Artificial intelligence: Canton of Zurich strengthens its position as a center of innovation

The Canton of Zurich has created the conditions to be a leading AI location both nationally and internationally. With the strategic programs “AI Sandbox” and “AI Dialogue” as well as the establishment of an “AI Hub”, the canton is creating good framework conditions for the promotion and further development of the dynamic AI sector.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a key technology that is penetrating ever deeper into our lives and transforming most industries. This opens up great opportunities and possibilities for Zurich as a business location. "To fully exploit the potential of AI, we need to create a smart framework. We need to create acceptance among the population and continue to build up our AI ecosystem. Then AI has the potential to increase productivity and thus reduce our shortage of skilled workers," says Carmen Walker Späh, Director of Economic Affairs.

AI sandbox as a learning environment

With the "Innovation Sandbox for Artificial Intelligence" program, the Canton of Zurich and the Zurich Metropolitan Area Association have gained important experience over the past two years. The sandbox serves as a learning environment - almost like a laboratory - in which companies, organizations and administrations implement AI projects and develop expertise in the field of AI use. The first phase has now been completed. Five out of 21 AI projects were selected and implemented. This has resulted in guidelines on legal aspects and recommendations for the technical implementation of AI applications - for example in areas such as the protection of personal data or copyright law when protected works are used to train AI models. In addition, recommendations for future legislation in the field of AI were developed in order to prevent risks and promote responsible innovation. "The results serve to build up expertise and transfer know-how within administration, business and research," says project manager Raphael von Thiessen. The successful project, which has also been registered internationally, will be continued. A second project call is currently taking place, in which interested AI organizations can apply with project proposals.

AI dialog for social acceptance

Ethical aspects and social acceptance are essential for a successful AI location. After all, structural change also brings risks and challenges and raises fears. Addressing these systematically is crucial in order to involve the population. This is why the Office of Economic Affairs has been holding the "AI Dialogue" on a regular basis for over two years. Artificial intelligence is brought to life and made tangible and discussed at events for the general public. Understanding and acceptance of new technologies must be present in society at large. The surveys at the beginning and end of each event show that the AI dialog helps to dispel fears and prejudices about AI. The series of events is to be continued and expanded.

AI hub for even more dynamism

The Canton of Zurich already plays a leading role in the development and promotion of AI technologies both in Switzerland and internationally. It has a unique AI ecosystem with short distances and close cooperation between business, research and administration. From small start-ups to large technology groups, most well-known companies in the field of AI are represented in the canton of Zurich, and an increasingly strong local hub has also formed in Oerlikon. ETH, the university and the ZHAW with their programs are also excellent location factors for attracting the brightest minds in the field of AI to Zurich. "We want to continue attracting top companies and industry-leading organizations to Zurich in the future and thus bring more expertise to Zurich. The entire economy can benefit from this concentrated know-how," explains Fabian Streiff, Head of the Office of Economic Affairs.

ETH AI Center as a competence center

A key player in the field of AI research is the ETH AI Center, an interdisciplinary competence center at ETH that bundles research into the fundamentals, applications and social impact of the key technology of our time. As part of a strategic partnership, the Canton of Zurich and the ETH AI Center work closely together, particularly in the areas of technology transfer and innovation, raising public awareness and creating a close-knit network of expertise in the greater Zurich area. "Cooperation with the canton is an important success factor for us as a university competence center," emphasizes Daniel Naeff, Head of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the ETH AI Center. "We are convinced that robust, reliable and trustworthy AI systems are best developed where all relevant stakeholders work together." The AI revolution is in full swing. The canton of Zurich is well positioned to benefit from this. The leading role in the development and promotion of AI technologies must be expanded with good framework conditions so that top institutes and industry leaders continue to perceive the Canton of Zurich as an attractive location with a flourishing AI ecosystem in the future.


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