Gottlieb Duttweiler laid the foundation stone for the "construction of an international educational and research institute" in 1962, shortly before his death. But the idea was much older than that. In 1946 (on Christmas Day), the legendary Migros founder and his wife Adele transferred their enormous Rüschlikon estate, Langhalden, to a foundation. The aim of building an institute on this site was already enshrined in the first deed of foundation.

Inaugurated in 1963 – an event Duttweiler was no longer around to experience – the GDI was Switzerland's first independent think tank. With its choice of often controversial topics, it soon made a name for itself, also outside Switzerland. As far back as 1964, the GDI hosted a conference on late-night opening for stores, and it held others on "Cashless shopping in the retail sector" in 1969, "Are our cities suffocating in traffic?" in 1970 and "Organic farming" in 1974.

A new office wing was built in 1988, and a second expansion was completed in 2008 when an additional floor was added and the entire infrastructure was thoroughly modernised.

Directors of the Institute:
1963 -1964 Jørgen Thygesen
1964 -1979 Hans A. Pestalozzi
1979 -1980 Jürg Marx (ad interim)
1980 -1998 Christian Lutz
Since 1999 David Bosshart

Biography of Gottlieb Duttweiler
1888 - Gottlieb Duttweiler is born in Zurich on 15 August.
1907 - Completes commercial apprenticeship.
1913 - Marries Adele Bertschi.
1923 - Farmer in Brazil
1925 - Founds Migros AG
1935 - Enters politics as a member of the Lower House of the Swiss Parliament.
1941 - Migros AG is converted into a cooperative society and transferred to the customers.
1944 - Founds Migros Club Schools.
1962 - Lays foundation stone of GDI.
1962 - Gottlieb Duttweiler dies in Zurich on 8 June.