There is a strong tradition of technological breakthroughs in Switzerland. Some of the most famous inventions include:
The Zipper. Where would the world be today without the zipper? An American may have come up with the first working prototype, but it took a Swiss innovator to perfect the design. In 1925, Martin Winterhalter unveiled the interlocking-teeth style zipper which is the same design that is in use today.
Velcro. Perhaps it is the weather, but the Swiss seem to have an obsession with keeping things closed. While on a hunting trip in the Jura mountains in 1941, the Swiss engineer Georges de Mestral was perturbed to find the propensity of a certain plant to cling to his clothing and his dog fur despite his repetitive effort to remove it. When he returned home, he recreated the plant’s hooks to create Velcro.
Cellophane. It is time to wrap up the section on Swiss inventions by writing about another invention from Switzerland — cellophane. It turns out that being a natural-born klutz may be a blessing in disguise. While enjoying a glass of wine, Jacques E. Brandenberger ruined a perfectly good tablecloth when he spilled the contents of the glass. Jacques spent the next 12 years perfecting his invention until he released cellophane to the world in 1912.
The Swiss approach to education
Switzerland counts two of the top 20 academic institutes in the world; the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich). These two top institutes are committed to helping students reach their full potential through programs that hone the students’ ability to become thinkers and creators.
The new EPFL innovators program at EPFL leads the way in providing the institute’s doctoral students with unique opportunities to gain firsthand experience through non-academic, practical scientific and entrepreneurial skills. The program is supported by the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie program.
The annual Innovation Project at ETH Zurich is an engineering course, where students learn how to overcome the fundamental challenges which occur while designing, building and operating a complex technical system while remaining on schedule and under budget.
Note: This article was first published on the EHL Insights blog
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