Best of swissnex 2018 –
The Annual Report

Dear reader,

Switzerland may be a small country, but in terms of per capita income and economic output Switzerland is one of the world’s leaders. One of the reasons for this is Switzerland’s outstanding performance and competitiveness in education, research and innovation.

Education, research and innovation (ERI), however, are, by their very nature, international. The Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein succinctly summed up the need to pass on and share knowledge when he said “If only one person knows, no one knows”. Knowledge – whether basic knowledge, applied knowledge or practical expertise – usually develops and increases through interaction, which can now cross all the borders of a globalized world.

Swiss ERI stakeholders and their partners abroad have the autonomy and ability to pursue approaches towards cooperation according to their own needs. Nevertheless, the role of the Confederation is to adopt ERI policy measures that encourage and promote the international engagement of stakeholders in the long term.

“Switzerland’s International Strategy on Education, Research and Innovation”, published by the Swiss Federal Council in July 2018, provides a summary of the updated objectives, measures and responsibilities.

This is where swissnex, the Swiss global network for education, research and innovation, an initiative of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation and a part of the Confederation’s network abroad managed by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, plays an important role. Its activities are based on a cooperative approach, and on public-private partnerships and financing. The swissnex Network supports the active engagement of Swiss ERI stakeholders in the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent.

This report provides readers with information about the network’s achievements and special highlights in 2018.

Martina Hirayama, State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, Switzerland

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Martina Hirayama, State Secretary

for Education, Research and Innovation


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Team Switzerland

Beatrice Ferrari, Martin Strickler, Mauro Moruzzi, Cecilia Neyroud, Roman Kern, Malin Borg, Anouk de Bast, Flavio Frei, Philippe Roesle, Corinne Gottier, Raphael Kofmel.

Team swissnex India
swissnex India

Loïc Krähenbühl, Conny Camenzind, Solomon George, Dinesh Shereshtha, Cassius Castellino, Sébastien Hug, Suraj Chawla, Gaganjot Kaur, Palek Sharma, Sarita Prakash, Maitree Dasgupta, Anju Edgar, Prateek Khare, Alexandra Allet, Yashaswini Kumar, Lisa Susan Abraham, Swetha Suresh, Yelamma Narayanappa, Vidya Kamalesh (left to right, from top row to last row)

Team swissnex China
swissnex China

Rahel Gruber, Sherry Jingting Hu, Gabriel Bishop, Luca Mondada, Danli Zhou, Miriam Haab, Christy Yingzhen Chen, Lan Yao, Libing Gu, Frans-E Bengtsson, Simin Yang, Dr. Felix Moesner, Cissy Yiwen Sun, Jasmine Yi Qin

Team swissnex San Francisco
swissnex San Francisco

Eryk Salvaggio, Caitlin Miller, Benjamin Bollmann, Emina Reissinger, Perrine Huber, Gioia Deucher, Nicola Ruffo, Linda Aerne, Laura Erickson, Margaux Mégevand, Sheila Fakurnejad, Sarah Chapatte, Anne Amis, Franziska Steiner, Julien Vergély

Boston & New York
swissnex Boston

Jonas Brunschwig, Estelle Geneux, Phillipe Labouchere, Lionel Bertschy, Jake Link, Gary Weckx, Oliver Haugen, Sophie Sithamma, Alana Murphy, Laura Stalder, Daniela Chiani, Christian Simm, Francesco Bortoluzzi

Team swissnex Brazil
swissnex Brazil

Pedro Capra, Leila Girschweiler, Maria Conti, Amanda Akemi, Leonardo Machado, Fabienne Zumbühl, Sylvia Romanelli

From São Paulo to Rio de Janeiro: Academia-Industry Training 2018
swissnex Brazil

For the first time, the 2018 edition of the Academia-Industry Training (AIT) program included the two largest Brazilian cities where swissnex Brazil is present: Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Combining these complementary ecosystems, the training program, the workshops and technical visits were even richer and created cross-country networking opportunities. The AIT featured startups from different areas, such as AgriTech, Big Data, Construction, Education, FinTech, Foodtech, MedTech and SaaS, among others.

swissnexDay’18: Connecting the Blocks, Unchaining the Blockchain

The swissnex Network © Fabio Blaser Fotographie

The panel dicusses blockchain technologies © Fabio Blaser Fotografie

In December 2018, 350 representatives from the field of education, research and innovation gathered in Zurich for swissnexDay’18, the swissnex Network’s annual signature event. Dedicated to blockchain technologies in Switzerland and beyond, the event brought together international experts seeking to expand their understanding of the opportunities and challenges of this increasingly prominent technology.

The topics addressed in the panel discussions moderated by CNNMoney showed just how wide-ranging blockchain applications can be, from financial transfers to education, and from climate change to legal affairs. Switzerland is a center of excellence for blockchain and therefore setting new regulation standards and examples for the technology.

The event – organized by swissnex China and SERI – was held in partnership with ETH Zurich, the Crypto Valley Association based in Zug and the University of Zurich (UZH), which also runs its own Blockchain Center. The swissnexDay is part of swissnex’ annual meeting, bringing together the whole swissnex Network as well as its numerous partners. In addition to the insights offered by the conference itself, it represents a unique opportunity to meet most members of the swissnex network, exchange ideas and discuss potential collaboration.

Advancing Apprenticeships in the US – Swiss Style

Signing Ceremony of the MoU on apprenticeships © U.S. Department of Education

In this past year, the topic of apprenticeships was of a high priority at the Office of Science, Technology and Higher Education (OSTHE) at the Embassy of Switzerland in Washington, D.C. In December, the office supported and celebrated the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on apprenticeships.

Following a strong interest from U.S. government officials as well as from various business and education stakeholders in the Swiss apprenticeship system, Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann participated in multiple high-level meetings to explore a possible collaboration in this area. In 2018, he had several follow-up meetings on the topic. In June, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Switzerland and gave a keynote address at the International Congress on Vocational and Professional Education and Training in Winterthur. Her visit in particular turned out to be very fruitful for the Swiss-U.S. dialogue on apprenticeships.

