Conference on Innovation: a Swiss-Mauritian Perspective           

Switzerland is currently the most innovative country in the world in the rankings of the World Economic Forum, in the Global Competitiveness Report 2016/17, and in the Global Innovation Index. The aim of the MIoD’s conference is to showcase what makes Switzerland so innovative, look at how Mauritian companies are doing in terms of innovation and finally explore and discuss what Mauritius could learn from the Swiss model.

Innovation in the context of the conference

In the context of the conference, and looking at Switzerland’s overall success, innovation covers technological and non-technological elements. Non-technological innovation is closely related to the know-how, skills, and working conditions that are embedded in organisations, while technological innovation refers to the adoption and development of new technologies.

The World Economic Forum has pointed out that “although substantial gains can be obtained by improving institutions, building infrastructure, reducing macroeconomic instability, or improving human capital, all these factors eventually run into diminishing returns. The same is true for the efficiency of the labour, financial, and goods markets. In the long run, standards of living can be largely enhanced by innovation.

However, this requires an environment that is conducive to innovative activity and supported by both the public and the private sectors. In particular, it requires sufficient investment in research and development (R&D), especially by the private sector; the presence of high-quality scientific research institutions that can generate the basic knowledge needed to build the new technologies; extensive collaboration in research and technological developments between universities and industry; and the protection of intellectual property.”

The elements behind Switzerland’s success

According to the Global Competitiveness Report 2016/17 issued by the World Economic Forum, Switzerland is currently the most competitive country in the world, due to its strong performance in the 12 areas examined by the report, which are namely, the efficiency of its institutions, infrastructure, macroeconomic environment, health and primary education, higher education and training, goods market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, technological readiness, market size, business sophistication and innovation.

Besides its position as the leading country in terms of competitiveness, Switzerland also ranks first in terms of the innovation criteria. According to the World Economic Forum’s report, “Switzerland arguably possesses one of the world’s most fertile innovation ecosystems, combining a very conducive policy environment and infrastructure, academic excellence, an unmatched capacity to attract the best talent, and large multinationals that are often leaders in their sector as well as a dense network of small- and medium-sized enterprises across sectors that has a reputation for quality and a strive for innovation.”

Furthermore, Switzerland has reaped the benefits of intense collaboration between the academic and business worlds, which led to the development of innovative products with commercial applications, an area that Mauritius could greatly benefit from in its own drive for innovation.

Switzerland also ranks first in the same report in terms of labour market efficiency, technological readiness and business sophistication.

Mauritius is currently 45th on the Global Competitiveness Report 2016/17 and ranks 67th in terms of innovation.

The Conference Participants


Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, GCSK, CSK, PhD, DSc - 6th President of the Republic of Mauritius

Ameenah Gurib-Fakim has been, prior to joining the State House, the  Managing Director of the Centre International de Développement Pharmaceutique (CIDP) Research and Innovation as well as Professor of Organic Chemistry with an   endowed chair at the University of Mauritius. Since 2001, she has served successively as Dean of the Faculty of Science and Pro Vice Chancellor (2004-2010). She has also worked at the Mauritius Research Council as Manager for Research (1995-1997).

Ms Gurib-Fakim earned a BSc in Chemistry from the University of Surrey (1983) and a PhD from the University of Exeter, UK (1987).  Between 2011-2013, she was elected and served as Chairperson of the International Council for Scientific Union – Regional Office for Africa, and served as an Independent Director on the

Board of Barclays Bank of Mauritius Ltd between (2012-2015).

As a Founding Member of the Pan African Association of African Medicinal Plants, she co-authored the first ever African Herbal Pharmacopoeia. She has authored and co-edited 28 books, several book chapters and scientific articles in the field of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development.   Elected Fellow of several academies and societies, Ms Gurib-Fakim received several international prizes including the 2007 l’Oreal-UNESCO Prize for Women in Science, the African Union Commission Award for Women in Science, 2009 as well as the lifelong achievement award of the United States Pharmacopoeia-CePat Award in 2017.

Elevated to the Order of the Commander of the Star and Key by the Government of Mauritius in 2008, she has been admitted to the Order of the Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Academiques by the Government of France in 2010 and is the recipient of 4 DSc (s). On 05 June 2015, she was sworn in as the 6th President and the First Female President of the Republic of Mauritius. She was elevated to the Order of GCSK by the Government of Mauritius, admitted to the Order of Francois 1er des Deux Siciles by Prince Charles of Bourbon and received the Legion d’Honneur from the Government of France in 2016.

