Driving around the north of the country from Zurich in the late summer, it's easy to imagine yourself in some chocolate box paradise of Heidi-style farmhouses on verdant slopes below snow-capped mountains and expensive lakeside retreats for the super-rich. But amid this Sound of Music landscape are reminders that Switzerland is also an industrial, and industrious, country. Scattered among the small towns deep in Alpine valleys are factories producing some of the best precision-engineered components and equipment for the world's aerospace sector.
Switzerland has never had a heavy-industrial "rustbelt" as such for a number of reasons. One is geography: outside the handful of big cities, most towns in Switzerland are in the valleys between mountains, which in the days before highways and tunnels were largely self-sufficient and reliant on. Switzerland's defence doctrine has also for hundreds of years been based on having a citizen's militia ready to mobilise in hours. This meant having military assets - together with the infrastructure to support them - scattered around the country, the better to mount a guerilla-style defence of the homeland in the event of invasion. Tanks and aircraft are literally stored inside mountains.
All this has had an impact on the shape of the country's aerospace sector, which - like Switzerland's other industries from watchmaking to confectionery - brands itself on precision rather than price, and quality over quantity.
Find out more in our report in our 28 September issue.