Only a few months later, the two countries officially reaffirmed their willingness to cooperate in this field – it was the culmination of many successful prior apprenticeship activities. On December 3rd, Switzerland and the U.S. signed a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Cooperation on Advancing Apprenticeship, Career and Technical Education, and Vocational and Professional Education and Training. The Memorandum was signed by Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann and by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, and U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta.

The Embassy of Switzerland hosted a reception that followed the ceremony and allowed for discussions on first implementation ideas. The MoU will be valid for three years and the future work at the OSTHE in Washington will certainly be shaped by further dialogue on this topic.

Big in Japan with the help of an Internship

Adan Haefliger during his Internship in Japan at Otowa Electric © A. Haefliger

Within its mission to promote bilateral relationships between Switzerland and Japan, the Science & Technology Office in Japan supports Swiss students looking for internships in Japanese companies. Experience shows that, once students have worked in Japan, they continue to foster this connection throughout their ensuing careers. The following interview is with EPFL student Adan Häfliger, who did an internship at Otowa Electric, a medium sized, family-owned company. Otowa is continuously accepting Swiss students, offering them a platform to show their innovative capacity in a new, challenging environment.

Why did you do an internship in Japan?
Like so many kids with a Nintendo gaming system, my interest in Japan initially spawned from video games. Since then, its culture and uniqueness grew upon me. I had the chance to visit Japan as a tourist before, but I wanted a more authentic experience. As I was required to do an internship as part of my studies at EPFL, I did not look elsewhere for a place to go. My goals were simple: improve my Japanese, make friends and learn about the working culture in Japan – all of which I accomplished.

What did your internship involve?
First, I had to get accustomed to the way things work in a family-owned Japanese company; moreover, microcontrollers and electronics were not my strong suit!

I worked on two tasks to increase the efficiency of factory processes. Firstly, by using sensors reporting measures through an online microcontroller. Secondly, by applying my Data Science knowledge in a real-life application, something I aspired to do for quite some time. The project resulted in an A.I. prototype, results were encouraging, and the company is considering the continuation of the work I started.

In what way will the internship benefit your future career?
Thanks to the company’s network, I met a professor from Kyoto University where I went for my Master thesis. I consider the experience of working in a Japanese company a valuable asset if I were to look for a job there; Otowa even contacted me again and offered me a position. To Swiss employers, doing an internship abroad shows signs of independence and audacity. At first, I was worried an internship outside a renowned IT company would put me at a disadvantage, but I now see it as my unique selling point!

Food Tech for Food Waste
Tel Aviv

Food Tech for Food Waste Event

The food industry faces a key challenge: On the one hand, there is a desire to provide everyone with healthy and sustainable food, but, on the other hand, the system is highly inefficient, wasting about a third of its production. With this challenge in mind, the Embassy of Switzerland in Tel Aviv and The Natural Step – an NGO promoting sustainability in Israeli society – collaborated on an event dedicated to FoodTech, focusing on the links between technology, food and sustainability.

The evening started with a workshop, bringing together stakeholders from the field, including entrepreneurs, venture capital funds and academics. Including guests from Switzerland, such as the food waste startup KITRO, Kickstart Accelerator and Mass Challenge Switzerland, in-depth presentations and panel discussions were dedicated to the opportunities presented by FoodTech. Not only did the workshop showcase some Swiss efforts in this domain, it also expanded the participants’ professional networks. The workshop was followed by a broader culinary event – attended by 150 people from the international business community and opinion leaders in the field of technology – which demonstrated hands-on how food waste can be reduced. Underlining the urgency that we as a society need to address this challenge, the evening equally revealed that reducing food waste harbors intriguing business cases for the technology industry.

Transforming Singapore’s Vocational Education and Training

Signing ceremony of the MoU between SFIVET and Nanyang Polytechnic © SFIVET

Back in the early 1980s, Singapore decided to reform the education model it inherited and to overcome an exclusive focus on a small university elite. Switzerland was quickly identified as a role model and many delegations from the island state visited Switzerland to gain a better understanding of the Swiss education system. However, instead of attempting to simply replicate a system developed over centuries and deeply embedded in a Swiss context, Singapore’s leaders decided to adapt certain mechanisms to their very different environment.

For the past 35 years, Singapore has been introducing various reforms, particularly in the area of vocational education and training (VET). Switzerland’s dual-track approach to VET has been a source of inspiration and numerous cooperation initiatives between partners from both countries have since paved the way for an adaptation of elements of the Swiss model. In November, State Secretary Mauro Dell’Ambrogio paid a visit to Singapore, where he was able to experience first-hand the transformation Singapore’s education system has undergone. 

While the exchange of knowledge and expertise in the area of vocational education and training is beneficial for both countries, key to its success was Singapore’s systematic and sustainable approach. “The SkillsFuture program” launched in 2015 is a very important step in supporting VET in Singapore: early initiatives enable students to follow a dual-track path. Simultaneously, more resources have been allocated to vocational and technical schools.

In April 2018, the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (SFIVET) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nanyang Polytechnic. Subsequently, SFIVET has begun’s to train workplace trainers in the city state, which will help achieve the Ministry of Education goal to have 1000 companies – including some Swiss organizations – offer workplace training programs.

A New Format to Boost Collaboration: the Swiss-Korean Innovation Week

Cybathlon Experience © STO Seoul

Closing Ceremony of the Swiss-Korean Innovation Week © STO Seoul

5th Life Sciences Symposium © STO Seoul

Startup Workshop © STO Seoul

Similar to prior years, the interest from Korea in Switzerland is particularly high in the fields of Life Sciences and Medical Technology, with a special focus on precision medicine and pharma. Already exiting initiatives such as the Life Sciences Symposium and various Startup Workshops got integrated into the newly established “Swiss-Korean Innovation Week”.

The topic of the successful first edition was “How Innovation in Medical Technologies can improve our lives”. Moving forward, the format will be used every year to attract top academic and corporate talent from, covering different topics of interest for both countries.The week will include various events and symposiums, exploration programs for selected startups, public ideation workshops and match-making opportunities. The Korean Government is co-hosting the Innovation Week together with the Swiss Embassy in Seoul.

