There’s talk everywhere of innovation, the future and the competitive edge. Why is this area so important for RUAG?
Heinz Liechti: Every enterprise seeks to anticipate how sales figures will develop over the next few years, based on its own business areas and contracts. It’s only by doing this that a company can decide which path to take. This is also important for RUAG. We are aware that in the future a certain number of systems used by the Armed Forces will be discontinued, as they reach the end of their service life.
These systems will only be partly replaced, or possibly not replaced at all. If we want to continue to play a significant part in Swiss security, we must concentrate on new business areas and/or new customer segments. We are therefore increasingly working together with future consumers to develop concepts and products, thereby creating customer loyalty very early on.
People are always talking about how we work with start-ups and universities. Why and what is it like?
Heinz Liechti: The big advantage of start-ups is their way of working – they develop ideas and develop them quickly, and then often hand them over to someone who can exploit them more fully. Collaborations with start-ups are already happening. We want to issue a call for applications from companies like this twice yearly: the first has already taken place and four offers from start-ups have been received. Two of them are concerned with developing sustainable fuel for the aircraft fleet, one project is in the area of sustainable generators, and the fourth concerns sensors for unmanned aerial vehicles to detect radioactive substances.
In working together with universities, our intention would be that it would bring knowledge from outside into the company. Here, too, ideas are worked on, and here, too, there is a great need for an industry partner to make the ideas fly.
Contact has already been made with universities – including the EPFL Lausanne (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology). We intend to send two staff members to the EPFL to focus on cyber technology. In addition, we intend to set up “Innovation Hubs” – one in Zurich, a smaller one in Biel, and one at the EPFL in Lausanne. They will act as platforms for collaborations with start-ups, universities and RUAG.
Thank you, Heinz Liechti!