry hub, Longevity Swiss Foundation also plans on roadmapping the development of AI Centres for Financial Wellness. Whereas the proposed AI Centres for Longevity would focus on optimizing health, this centre would focus on the application of AI to the creation of methods and technologies to promote wellness in the elderly in all aspects of life besides health, ranging from financial wellness, continuing education, happiness, psychological well being, neuroplasticity and active social involvement.

The Recent Launch of Longevity Swiss Foundation: Making Switzerland a Leader of International Longevity Policy

Another development related to Deep Knowledge Group’s increasing interest in the Swiss Longevity sphere is the recent launch of the Longevity Swiss Foundation, a leading Geneva-based Longevity Policy Non-profit and Think Tank working to leverage the national strengths and potentials of Switzerland in order to turn the nation into a world-leading Longevity Hub through the coordinated development of Longevity Politics and Governance, the Longevity BioTech Industry, Preventive Medicine, Precision Health and the emerging Longevity Financial Industry. 

Leveraging Switzerland’s existing reputation as a hub for independent international policy organizations like the World Economic Forum, the United Nations, UNESCO, the World Health Organization and Others, Swiss Longevity Foundation aims to turn Switzerland into the leading international hub for cross-sector and cross-nation Longevity Development projects and initiatives, including:

   

  • Interfacing with Swiss Government Agencies and Representatives to Build a National Swiss Longevity Development Strategy

  • Supporting the Nation-Wide Launch of Swiss AI Centres

  • for Precision Health and AI Centres for Financial Wellness

  • Dedicated to Turning Switzerland into an International Longevity, Preventive Medicine and Precision Health Hub
     

Longevity Swiss Foundation will work with the participation of proactive corporate and institutional partners to interface with relevant Swiss governmental ministries, departments, agencies and members of Swiss Parliament to establish a National Swiss Longevity Development Framework, as well as the establishment of a parliamentary body equivalent to the United Kingdom’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Longevity, to transform the economic burden of an aging population into a source of economic growth and increased national Healthy Longevity.

           

Longevity Swiss Foundation is interested in cooperation, collaboration and initiating dialogue from a number of relevant organizations actively involved in Swiss governance, ranging from government ministries, agencies and departments, to relevant policy-focused NGOs and think-tanks, to members of Swiss Parliament in order to establish a framework for the coordinated development of the nation’s Longevity politics and governance sphere.

 

In order to bootstrap its activities in the realms of Longevity policy, politics, governance and synergetic industry development, Longevity Swiss Foundation is seeking donations from key institutional and individual sponsors that are keen to see the nation manifest its latent strengths and prospects, and become the leading Longevity nation that it has the potential to be.

           

Longevity Swiss Foundation plans to work with a number of key Swiss Longevity Industry participants and stakeholders to develop a framework and blueprint for a Government-led National Longevity Development Plan to increase the national Health-Adjusted Life Expectancy (HALE) of all Swiss citizens.

The scope of this plan also includes financial reform to boost Swiss GDP and reduce the economic burden of an aging population. In order to support this sphere of activity, Swiss Longevity Foundation is keen to work alongside large Swiss financial institutions including pension funds, insurance companies, private wealth banks and asset management firms to roadmap initiatives and policy proposals capable of turning the problem of ageing population into the economic opportunity of Healthy Longevity.of Longevity policy, politics, and scientific R&D. 

           

Conclusions

       

  • Switzerland’s existing strengths in BioTech and BioPharma, Industry-Academic Collaboration, International Policy, FinTech and the Financial Industry make it the perfectly-poised hotspot to rapidly develop the full scope of the Longevity Industry Ecosystem, encompassing biomedicine, tech and finance

  • Its specific strengths in FinTech and progressive financial products, services and solutions give it stronger prospects than any other country in the world to become the global leader specifically in the area of the Longevity Financial Industry, encompassing novel financial products and services for the elderly, fully integrated AgeTech - WealthTech solutions, and sophisticated AI and data-driven platforms for maintaining weathspan over extended periods of healthspan

  • Deep Knowledge Group is utilizing its many resources to help advance this agenda, and secure Switzerland’s place as the Longevity Valley of the near-future, by supporting the full scope of Longevity industry developments in the nation, including the Longevity Biomedicine and Financial Industries via the activities of its Switzerland-based subsidiary, Deep Knowledge Swiss, AI for Longevity via the activities of the upcoming Swiss branch of the Longevity AI Consortium, and the domain of International Longevity Policy via the activities of the Swiss Longevity Foundation.

   

Deep Knowledge Group is a consortium of commercial and non-profit organizations active on many fronts in the realm of DeepTech and Frontier Technologies (AI, Longevity, FinTech, GovTech, InvestTech), ranging from scientific research to investment, entrepreneurship, media, analytics and more. Its subsidiaries and associated organisations include Deep Knowledge Ventures, Longevity.Capital, AI-Pharma.Capital, Longevity FinTech Company, Deep Knowledge Analytics, Aging Analytics Agency, Biogerontology Research Foundation, Longevity Swiss Foundation, Longevity International UK - Secretariat for the UK All-Party Parliamentary on Longevity, and AI-Longevity Consortium at King’s College London.

           

Longevity Swiss Foundation is a leading Geneva-based Longevity Policy Non-profit and Think Tank working to leverage the national strengths and potentials of Switzerland in order to turn the nation into a world-leading Longevity Hub through the coordinated development of Longevity Politics and Governance, the Longevity BioTech Industry, Preventive Medicine, Precision Health and the emerging Longevity Financial Industry. Leveraging Switzerland’s existing reputation as a hub for independent international policy organizations, Longevity Swiss Foundation aims to turn Switzerland into the leading international hub for cross-sector and cross-nation Longevity Development projects and initiatives.