Early results are promising: Switzerland Innovation Park in Biel signed a MoU with the Medical Applied Global Initiative Center (MAGIC) of the Korea University, a new cooperation is developing between Clinerion and the Korea University Hospital, and the Global Research Center for Organ Mimetics will open its doors this year.

Race for Water: Promoting Collaborative Science, Cleantech and Sustainability in Chile
Santiago de Chile

Race for Water Catamaran visits the Easter Islands © Peter Charaf

Race for Water Catamaran visits the Easter Islands © Peter Charaf

The Swiss Race for Water foundation embarked on its second global odyssey with its ultra-modern catamaran, fueled exclusively by renewable energy in 2018. In addition to its kite, solar power is converted into electricity, stored in batteries and used for the electrolysis of water. The resulting hydrogen is then stored and can be burned to ensure the energetic autonomy of the boat. In cooperation with the Swiss Embassy in Santiago de Chile, the aim of the Race for Water project was to raise awareness in Chilean society for the plastic problem and already existing solutions, thus promoting the use of green energy sources and positioning Switzerland as a country of innovation and sustainable development.

The catamaran stayed in Chile for three months and docked at four Chilean ports (Valparaíso, Talcahuano, Juan Fernández Archipelago, Easter Island). During this time, the Embassy of Switzerland used the catamaran as a platform to present Switzerland as an innovative nation, to enable cooperation between researchers of the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa Maria and the Race for Water team, to support Swiss Cleantech companies and to deepen relationships with the new government. In particular, the visit of the Chilean president Sebastián Piñera helped emphasize the importance of renewable energies and shed light on the pioneering role of Switzerland in this area.

The awareness for questions concerning the environment is growing in Chile and the authorities, as well as the population, are open to new possible solutions and technologies. The arrival of the Race for Water catamaran therefore came at a very opportune moment for the country and increased the visibility of Swiss excellence and expertise in the field of environmental science and innovation.

“Diamo i Numeri!” – it’s all about Numbers!

Ambassador Giancarlo Kessler and Prof. Antonietta Mira (USI) present the interactive exhibition on numbers © A. Mira

“Diamo i Numeri” (DIN) is an interactive scientific exhibition about numbers, from their origin through to the theory of probability, and ultimately to their role in the dynamic fields of statistical analysis and data science. The exhibition was designed by Antonietta Mira, Professor of Statistics at the Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), produced by USI and supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Through games, puzzles, brain-teasers and simulations, the exhibition successfully engaged its audience in many interactive ways – and created interest in a topic that is usually considered as not exciting by the general public. “Diamo I Numeri!” was shown in Ticino, back in 2015 and 2016, and was also part of the Science Festival in Genova, Italy, from October 2018 to January 2019, where it attracted over 3000 visitors.

In addition to the main exhibition, a ‘Mate-Magia’ conference-show was held in Genova with the well-known actor Raul Cremona. This “math-magic” show combined science communication with magic tricks based on fundamental mathematical principles, conveying the beauty and power of numbers.

In 2019, DIN and Mate-Magia will be displayed in Pavia, Palermo, Catania, Bologna and Trieste, each time with the support of local academia. The Embassy of Switzerland in Italy will support and accompany DIN in every locality to further strengthen its ties with academia and local authorities.

2’600 km on Solar Power: Switzerland and the South African Sasol Solar Challenge

First Swiss Participation in the South Africa Sasol Solar Challenge © SSC

First Swiss Participation in South Africa Sasol Solar Challenge © SSC

First Swiss Participation in South Africa Sasol Solar Challenge © SSC

The South African Sasol Solar Challenge (SSC) is a 2’600 km long race from Pretoria to Cape Town which attracts some of the best teams aiming to showcase advancements in solar technologies from across the globe. In 2018, Switzerland joined the race for the first time. The Solar Energy Racers, a group of Bühler students, apprentices and staff, embarked on their eight-day journey in their solar vehicle called “the Meerkat”. Although “the Meerkat” refused to start its engine in Pretoria, requiring frantic, last-minute repairs, it eventually was the 3rd solar vehicle to cross the finishing line in Cape Town, thereby winning the award for best newcomer.

The Swiss Embassy in Pretoria accompanied the race with a reception, starting line activities and the “Bright Ideas Innovation Challenge”: a social innovation competition for high-school students in Graad-Reinet (one of the stops of the SSC), in collaboration with the Research Institute for Innovation and Sustainability (RIIS). The event encouraged pupils to identify challenges in their community and to provide innovative solutions. This was followed by a world-café entrepreneurship workshop for 50 scholars interested in innovation and entrepreneurship.The Bright Ideas Innovation Challenge generated interest from local education professionals and promoted Swiss excellence in the field of social innovation.

Volière @ VivaTech: Swiss Drones (and other Flying Robots)

Swiss Voliere at VivaTech 2018 © PRS

VivaTech Conference in Paris © PRS

Geared at startups, investors and the innovation community as a whole, the national pavilion at Viva Technology 2018 was a perfect opportunity to showcase Switzerland’s strengths in science and innovation, as well as to maximize visibility for high-tech startups and their sometimes surprisingly unorthodox flying robots.

“Swiss Volière”, designed by Presence Suisse (PRS) in close collaboration with the Embassy of Switzerland in France, hosted more than 30 interactive shows with seven participating startups. The platform was a great way to present the Swiss drone ecosystem to the world, and to position the country as the leading hotspot for high-tech drones and high-quality tech solutions.

The “Swiss Volière” also welcomed various political and innovation leaders. In addition to State Secretary Mauro Dell’Ambrogio, the French Minister of Economy and Finance, Bruno Le Maire, as well as Bertrand Piccard, all gained first-hand insights into this burgeoning field of Swiss expertise.

