The Swiss diplomatic representation in the US has a distinctive trait: it includes two unusual "innovation consulates" (my definition). One is in Boston, called Share (Swiss House for Advanced Research and Education); the other in San Francisco, called Swissnex, run by my friend Christian Simm. Their key task is to develop bridges and foster exchanges between the two foremost innovation hubs in the US -- the MIT/Harvard campus and the Bay Area -- and the academia and research sectors in Switzerland. And they're doing a pretty good job.
Yesterday, together with the Office of science and tech at the Swiss Embassy in DC and other Swiss government entities, they launched a new initiative called "ThinkSwiss - Brainstorm the future", which aims at engaging Swiss and American creativity and innovation through events of different kind across the US, on topics ranging from global warming to life sciences to human rights. The program -- still under development -- includes among other things a cleantech roadshow, an exhibit on food, discussions on nanotech, a big forum on e-voting and e-democracy on April 23rd in Washington (for their very similar federalist structure, Switzerland and the US are historically considered "sister republics") and even, on April 15 in San Francisco, a special celebration of the 300th anniversary of Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler - himself a great innovator.
Three e-mail questions to Pascal Marmier, one of the animators of Share in Boston (and also a friend):
What do you want to achieve through the "ThinkSwiss" initiative?
We aim to increase the visibility of Swiss competencies in key areas of science, technology and education. An important element of the program is to establish new collaboration between scientists and entrepreneurs. This program will also help organize innovative activities such as a Swiss-inspired "climate trail" that - during the Cambridge Science Festival in April - will link information from experts on the current research on climate change and possible solutions.
Why have you chosen e-voting and e-democracy as the flagship theme?
The debate is heating up in the US about the legitimacy of new voting technologies, so we will bring together thought leaders from the two "sister republics" around a series of workshops and public events. The participants will exchange ideas and experiences about the impact of internet voting (which has already been successfully implemented in some votes in Switzerland) and the use of web-based decision platforms.
Can you give me two examples of how Share Boston, which was founded in 2000, has been good for Switzerland so far?
First, by putting Swiss science & technology on the radar screen of the Boston area decision makers. From students to deans, and from entrepreneurs to executives, a wide variety of young innovators have benefited from the various programs and contact opportunities created over the year. Second, by facilitating the creation or development of various transatlantic ventures and programs in areas of technology such as bioinformatics, medtech or nanotechnology.