The future of Science City Davos

Which life cycles could be extended or renewed? Which ones are coming to an end? These are the key questions for the future of Davos. From the perspective of regional development, there are also various economic thrusts based on the existing competencies. Two of these build explicitly on the competencies of Davos as a center of research and education.

Alpine health destination or when Davos turns from a place of illness to a place of health

There are two clusters in the health and tourism sector in Davos: firstly, the health cluster. It had its heyday at the beginning of the 20th century and has since experienced a gradual decline, which has also led to the death of clinics.
The second cluster, tourism, has also seen its major growth phase behind it. It is therefore crucial to remain competitive by constantly adapting to existing tourism trends and through tourism innovations. The question now is whether a new competence can be developed for Davos with the existing competencies of health, tourism, research and congresses?
One possible way of merging this expertise in Davos could be the megatrend of health tourism, which is expected to have enormous potential in the coming decades. Although the topic of health tourism is currently mentioned everywhere, the question arises as to what it actually means. The theoretical definition is provided by expert Kai-Thorsten Illing. He understands health tourism as a form of travel "[...] in which the traveler leaves his familiar surroundings for one or more days by his own choice in order to spend a significant part of the time caring for his body in a non-clinical environment. [...] The components of experience, quality of leisure time, enjoyment and participation in 'trendy' activities are just as much a part of this as the separation from the suffering of the sick person." ( Berg, 2008, Gesundheitstourismus und Wellnesstourismus, Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag GmbH, Munich).

There are a total of six different types of offer in health tourism, which can be divided into two main groups: The indication-related offers, i.e. relief and healing based on a diagnosis, and the indication-independent offers, i.e. prevention without a diagnosis.  Davos has a long tradition of indication-related services, i.e. relief and cure based on a diagnosis. Be it as a tuberculosis health resort or in the treatment of skin diseases or leg fractures. What is new, however, are the indication-independent offers, i.e. prevention without a diagnosis. These include, for example, disease prevention through a healthy diet or improving performance through altitude training.

Due to its historical development, Davos currently covers all areas of health tourism. This means that Davos already has a great deal of potential that can be further expanded and more clearly positioned as part of a health tourism strategy development. The non-indication-oriented primary prevention and performance enhancement sectors are particularly suitable here and could be combined well with the existing tourist sports offer.

However, a new concept for the indication-oriented services of the existing (high-altitude) clinics is also conceivable. Davos could therefore position itself as an innovative tourism destination in various areas of health tourism in the future. The topic of allergies is a first possibility. Davos not only has a locational advantage here due to its original significance as a high-altitude health resort, but also has the necessary specialist know-how at a scientific level with the existing institutions in the field of allergy and asthma research.

Knowledge and technology transfer or when research becomes economically viable

The six research institutes based in Davos form an important foundation for the regional economy. Thanks to their international research excellence, they not only carry the name of Davos out into the world, but also directly create added value for tourism with the congresses and events that are mostly held in Davos. They also actively counteract the so-called "brain drain" - the exodus of well-trained, highly qualified employees.

However, one aspect has often been overlooked when assessing the economic relevance of research institutes: In addition to their already great importance for the region, research institutes will be able to exert an even greater influence on regional competitiveness in the future. We are talking here about the location advantages for cluster formation that are always mentioned. The resident institutes and organizations also serve as door openers for nationally and internationally active organizations and companies wishing to settle in Switzerland, in the canton of Graub√ľnden or in the Davos region. These are companies with a high level of research and development intensity. They could be of interest to the region, but the region is also of interest to them. This is why Davos as a city of knowledge will play an important role in positioning Davos in the future. The current global challenges in the areas of health and the environment should be addressed and new approaches identified. However, this requires a step from pure research to research and development. If the institutes of the Knowledge City Davos succeed in realizing the transfer of knowledge and technology from research to the economy, many new opportunities - or, according to regional economic theories, new life cycles - are in store for Davos.

Source: Adrian Dinkelmann: Future perspectives of an Alpine town, in: Franco Item (ed.), 2014: Davos - between mountain magic and magic mountain