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Swissnex Day 2024: Planetary Thinking

Swissnex Day 2024 has put the spotlight on planetary thinking, featuring researchers, innovators, and artists who are unveiling new ways of looking at the relationship between humans and the planet. The event provided the opportunity to discuss working towards a future in which humans and their non-human neighbours can thrive together within planetary boundaries.

Author: Larissa Erdmann
Six Swissnex CEOs are sat on stage around a red banner with the Swissnex logo. The heads of the audience can be seen on the bottom, the background of the stage is gray.
In an onstage discussion, the CEOs of the Swissnex offices presented the new initiative «Swissnex for the planet».

At its annual meeting in Bern, Swissnex put the spotlight on planetary thinking. As the climate crisis has progressed to a breaking point, research and innovation plays an important role. From clean technologies to innovative ways of living with the effects of climate change, the minds of researchers and innovators are needed for our planet’s future. Meanwhile, science also sheds light on the fundamental limits of our Earth system. There several processes that are critical for the stability and resilience of our planet, including biosphere integrity, climate change, and biogeochemical flows among others. Evidence from Earth system science suggests that the boundaries of these processes are being transgressed – and that we are now outside of the safe operating space for humanity. Swissnex Day 2024 featured talks from scientists, researchers, innovators and artists and their insights into how we can shift from a human-centric to a planetary-centric way of being. 

Swissnex representatives from all over the world and interested parties came together to network and discuss our relationship with the planet at the Gurten Pavilion overlooking Bern. Deputy Head of the International Relations Division of SERI, Maria Peyro Voeffray, welcomed the over 300 attendees, emphasizing the unique and valuable role of Swissnexin the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talents.

A woman with short hair in a green suit on stage next to a podium and a "Swissnex Day" screen in the background.
Olivia Gachoud, head of the Science and Technology office at the Embassy of Switzerland in the US, was the Master of Ceremonies at Swissnex Day 2024.
A group of people talking to each other indoors.
Swissnex Day provided the opportunity for networking and discussions.
The backs of the audience, looking at a presentation on global warming in the background.
The talks provided insights into science, research, innovation, and art centred around planetary thinking.

Keynote speaker Prof. Dr.Thomas Stocker, president of the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, introduced a central aspect of planetary thinking: climate change. The different speakers and their topics reflected the diversity of planetary thinking. From an art project integrating data about air origins to research on forest fragments in West Africa, a coral reef in the Philippines or lending Swiss expertise to a hydrogen cluster in Japan – planetary thinking has different facets and locations. The six «lightning talks» offered food for thought on climate and sustainability research, artistic interpretations of human-planet relations, as well as startups tackling the effects of climate change in an innovative way and more. 

«Swissnex Day is an exceptional occasion to network and make new connections to facilitate the international exchange of ideas, talents and knowledge.»

Maria Peyro Voeffray

Inventing a Planetary Diplomacy

At Swissnex Day 2024, the CEOs of the six main Swissnex locations unveiled Swissnex for the Planet, an initiative to explore the idea for a «planetary diplomacy» across the global Swissnex network. 

A screen with the promotional image for "Swissnex Day 2024: Planetary Thinking" against a gray background.
In 2024, Swissnex Day put the spotlight on «Planetary Thinking».

The initiative’s objective is to pioneer a novel form of science-based diplomacy seeking to achieve a symbiotic relationship between humanity and planet Earth in all its complexity. The concept is inspired by a growing wave of planetary thinking questioning our human-centric narrative of progress, emphasizing instead human’s interdependence with Earth’s other inhabitants and processes, from aquatic ecosystems to soil-dwelling microbes to atmospheric aerosols. Leveraging science and technology, a planetary diplomacy would act on human’s relationship with these non-human entities, considering them as legitimate counterparts. In working as a laboratory for planetary diplomacy, Swissnex for the Planet aims to develop, prototype and assess the viability of the concept on a planetary scale. Based on Swissnex’s entrepreneurial, creative, and decentralized nature, the initiative will feature two main pillars: a working group on planetary diplomacy composed of experts from various disciplines and a planetary campaign of activities each focusing on specific non-human entities. The initiative aims to inspire a conversation between Swiss and international experts on the relationship between humans and the planet.

