A Nose for Innovation: A Bernese Tradition?

The city of Bern runs a lively blog that monthly discusses business related issues in the economic area of the Swiss capital. Through it, a diverse selection of people from business, culture, civil service and society engage in public discourse. In this context, Claus Noppeney identifies “olfactory milestones” in the remarkable history of the city and shows how this tradition leads to current product innovation.

In his groundbreaking history of the sense of smell, The Foul and the Fragrant: Odor and the French Social Imagination,  Alain Corbin identifies Bern as an early innovator in the domain of smells: it was one of the first cities to effectively introduce smell related public health measures in the 18th century. As such, one can speak of Bern as an inventor of public odor management. In fact, Antoine Laurent de Lavoisier remarked about the “fragrant air” of Bern, and the city became a role model for Paris.

In our times, Bern is the home of a hidden champion in the Swiss economy that demonstrates the innovative potential of the sense of smell. In fact, the Swiss manufacturer Swiss Tools, internationally known among craft professionals, scents its classic screw drivers. This is definitely not just a fancy gimmick. Instead, the decent vanilla scent prevents the common rotten smell one knows from common decomposition processes. Eva Jaisli, CEO, sums it up: “The smell is part of the quality and performance.”

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