Reaching New Heights: Swiss-Canadian Relations in Science and Technology

A Delegation of Universities of Applied Sciences and Teacher Education visit the Swiss Consulate General in Montreal © Urs Obrist

QNU Science Delegations Visits the University of Berne © Urs Obrist

Roundtable Discussions during WEF in Davos © EAER

Signature of the Joint Statement on Science and Technology, Davos, January 2018 © EAER

In January 2018, Swiss Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann and his Canadian counterpart, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains, signed a Joint Statement on Science, Technology and Innovation at the WEF in Davos. As an expression of both countries’ aspiration to emphasize these areas in their bilateral relationship, it soon prompted wide-ranging reactions in academic, government and industry circles.

For example, a high-level academic delegation of top-ranking Canadian universities, organized by the Science Counsellor in Ottawa together with the Canadian Quality Network for Universities, undertook an extensive study tour in Switzerland. The trip provided valuable insights and helped establish new connections, as Canadian institutions are increasingly looking beyond the UK and the USA for academic partnerships.

In turn, a Swiss delegation of Universities of Applied Sciences and Universities of Teacher Education made its way to Canada in order to identify potential partner universities in Ontario and Québec. These personal interactions proved particularly meaningful and were furthered during a Swiss-Canadian Innovation Day organized by the Embassy in Ottawa. Institutions such as Polytechnics Canada, Canadian Bureau for International Education, MITACS, and Colleges and Institutes Canada not only got a detailed insight into the excellent research that is being done at Swiss institutions, but they also presented key aspects of the Canadian post-secondary education realm, their own internationalization efforts, as well as models of Industry-Academia relations.

Towards a ‘Restoring’ Collaboration in the Temple of Fame
New Delhi

Participants of the Workshop in the Temple of Fame © Berne UAS

The Indian National Trust for Cultural Heritage (INTACH), committed to stimulating and spearheading heritage awareness and conservation efforts, assessed the state of various paintings in the country together with Swiss experts and students. In a series of workshops held both in Switzerland and in India, experts from the Berne University of the Arts and the Basel Arts Museum gained insights into  challenges of conservation in India. Indian experts in return acquired and understanding for Swiss methodologies, ethics and training.

Together, they explored the possibilities of applying conservation methods and concepts developed both in Switzerland and in India. INTACH identified the Kirti Mandir in Vadodara, the ‘temple of fame’, as a possible site for a joint conservation project. Built by Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad III of Vadodara in 1936, the central hall contains many murals painted in the 1940s by Nandalal Bose, a renowned artist of the Bengal School of Art. The Swiss students, along with their colleagues from INTACH, assessed the state of the paintings and prepared an intervention plan for their conservation. In 2018 these wall paintings have been restored to their former glory and further collaboration is being considered for the near future.

An Electrifying Affair: Swiss-Russian seminar at the Russian Technological University

Dr Roman Monkowsky from the Paul Scherrer Institute presents at the Russian Technological University on Ultrafast Control of Ferroelectric Polarization © MIREA

ETH's Professor Steve Johnson persents at the Russian Technological University on The Ultrafast Einstein De Haas Effect © MIREA

In November 2018, the Russian Technological University (RTU MIREA), in cooperation with the Embassy of Switzerland in Moscow, organized the Swiss-Russian Scientific seminar “Electronic Materials and Devices in Ultrashort and Ultrastrong Electromagnetic Fields”.The purpose of the seminar was to position Switzerland as a stronghold for cutting-edge research in the field of electronics, while strengthening the cooperation of RTU MIREA with its Swiss partner institutions ETHZ and the Paul Scherrer Institute.

The seminar brought together more than 70 participants representing various leading Russian research institutes and universities: Ioffe Institute of Physics and Technology of the RAS (St. Petersburg), Moscow State University and the Russian Quantum Center (Skolkovo). Highlights of the day included keynote presentations by the Swiss participants Professor Steve Johnson (ETHZ) and Dr. Roman Mankowsky (Paul Scherrer Institute).

Overall, the seminar provided Swiss and Russian researchers with a platform to present and discuss their approaches, share achievements and experiences, and expand professional networks. Besides formal presentations, young researchers had the opportunity to gain visibility with a dedicated poster competition. For Master’s and Ph.D. students it was a unique opportunity to present their projects to a broad scientific audience and interact with leading researchers in the field from Russia and Switzerland. The three best student projects were awarded with diplomas.

Swiss Solar Activities Light Up London’s Science Museum

Swiss Solar Activities Light Up London's Science Museum © Helioviewer

Swiss Solar Activities Light Up London’s Science Museum

The Swiss Embassy in London had the opportunity to showcase Swiss technology at the opening event of exhibition “The Sun” at the Science Museum London.

Hundreds of guests saw pictures of what the sun looked like on the day they were born and took home pictures as a souvenir. The exhibition also displayed Swiss art that creates electricity.

Swiss Solar Activities Light Up London's Science Museum © José Farinha 2018

Quiet? Explosive? What did the sun look like on your special day?

Thanks to our partners from the University of Applied Sciences Northwest Switzerland and their outreach workshop «Raumschiff», hundreds of guests came to check out solar images from the exact day they were born and took home a picture as a memento.

Swiss Solar Activities Light Up London's Science Museum © José Farinha 2018

Does my sun look big in this?

Browsing through solar databases – a good opportunity to chat about solar research.

Who knew that Switzerland has been building and calibrating instruments for studying the sun for decades? We did, obviously…

Swiss Solar Activities Light Up London's Science Museum © José Farinha 2018

Electrifying Art

Artwork really works with CSEM’s technology to print images onto solar cells. Thank you Compáz!

The Asian Games Timekeeping Tour – Swiss Precision at its Best

Timekeeping Tours at the Asian Games © Swiss Embassy in Jakarta

In August 2018, Jakarta and Palembang hosted the 18thedition of the Asian Games, a triennial multidisciplinary sports event regularly attended by over 10,000 athletes from more than 40 nations. In fact, it is the second largest multidisciplinary sports event after the Olympics. Although Switzerland was not one of the participating nations this year, it enjoyed a special presence throughout the Asian Games thanks to Tissot’s role as the official timekeeper.

