CSEM reports solid 2020 results despite the tough economic climate


CSEM (Neuchâtel, Switzerland) posted a solid financial performance in 2020 and made further progress on important technological breakthroughs despite the economic and social impact of the pandemic. CSEM’s staff worked hard throughout the year, fulfilling their mission: providing industry with cutting-edge R&D. The full-year results are encouraging, and the Center is optimistic about 2021. Project volumes remained high, with joint R&D work carried out with 225 businesses, and overall revenue growth remained strong, albeit at a slightly slower pace than in prior years due to COVID-19. Also last year, CEO Mario El-Khoury announced he would leave CSEM after 11 successful years at its helm; he was replaced at the beginning of 2021 by Alexandre Pauchard, who plans to continue in the direction set by his predecessor.

CSEM’s revenues grew 2% in 2020, while its headcount increased 5% following the creation of 27 new jobs. This revenue growth is due in part to an increase in state contributions, and in part to a rise in competitive public-sector funding (e.g., from Innosuisse, the Swiss National Science Foundation, and EU projects). The Center also maintained a high level of joint R&D programmes with industry. These figures reflect the confidence that CSEM’s partners have in its research and development capabilities, as they draw on the Center’s expertise to bolster their competitive positioning in Switzerland and abroad.

The breadth of CSEM’s technological expertise was reflected in the many different projects it represented in 2020; from blood pressure measurement and defect identification in battery components to coating high-performance antennas and developing ultra-efficient photovoltaic panels and modules. Its engineers also helped design sophisticated components for Tissot’s T-Touch Connect Solar watch – the world’s first solar-powered, connected watch. Their ingenuity is behind the watch’s ultra-low-power operating system (SwAlps) and unique photovoltaic dial.

In addition to its R&D activities, CSEM also aims to help drive Switzerland’s digital transformation. Every year the Center gives out the CSEM Digital Journey award, which provides a Swiss SME with CHF 100 000 of technological support to help them develop a digital product or service. To assist recovery and counterbalance the economic downturn caused by the pandemic, in 2020, the Center decided to grant the award to not one but two promising companies. Both winners were in the MedTech industry: Gaitup, whose proprietary system uses advanced algorithms to analyse irregularities in the way a patient walks; and Definition12, whose easy-to-use app coaches speech-impaired patients through therapeutic exercises they can conduct at home.

The CSEM Digital Journey award will again go to two SMEs in 2021 as part of the Center’s mission to back Swiss R&D and contribute to the country’s ongoing prosperity.

“We faced many unusual challenges this year but were able to keep both our finances and our research efforts on track,” says Claude Nicollier, chairman of the CSEM board of directors. “That speaks to the commitment, resilience, and flexibility of all our staff. And we’re pleased with the way Mario El-Khoury and the entire management team led our Center through the pandemic, looking after our employees and ensuring financial stability. We feel calm and confident as we move forward in 2021.”

Caption: CSEM experienced further revenue growth in 2020 and had a good overall year despite several pandemic-related challenges. It achieved several technological successes, including the T-Touch Connect Solar watch from Tissot, which was developed in part by CSEM engineers and launched last year (photo: CSEM)

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