Keynote speaker: Prof. Dr.Thomas Stocker, University of Bern

A man in a blazer and glasses speaks to an audience at a podium with a Swissnex logo in the background.

Thomas Stocker, president of the Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research and professor of Climate and Environmental Physics at the University of Bern presented the factual evidence of climate change. He sees a fourth industrial revolution coming, that of decarbonization – and with Swiss innovation, some of the crucial technology could be «Made in Switzerland». 

Virtual Remarks: Dr. Adil Najam, WWF international

A man wearing glasses speaks against a virtual background of a forest, with an image of earth from space next to him.

The president of WWF Adil Najam, conveyed three key messages: In the face of climate change and the necessary adaptions to come, planetary thinking is characterized by urgency, ambition, and action. 

Lightning talk: Josephine Graf, rrreefs

A woman in a beige suit speaks on stage to an audience. Next to her is a screen showing a coral reef.

Co-CEO and co-founder of rrreefs Josephine Graf presented her startup which focuses on regenerating coral reefs. Their 3D-printed modules in the Philippines are showcasing a quick increase in biodiversity. 

Lightning talk: Cameron Dowd, Inverto Earth

A man in a colorful button-down speaks on stage to an audience. Next to him is a screen containing information about biodiversity.

Cameron Dowd, co-founder and CTO of Inverto Earth detailed his holistic perspective on planetary thinking. His startup enables the restoration and conservation of coastal ecosystems with local communities, providing data on the impact on biodiversity and social impact. 

Lightning talk: Prof. Dr. Chinwe Ifejika Speranza, University of Bern

A woman in an orange jumper speaks to an audience behind a podium with a Swissnex logo in the background.

Professor of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of Bern Chinwe Ifejika Speranza explained the effects even a small forest fragment in West Africa can have. In spite of their size, the forest fragments contain unique tree species and support local communities. They can be supported through local forest governance and sustainable agricultural practices. 

Lightning talk: Prof. Dr. Christine Brombach, ZHAW

A woman in a red jacket speaks to an audience behind a podium while holding up a leaflet saying "Klimatopf". In the background of the stage is a Swissnex logo.

Christine Brombach, professor at the School of Life Sciences and Facility Management of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, focused on food as a game changer. She showed how the general population can take action through food: through a flexitarian, mostly plant-focused diet that includes seasonal, locally produced nourishing food. 

Lightning talk: Khalil Berro, artist

A man with a baseball hat and glasses speaks to an audience behind a podium on a stage with a Swissnex logo in the background.

The Swiss-Lebanese artist Khalil Berro challenges human perception and the concept of «nature». In his new project «Breathe», he combines the research and data on the origins of air with artistic interpretation. 

Lightning talk: Lithic Alliance, artist collective

A person speaks behind a podium on a stage to an audience with a Swissnex logo in the background.

Artist collective Lithic Alliance works predominantly with the lithological realm. Their work shows the connections between humans and minerals and questions relations and coexistence between humans and non-human entities. 

Swissnex Day

Swissnex is the global network connecting Switzerland and the world in education, research, and innovation. Our mission is to support the outreach and active engagement of our partners in the international exchange of knowledge, ideas and talent. We thereby contribute to strengthen Switzerland's profile as a world-leading innovation hotspot.

Swissnex Day is the annual signature event of Swissnex. It brings together staff from around the world and Swiss ERI stakeholders to exchange the latest global trends and explore potential collaborations with Switzerland. It puts the spotlight on a different topic each year and features speakers from research, industry, innovation and more. The event is open to the public. This year’s Swissnex Day took place on April 24th, 2024 in Bern. 

Tatiana Benavides Damm, SERI Project Manager, ressort Swissnex +41 79 288 34 96
Larissa Erdmann

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