The Swiss Embassy organized a “behind the scenes tour” in cooperation with Tissot. Selected guests learned about what goes into the planning and organization of the Asian Games and about professional sports timekeeping. The tour was followed by a presentation on the strengths Swiss innovation, in particular precision engineering. Participants included senior officials such as Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary General of the ASEAN and Sri Lastami, Director of the Intellectual Property Department within the Indonesian Ministry of Justice, as well as members of the recently established Swiss-Indonesian Chamber of Commerce (“SwissCham”), and about a dozen national and international media representatives.

Raising Awareness on Space Debris Pollution

Muriel Richard (second from left) presents the CleanSpace One mission © S. Monnet

After more than 60 years in space, humanity is responsible for more than 8,000 tons of orbital debris. With this comes a high risk of collisions, particularly for the International Space Station and other manned spacecraft.

Space debris includes all non-operational, human-made objects. Some of these re-enter the atmosphere, others collide, generating even more debris. EPFL’s CleanSpace One (CSO) project has the objective to raise awareness with regards to orbital debris, to demonstrate removal technologies and to de-orbit SwissCube – the first Swiss-owned and student-designed satellite, operational since 2009.

When Muriel Richard, former scientist at NASA and now at the EPFL Space Engineering Center (eSpace), visited Australia to participate at the World Science Festival, the Swiss Embassy in Canberra seized the opportunity to organize a series of meetings and receptions with leading institutes in Canberra and Brisbane. The collaboration aimed at advancing awareness about space debris and fostering knowledge transfer and networking with Australian space and robotics experts. It also created a platform to highlight Switzerland’s aerospace sector and longstanding involvement in space research.

Overlapping research interests and strong synergies emerged in particular during exchanges between Prof. Richard and the Australian National University and the Queensland University of Technology with their world-class expertise in adaptive optics and robotics vision, paving the way for more collaboration between Switzerland and Australia in space research.

EcoSuiza 2018: Sustainable Timber Construction
Buenos Aires

Swiss and Argentine Researchers discuss Sustainable Timber Construction © Embajada de Suiza en Argentina

Back in 2011, the Swiss Embassy and the Swiss-Argentine Chamber of Commerce in Buenos Aires jointly initiated EcoSuiza, an annual cooperation and exchange platform dedicated to questions on sustainability. As a leading country in environmental protection, Swiss scientists can add concrete innovative technology applications to the dialog with Argentina’s institutions, businesses and social stakeholders.

In its 2018 edition, EcoSuiza focused on sustainable timber constructions. By bringing together local specialists and a Swiss expert (Willy Berthoud, Senior Lecturer at the Berne University of Applied Sciences), new connections between Swiss and Argentine research and industry actors have been established at the Línea Cuchilla Institute in Misiones Province and at the INTA (National Agricultural Technology Institute) in Buenos Aires.

EcoSuiza is much more than a single event. In May 2019, a follow-up video conference by INTA will continue the joint activities initiated.

Horizon Europe: The Continuation of a Successful Collaboration between Switzerland and the EU

State Secretary Mauro Dell’Ambrogio at the Informal Council of Research Ministers on July 17 in Vienna © EU Council

Prof. Thomas Stocker from the University of Bern at the Swiss Science Briefing on climate @ SwissCore and Mission of Switzerland to the EU.

Joint Committee meeting of the bilateral agreement between the EU-Euratom and Switzerland © EC

The exceptional contributions of Switzerland in the European research and innovation programme Horizon 2020 were one of the topics in this year’s joint committee meeting. Thanks to the agreement, Swiss researchers can participate in all Horizon 2020 programme parts, as well as in the Euratom research and training programme and in ITER. Conversations about the continuation of the collaboration post-2020 within the upcoming Framework Programme, Horizon Europe, already started mid-2018, when State Secretary Mauro Dell’Ambrogio met with the Director General for research and innovation, Jean-Eric Paquet.

In addition to preparing Switzerland’s participation in current and future EU framework programs, the Mission of Switzerland to the EU and SwissCore organized a series of Science Briefings with a view to showcase Swiss expertise in topics of European interest. Discussing the future of data sharing, Prof. Edouard Bugnion, Vice-President for Information Systems at EPFL, presented the recently created Swiss Data Science Center. In another edition, Prof. Thomas Stocker from the University of Berne – an internationally renowned expert in climate and environmental physics –outlined how Europe could tackle the global challenge of climate change.

The First Swiss Innovation Week in Beijing

Swiss Innovation Week in Beijing © Swiss Embassy, Beijing

In 2018, the Swiss Embassy in Beijing hosted the Swiss Innovation Week (SIW) for the first time. The main topic of the conference was ‘digitalization’ and provided a platform to highlight Swiss achievements in the field. The Innovation Week concluded with a grand reception at the Embassy for Swiss alumni and a speech by Switzerland’s State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, Mauro Dell’Ambrogio.

Swiss Innovation Week in Beijing © Swiss Embassy, Beijing

As part of the Swiss Innovation Week, representatives from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), the Tsinghua University and the University of International Business and Economics participated in a workshop covering exchange programs between Switzerland and China.

Swiss Innovation Week in Beijing © Swiss Embassy, Beijing

The first session of the Swiss Innovation Week in Beijing was a joint lecture hosted by ZHAW and focused on “Family Wealth Management and Family Succession in Switzerland”. Additional presentations covered “Chinese Households’ Financial Asset Structure” and “Robo-Advisors in China”. The panel discussion revealed that Chinese fintech applications are an indispensable part for Chinese families in handling their financial affairs.

Swiss Innovation Week in Beijing © Swiss Embassy, Beijing

The Swiss universities and schools alumni event was one of the highlights of the first day at the Swiss Innovation Week. More than 250 guests were welcomed, including over 200 alumni, making it the largest Swiss alumni event in China ever.

Swiss Innovation Week in Beijing © Swiss Embassy, Beijing

As part of the Swiss Innovation Week, the Science, Technology and Education Section at the Swiss Embassy organized a roundtable on professional and vocational education. Representatives from the Chinese government, the Swiss School, some Swiss companies and Chinese academia participated in the discussion. The various experts talked about the status-quo of VPET in China and opportunities for Swiss institutions and companies to engage in the area.

