“We are always looking for new ways to drive innovation.”
A few months after the Driving Economic Growth (DEG) program, we caught up with DEG participant Patrick Barbey, director of Innovaud. Innovaud is a nonprofit association located in western Switzerland that has the vital mission of helping leaders of innovation projects realize their goals. Innovaud specifically supports innovation initiatives in the region of Vaud, which has a population of more than 750,000. Barbey attended the DEG program with Jean Philippe Lallement and Lan Zuo Gillet, who manage the EPFL Innovation Park in Vaud, home of 120+ high-tech startups.
What is the economy of Vaud like and what opportunities are you trying to create in the area?
The EPFL Innovation Park and Lake Geneva.
In Vaud, we have a diverse group of companies that range from large internationals like Nestlé, Cisco, Logitech, and Medtronic to smaller startups such as Sophia Genetics and NEXThink. The biotech/medtech and micro-engineering industries have a noticeable presence in Vaud due to our strong network of universities. At Innovaud, it is our goal to help tech-driven startups, SMEs (small and mid-sized enterprises), and large multinationals accelerate innovation and grow the local economy. We drive innovation by connecting companies with our innovation consultants, who serve as coaches and links between the region’s six innovation parks and multiple sources of public and private financing.
There are multiple ways that regions try to grow their economies. Why do you think it is important to develop an entrepreneurship ecosystem?
From left to right: Lan Zuo Gillet, Dan Isenberg, Jean Philippe Lallement, and Patrick Barbey
In 2012, the State Council in the Canton of Vaud showed their commitment to entrepreneurship ecosystems when they founded Innovaud, with a guaranteed financing of 25 million USD over 10 years. Members of the six innovation parks, the Department of the Economy and Sport, the Foundation for Technological Innovation, and several other influential stakeholders joined forces to craft a vision for a thriving economic ecosystem. These organizations believed that economic growth would accelerate once there was an organization to serve as a one-stop shop for innovative projects specifically committed to enhancing connections within the ecosystem.
Looking back at your time at Babson’s DEG program, what new idea or tool have you taken back to Switzerland?
As an organization, Innovaud is always looking for new ways to drive innovation. Attending Babson’s DEG program made us realize that we could do more to support growth-oriented SMEs. Given that SMEs are not required to make their financials public, it can be challenging to identify these companies on an individual basis. To enhance our outreach, we hired an MBA to help connect Innovaud with new high-growth SMEs in our area. Through his recent interviews with local investors and founders of known scale-ups, we have uncovered a few areas where Innovaud can innovate and provide additional support to local SMEs. One discovery we made was that more can be done to support SMEs when they export goods and services to foreign markets.
To further develop our international network, we have partnered with the EPFL Innovation Park to help companies develop their international customer base. SenseFly, a local producer of drone mapping technologies, geared towards precision agriculture, mining, environmental protection, and humanitarian aid, is one of many local companies that we are looking to support as they sell their products and services abroad. We are genuinely excited about the development of our international network and believe that our growth in this area will help accelerate job creation for many SMEs in Vaud.