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

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- 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

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.