Mental Work @ swissnex San Francisco
swissnex San Francisco

Mental Work Showroom Opening © swissnex San Francisco

Mental Work Showroom Opening © swissnex San Francisco

Mental Work Showroom Opening © swissnex San Francisco

Mental Work Showroom Opening © swissnex San Francisco

Mental Work Showroom Opening © swissnex San Francisco

Imagine a future where we can move machines using our mind. At the Mental Work factory at swissnex San Francisco, more than 1,300 visitors experienced this possible future in an art-science exhibition that took place in May 2018.

Mental Work was conceived as a collaboration between José Millán, a neuroscience professor at EPFL, and Jonathan Keats, an experimental philosopher based in San Francisco, building a bridge between Switzerland and the Bay Area. The exhibition, supported by the Bertarelli Foundation, was accompanied by a rich program of public and invite-only events to discuss ethical, scientific, and security questions related to neuro technologies and artificial intelligence.

Leveraging breakthrough innovations developed at Campus Biotech in the BMI laboratory of José Millán, the exhibition operated under the name Mental Work Industries. The machines were based on slider cranks, standard mechanisms of the industrial revolution, which were computerized and coupled with state-of-the-art dry EEG headsets (EEG is a noninvasive way to record electrical patterns in your brain) made by Wearable Sensing, a Californian company. Millán’s lab at Campus Biotech developed AI algorithms to make the machines run when visitors imagine movement in their hands.

The San Francisco edition of Mental Work (the exhibition was first shown at EPFL) built the world’s largest EEG dataset ever collected, which is now being analyzed and shared by José Millán’s lab. In addition, the program, which included an exhibition, eight events, and various publications, offered a great opportunity to position Campus Biotech, the Lake Geneva region, and Switzerland as leading hubs in the field of neuroscience, neurotechnology, and brain-machine interfaces. It allowed swissnex SF to develop new ideas with institutions and foundations such as UC Berkeley, ETH Zurich’s Health Ethics and Policy Lab, the Geneva Center for Security Policy, and the Bertarelli Foundation.

For more insights, check out our video “Mental Work: The Cognitive Revolution has Arrived” (by Riccardo Ferraris), or our Podcast “On Human and Machine Interaction” (produced by Perrine Huber)

Together towards a greener world
swissnex India

India is taking bold steps toward a greener future, with investments in clean energy shooting up by 22% in the first six months of the year. The country is projected to be the largest growth market for Cleantech.

Against this background, swissnex India has defined Renewable Energy as one of its core focus areas and was mandated in 2018 by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy’s to enhance Indo-Swiss technology and knowledge exchange in that sector for the coming three years. Activities in 2018 included the promotion of Bertrand Piccard’s World Alliance for Efficient Solutions, the Solartech India Industry program and the Cleantech Week India with fifteen entrepreneurs, academics and policymakers. As an outcome, Swiss innovation in renewable energy was showcased through 30+ press mentions and high social media engagements. Also, Swiss energy startups such as HyLite Power, Enairys Powertech, Designergy and LEDSafari, are in the process of finalizing partnerships with Indian companies.

swissnex China celebrates 10th anniversary
swissnex China

swissnex China celebrates its 10th anniversary with a highlevel delegation © swissnex China

Signing ceremony between UZH and SJTU at swissnex China © swissnex China

swissnex China celebrates its 10th anniversary with a highlevel delegation © swissnex China

Keynote speakers at swissnex China's Home of Drones event © swissnex China

Panel discussions at swissnex China's Home of Drone event © swissnex China

On the occasion of Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann’s official visit, swissnex China had the pleasure of celebrating its 10th anniversary since its founding on August 7, 2008 by former Swiss State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation, Mauro Dell’Ambrogio. swissnex China marked their historic milestone with the visit of Federal Councillor Schneider-Ammann, Swiss Ambassador Jean-Jacques de Dardel and a large high-level academic and business delegation.

As a testament to swissnex China’s capability of connecting educational institutions of the highest level, a press briefing held at swissnex China offices brought together the University of Zurich and Shanghai Jiao Tong University for an exchange agreement signing ceremony, inaugurated by Prof. Dr. Michael Hengartner, president of the University of Zurich, and Prof. Dr. Zhongqin Lin, president of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, under the auspices of the Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann. This signing was also attended by members of the UZH Alumni China Chapter. The exchange program will enable Bachelor’s, Master’s, PhD students as well as faculty members from both institutions to benefit from an international experience.

As part of the various celebration acitivites, swissnex China hosted the ’Homes of Drones: The Sino-Swiss Drone Night’, which connected the Swiss and Chinese drone ecosystems and brought the best of both worlds together. Seven experts from Switzerland and China shared their knowledge and had in-depth discussions on future trends in the drone industry. Two keynote speakers – Janick Mischler, Project Manager Development and Innovation of Swiss Post and Mengke Sun, from Business Development Center of JDX Lab Drone, presented their deep insights and introduced the regulations and limitations of drones in Switzerland and China.

During the ensuing panel moderated by Gary Mi (Chief of Staff, Drone Racing League), the panelists Lukas Meier (COO & Co-Founder of Fixposition), Kang Chen (Director of Commercial Solution, Yuneec International co., Ltd.), Philippe Leyvraz (Product Manager, Flyability), Leon Zhao (COO & Co-Founder, Antwork) shared their ideas and viewpoints on the latest trends in the drones field.

The Homes of Drones event was organized in partnership with SwissCham China and Presence Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA).

Aerial Futures: The Drone Frontier
swissnex Boston

Aerial Entertainment © Verity Studios

Aerial Entertainment: Launching into the Drone Frontier at SXSW

With a network of 150+ industry experts spanning 60 different organizations, swissnex Boston spearheaded a novel effort to position Switzerland internationally as a world-leading drone ecosystem. In March 2018, they launched “Aerial Futures: The Drone Frontier” at South by Southwest (SXSW) with a panel on drones in art and entertainment. The sold-out talk featured Verity Studios , who produced drone shows for Drake, Metallica, and Cirque du Soleil.

