Opinions ERI policy Swissnex

From sharp minds come innovative ideas

Whether it be through organisations, institutions, infrastructures or programmes, international cooperation in the area of education, research and innovation ultimately comes down to the sharp minds of individuals who develop and implement ideas that make progress possible.

Author: Martina Hirayama
Martina Hirayama State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation
Martina Hirayama is since 1 January 2019 State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation. Photo: Monique Wittwer

The Swissnex network is a major contributor. With over twenty-five years of experience, it offers great potential for the future. The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) works closely with the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) to manage the Swissnex network, which is currently comprised of six Swissnex locations and around twenty science counsellors at Swiss diplomatic and consular missions abroad. The main role of the network is to help interested ERI stakeholders from Switzerland to develop international contacts, share knowledge and ideas and obtain information about the latest trends that Swissnex has observed at research and innovation hubs across the globe. Swissnex also helps Swiss start-up companies and young researchers to gain access to international markets and to find potential partners.

The 2022 annual report published at the end of April shows just how highly ERI stakeholders value and use the expertise of the Swissnex network: last year, Swissnex teamed up with around 145 Swiss organisations and international partners to organise over 270 events and activities, many of which related to start-up and spin-off companies.

At the end of May, participants at the 2023 SwissnexDay in Lugano were given the chance to experience and discover socially relevant areas of research, innovation and business that Swiss start-up companies aim to excel in. Hopefully, they will achieve their objectives. Under the motto, ‘Pushing the Boundaries in Health Innovation!’, a dozen Swiss start-up companies presented their innovative products and services to an interested public.

Three examples of innovation coming out of Switzerland include a reasonably priced, easy-to-use breathing apparatus (for first aid and ambulance transport), which is already being used in the world’s poorer countries; visual headsets that use sensor technology to alert the blind or visually impaired of obstacles on their path, thereby helping them to avoid bumping into people and objects in their surroundings; a novel AI-based wheelchair that can either be controlled manually or set to fully automated mode, thus ensuring the greatest possible manoeuvrability. While the Swissnex network was not the only contributor, it certainly played a pivotal role in bringing these innovative ideas to fruition, namely by bringing sharp minds together from all over the world.