Swiss study demonstrates physics impact

7 November 2022
Return on investment

Physics-based industries are as important to the Swiss economy as production or trade, concludes a new report by the Swiss Physical Society (SPS). Seeking to determine the impact of physics on Swiss society, and motivated by a similar Europe-wide study completed in 2019 by the European Physical Society, the SPS team, with support from the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences and Swiss service-provider IMSD, carried out a statistical analysis revealing key indicators of the national value of physics.

Currently, states the report, the turnover of physics-based industries (PBI) in Switzerland is estimated to exceed CHF 274 billion in revenue, and is expected to grow further. PBI, defined as those industries that are strongly reliant on modern technologies developed by physicists, were divided into 11 categories ranging from pharmaceuticals and medical instruments to electricity supply and general manufacturing. The share of PBI in Switzerland’s gross value added (GVA) was found to be CHF 91.5 billion, or 13% of the total for 2019, while the number of full-time equivalent jobs was 417,000 (9.8%). Furthermore, the specific GVA for PBI increased by 6.3% from 2015 to 2019 – almost three times higher than the average increase among all economic-activity sectors during the same period.

Innovative ideas that come out of fundamental, curiosity-driven research are at the source of what leads to success in society

Hans Peter Beck

Not included in these figures are the contributions of physicists who are employed in other industries, nor additional economic impact due to downstream effects such as household spending associated with economic activity in PBI. Estimating the GVA multiplier associated with the impact of PBI to be between 2.31 and 2.49, the report concludes that every CHF 1.00 of direct physics-related output contributes CHF 2.31 to 2.49 to the economy-wide output. Beyond economic impact, the report also evaluated the contribution of education and innovation to Swiss society, and highlighted ways in which to address the shortage of skilled workers and the gender gap.

“The impact physics has on society has been studied multiple times in a variety of countries and all arrive at the same conclusion: economic success in a modern, technology-driven society is the fruit of long-term support for physics in education and research,” says former SPS president Hans Peter Beck. “Innovative ideas that come out of fundamental, curiosity-driven research are at the source of what leads to success in society.”

bright-rec iop pub iop-science physcis connect