Aerial Humanitarians – from Boston to Geneva © swissnexx Boston

Aerial Humanitarians: From Boston to Geneva

What are the capabilities of aerial AI for humanitarians? How have humanitarian drone interventions changed in recent years and what amendments need to be made to the existing code of conduct to stay current? In May 2018, swissnex Boston partnered with WeRobotics and hosted two Experts Meetings exploring just that. The experience was so successful, it led to an encore in Geneva in December in partnership with the Geneva Science-Policy Interface.

Aerial Cooperation © swissnex Boston

Aerial Cooperation: Building Capacity in Robotics and Presenting at the UN Science Technology and Innovation Forum

Next on the agenda: a fly-by at the United Nations in New York City for the Science, Technology and Innovation Forum, where swissnex Boston, with the Swiss and Tanzanian Missions, Drone Adventures, and Zanzibari stakeholders, presented a model of North-South cooperation that led to the world’s largest drone mapping project, the Zanzibar Mapping Initiative, building capacity in aerial robotics and improving urban planning, environmental monitoring, coastal management, and more.

Aerial Showcase © David L. Ryan Boston Globe

Aerial Showcase: 2-Day Public Exhibition in Downtown Boston

In October, swissnex Boston brought together around 70 partners from 40 international organizations for a 2-day showcase of the drone frontier. With a flying cage for demos, workshops, and public talks, swissnex captured the incredible breadth of the Swiss drone industry: from construction to oceanography, agriculture to delivery. The event even catalyzed the birth of Volaly, Switzerland’s newest drone startup.

Aerial Futures – The Skies Ahead © swissnex Boston

Aerial Futures: The Skies Ahead, from Urban Air Mobility to Drone Regulations

“It was important for us to have a meaningful and tangible impact with this series,” said Jonas Brunschwig, Head of Academic Relations. “Starting from Switzerland’s drone prowess, which we began exploring in 2016, we sparked connections between key actors across disciplines and continents that are now taking a life of their own. Next up we’ll be diving into urban air mobility and drone regulations.”

Leadership Statement by Maria Conti
swissnex Brazil

Maria Conti, CEO swissnex Brazil

We at swissnex Brazil are committed to explore unknown paths and to meet challenges with creativity: “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”.

2018 has been an important year in which we consolidated our well-connected team in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The work of our team not only bore fruits in the two cities that move the majority of this country’s economy, but also in other territories, where swissnex Brazil spotted high potential for innovation and ingenuity.

Analyzing the current tendencies in the country and through realizing a variety of events, we identified potential innovation centers that create opportunities for new partnerships in different thematic fields.

Piracicaba, one such innovative center, is an important hub for talented minds in the AgTech sector. The AgTech Valley day organized by swissnex Brazil presented the highly innovative Brazilian ecosystem in agriculture, a field where the country is a worldwide leader. The program included discussion panels, presentations, and pitching sessions featuring startups and researchers. The event strengthened the connections with ESALQ / University of São Paulo, and represented an essential move for swissnex Brazil in scouting a strategic territory for further projects and partnerships with Swiss stakeholders.

Urban Innovation has been identified as another focus. The event “Smart Building: Increase of energy efficiency and self-sufficiency” brought together experts from Switzerland (ETH Zürich) and Brazil to address the use of biomass, primarily bamboo, in the construction industry. Among the panelists were Guillaume Habert, who holds the Chair of Sustainable Construction and is Associate Professor at ETH Zürich, and Romildo Dias Toledo Filho, Professor and Deputy Director of Coppe, which is one of the most prestigious engineering research centers in Brazil. Coppe was previously awarded a grant from the Leading House (University of St. Gallen). Due to the inspiring encounters at the event, swissnex Brazil organized and mediated visits in Switzerland to ZHAW and the EPFL Smart Living Lab, the University of Applied Sciences of Fribourg and the University of Fribourg.

The Academia-Industry Training, held this year in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, gathered creative scientrepreneurs from Switzerland and Brazil. The presence of several health-tech related projects suited perfectly to swissnex Brazil’s commitment in the field of health: The collaborative agreement signed with Instituto Oswaldo Cruz marks the beginning of future innovative projects.

We are looking forward to deepening these ties and creating platforms for light-bulb moments.

Leadership statement by Sebastien Hug
swissnex India

Leadership Statement: Sébastien Hug, CEO, Consul General

Passionate about driving change today for tomorrow – These seven words summarize swissnex India’s strategy for the next couple of years, which we have elaborated in 2018 and has already shaped our activities of the past year.

The statement conveys the three main pillars that lay the foundation for why and how we do things at swissnex India. First, at the core of any swissnex, are people that are driven by their passion for connecting the dots in education, research and innovation. Two, in the context of a rapidly changing Indian economy, we’re dedicated to nurture and channel that same passion to make a difference to our partners, and to Indo-Swiss relations. In other words, we’re focusing our activities based on intended outcomes rather than increasing output. Lastly, for any international project, sufficient time is needed to establish relationship and gain a better understanding of the local context, this is particularly true in the case of India. Hence, we’re working towards partnerships with a long(er)-term perspective.

Leadership Statement by Felix Moesner
swissnex China

Dr. Felix Moesner, CEO swissnex China

2018 marked the 10thanniversary of swissnex China, a historic milestone we had the immense honor of marking with Federal Councillor Johann Schneider-Ammann and his high-level science and business delegation, while connecting the best of the Sino-Swiss drone ecosystems with our ‘Homes of Drones’ event. As global interest in China continues to grow in tandem to its continual ascension as an innovation superpower, a broad range of new opportunities have opened up for Sino-Swiss collaboration and knowledge exchange. In this dynamic innovation hotbed where digitalization is becoming ever more pervasive, swissnex China looks to consolidate and shore up its positioning as a Center of Competence for education, research and innovation in the Sino-Swiss context.