In June 2016, she was in the Forbes List for the ‘Most Powerful women in the world’.


Walter Steinlin, President, Commission for Technology and Innovation, Switzerland                                                                    

Walter Steinlin is President of CTI (Commission for Technology and Innovation), the Swiss Innovation Promotion Agency.

He graduated as Electronics Engineer from ETH Zürich in 1977 and is an alumnus of the INSEAD Executive Education Program.

He worked in telecommunications all his life, first at Hasler Research (now Ascom), then in different positions with Swisscom. His longest assignement was as head of “Swisscom Innovations” from 1996 - 2008.

He has been active in several international and national boards and committees, such as ITU and ETSI, as President of EIRMA (European Industrial Research Management Institute), in the Committee on Research and Education of economiesuisse, the Advisory Board of I&C School at EPFL, on the founders‘ board of IDIAP and EURECOM, as President of the Board of iimt (International Institute of Management in Technology in Fribourg) and in the Council of the Swiss National Science Foundation.



Jacques d'Unienville - Chief Executive Officer, Omnicane

Jacques Marrier d’Unienville holds a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce. Prior to joining Société Usinière du Sud (SUDS – now part of Omnicane) as Chief Executive Officer in 2005, he was the Managing Director of Société de Traitement et d’Assainissement des Mascareignes.  He has held office as Chief Executive Officer of MTMD (now Omnicane Limited) as from 1 April 2007. 

He is the Chairperson of Omnicane Thermal Energy Operations (La Baraque) Limited and Omnicane Thermal Energy Operations (St Aubin) Limited, Omnicane Milling Operations Limited and is a director of  Real Good Food plc, Southern Cross Tourists Co Ltd and the Union Sugar Estates Co Ltd.

He is a board member of several sugar sector institutions in Mauritius and was the President of the Mauritius Sugar Producers’ Association in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010 and has been re-elected President for 2015.  He was the President of the Mauritius Sugar Syndicate in 2012. 



Jimmy Khan, Managing Director, Lafarge Mauritius

Jimmy Khan has been the Managing Director of Lafarge Mauritius since 2015. His career with Lafarge spans 11 years, and his previous roles within the group have included Country Business Process Manager, Audit Manager and HR Manager Cement amongst others.

His experience with Lafarge has covered Mauritius, Seychelles, Nigeria, France and North America. As Managing Director of Lafarge in Mauritius, Jimmy Khan has been engaged in reviewing the organisation's structure and optimising efficiency, launching new products, creating a culture of communication and performance, and reorganising the management system. He has experience in managing a wide range of overseas missions in countries such as UK, Brazil, China, Greece, South Africa and Saudi Arabia amongst others. He is particularly focused on innovation, and  on operational efficiency within the organisation. Jimmy Khan holds a Bachelor in Science in Finance/Accounting and Computer Information Systems from Virginia Tech, USA.




Vincent Chatard - Chief Operating Officer, MCB Group

Vincent Chatard has been Chief Operating Officer of MCB Group Limited and MCB Limited since September 15, 2015. Mr. Chatard has accumulated wide-ranging experience in the banking sector, having occupied a number of senior executive positions in international banks. He acted as Chief Operating Officer, Chief Business Development Officer and Executive Board Director of Mediterranean Bank. He served as the Chief Operating Officer of BforBank from 2008 to 2011. He served ... as Chief Information Officer and Senior Vice-President Business Development of ING Direct from 2000 to 2008 to establish the units both in France and the UK. He served as Head of Information Technology and Organisation of Banque Robeco France (a Personal Banking Unit of the Rabobank Group) since 1997. He spent 7 years working for Crédit Lyonnais International before joining KPMG France as a management consultant in 1995. He holds Masters of Engineering (France) and MBA from HEC Paris (France).


Gerhard Pienaar - Deputy Head, Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs

Gerhard Pienaar is the Deputy Head of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs’ (SECO’s) Economic Cooperation and Development office in Pretoria, South Africa.

Trained as an urban and regional planner and having worked in the field of public financial management for over 18 years, his responsibilities at SECO include overseeing and managing the infrastructure development,

integrated urban development and public financial management portfolio of development cooperation between Switzerland and South Africa. 

Before joining SECO in 2014, Gerhard worked as programme officer at the European Union Delegation to South Africa and as development economist at a South African consultancy firm.


The Sponsors