In 2019 we will continue to explore cutting-edge topics: future-oriented trends and emerging technologies as well as groundbreaking deep-tech, from Fintech and AI to quantum computing and space farming. We will be building upon the time-proven format of our successful Café des Sciences, Future of Money, Fireside Chat and Science Diplomacy: Belt & Road Initiative event series, while our flagship programs such as the Swiss Startup Pavilion @ CES ASIA, Venture Leaders China and Swiss Alumni China will serve as strategic platforms to bolster Swiss presence and visibility in China and foster opportunities for meaningful collaboration and exchanges. In addition, we continue to show leadership with the S&T Diplomatic Circle, contributing to the consular community and the broader society in Shanghai.

Furthermore, our swissnex China offices in Shanghai will be relocating by February 2022 at the latest: a major change that will impact the next decade.

In 2019 our talented and driven team will continue to create impact and generate value for Switzerland and beyond, through meaningful activities for our existing and new partners, stakeholders, and the society at large.

Leadership Statement by Christian Simm
swissnex Boston

Christian Simm, CEO swissnex Boston

Never before has there been so much information available, with so little knowledge of where it is from, its integrity, how it is used, and how to make sense of it. At a time where technology empowers so much interconnectedness in time and space, we simultaneously experience a slow loss of cultural identities, a fragmentation of society, and a general polarization.

Critical thinking, systems thinking, and local actions are required to address global challenges. Complex issues are best described, understood, and solved when working with different “languages”, collaborating across disciplines, and combining distinct skills. These timely issues were swissnex Boston New York’s core competencies in 2018 and will continue to be so as we move into the future.

We aim to be as much a brand or a way of working and initiating ideas as we are a multi-location physical space to convene, exchange, learn and experiment collaboratively. We have evolved our service offering to a more proactive, targeted, and longer-term approach, thus shaping meaningful conversations between stakeholders and inspiring impactful partnerships. Our multi-year program, “Aerial Futures: The Drone Frontier” exemplifies how greater depth is generated from creating a large variety of program content and developing a suite of ongoing transformational services. In 2019, we will pursue our activities with intentionality and strive with our stakeholders for a common understanding of our impact, value, and competence, to inspire the thoughtful construction of our collective future.

Leadership Statement by Gioia Deucher
swissnex San Francisco

Gioia Deucher, CEO swissnex San Francisco

Three strategic themes marked our third year at Pier 17: Consolidate, Collaborate and Create Shared Value.

To streamline our messaging both in Switzerland and locally, consolidating the programming and communication of our activities has become ever more important. In 2018, we sought to understand the emergent future through the lenses of five focus areas: Energy and Environment, Intelligent Machines, Storytelling and Interaction, Structures of Society, as well as Next Horizons – the yet-to-be-discovered challenges and opportunities that lay ahead.

Under these focus areas, our programs – from exhibitions and public events, to innovation journeys and designathons – have explored topics as diverse as urban swarm behavior, climate risk monitoring in finance, the impact of smart speakers on traditional media, and human rights in the age of AI. In our tenth year of working with Innosuisse to promote and internationalize the Swiss entrepreneurial ecosystem, we further consolidated our startup support programs, drawing lessons from past experience and participant feedback. The new reality of Pier 17 allows us to employ a cohort approach, providing a rich program of workshops, presentations and peer learning sessions to a group of eight or more startups, twice a year. As a result of this, as well as a new partnership with EPFL’s Vice Presidency of Innovation, aspiring student-entrepreneurs now have the chance to learn from more seasoned founders coming through the Innosuisse Startup Camp.

Our very existence has roots in collaborating with an ever-expanding group of partners. Always committed to connecting new dots, we expanded and strengthened the collaboration with Swiss stakeholders. In 2018, we tied the knot with new partners such as Fondation Bertarelli, Policy Kitchen, Blue Horizon and swissinfo, and worked closely with the City and Canton of Zurich to make the Zurich Meets San Francisco Festival a success.

Understanding that collaboration is a mindset that must apply externally as much as internally across teams, our programming culminated in the swissnex Salon: an experimental blend of activities with a shared theme. Inspired by the Preamble of the Swiss Constitution, we explored the values at the core of our democratic societies in light of rapid technological change. Generously supported by the swissnex network’s founding father Thierry Lombard, in the last quarter of 2018, our space turned into a gathering place – a Salon – hosting ten conferences, five workshops and twenty-three short-term residents, within a thought-provoking installation.

Throughout the year, creating shared value was top of mind for our team. Beyond implementing impact objectives in all our activities, we put specific focus on engaging our resident community to maximize the serendipitous potential of Pier 17. Through new on- and offline initiatives, we kept working on creating the best possible conditions to connect dots in our community. Coming up with novel ways to transfer insights and knowledge back to Switzerland, 2018 also witnessed the launch of nextcast – a podcast series allowing anyone to eavesdrop on some of the most interesting exchanges and conversations happening at swissnex San Francisco. Finally, the Mental Work exhibition allowed our audiences to playfully explore the avant-garde of man-machine interaction, all the while contributing to an important brain research project.

Well aware that the core value of swissnex lies in its capacity to stay ahead of the curve and experiment, we look forward to another year of many firsts!


Facts & Figures


More than 320 Events

More than 180 Swiss partners


73.9 employees (FTE)

30 locations

Costs of swissnex Network

The overall costs in 2018 amounted to CHF 12.48m and covered all expenses of the entire swissnex Network, including the swissnex locations, the Science Counselors and Offices and related project expenses at the swissnex Headquarters, housed within the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). These expenses are either funded by SERI, or by public or private partners. The overall costs include all expenses such as for operations, salaries, infrastructure, IT and projects, including in-kind services. The salary costs of the 13 (mostly part-time) Science Counselors are funded by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs employs and are not included here.

Funding of swissnex locations

In 2018, the total costs of the five swissnex locations and their outposts amount to CHF 9.94m. SERI provided the swissnex locations with a funding of CHF 5.61m. In addition, public and private partners supported and co-funded the swissnex activities with CHF 4.33m.

Science Counselors / Offices

Partners in Switzerland