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Global Affairs

UZH at the Switzerland-Japan Economic Forum

Government, academic and business leaders from Japan and Switzerland gathered at the Switzerland-Japan Economic Forum 2023 in Tokyo to explore the critical role of innovation promotion. UZH Vice President Christian Schwarzenegger shared his expertise on the Swiss ecosystem and the UZH Innovation Hub, a platform for innovation and entrepreneurship at Switzerland’s largest university.

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    "To be successful, you need a critical mass of students, researchers and excellent core facilities", said UZH Vice President Christian Schwarzenegger about the role of universities in innovation promotion. Photo: Sakurako Kuroda

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    The speakers of one panel discussed the collaboration of companies and universities in innovation promotion. From left to right: Osamu Watanabe, Executive Vice President for Research, Tokyo Institute of Technology; Christian Schwarzenegger, Vice President, Faculty Affairs and Scientific Information; Mikołaj Jan Piskorski, Professor of Digital Strategy, Analytics and Innovation, Dean of Asia and Oceania, IMD; Allan Sumiyama, Senior General Manager, Corporate Technology Strategy Division, Sony Corporation. Photo: Sakurako Kuroda

Switzerland and Japan are highly innovation-driven countries: Japan’s science and technology cluster in Tokyo-Yokohama is the biggest of its kind globally. Both countries have top rankings in the Global Innovation Index, with Switzerland leading the table for the 13th year in a row in 2023. At the same time, both countries are facing similar societal challenges. According to the participants of this year’s Switzerland-Japan Economic Forum, productive innovation ecosystems rely on three main success factors: universities generating strong ideas and human talents, industry engaging with academia in research collaboration and governments setting conducive framework conditions.  

Fostering innovation at UZH

Christian Schwarzenegger, Vice President, Faculty Affairs and Scientific Information at UZH, was invited as a speaker to this year’s Economic Forum. He highlighted the specific strength of Zurich as a research and education hub and shared insights on the role of universities in Switzerland when it comes to driving innovation.

With an annual GDP of over 150 billion Swiss francs, the Canton of Zurich accounts for more than 20% of Switzerland’s national GDP. Factors such as advanced industries, top-ranked universities, research institutes, think tanks, highly qualified human resources and tax incentives make up the region's ecosystem.

At UZH, researchers with innovative ideas have the possibility to receive support from early stages on. The UZH Innovation Hub is a platform for innovation and entrepreneurship. As a catalyst, it accelerates the development of new inventions and ideas and strengthens the transfer of innovative research and teaching to the economy and society. The platform works with a focused approach of funding around four strategic innovation clusters: Biomedicine & Life Sciences, Digitalization, Space & Aviation and Healthy Longevity.

The speakers, amongst them Martina Hirayama, Head of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation at the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research of Switzerland, rounded off the Forum with a group picture. Photo: Sakurako Kuroda

Strong collaboration between UZH and Japanese institutions

The growing ties in research and education between UZH and Japanese universities are a testament to the commonalities of Switzerland and Japan. Apart from a lively student exchange on all levels, UZH researchers are currently participating in research collaborations with more than 50 Japanese institutions, jointly promoting research and innovation in fields such as medicine, law, and biology.

Researchers at UZH have particularly strong collaborations with the Kyoto University, which has been a strategic partner of UZH since 2020. Since establishing the partnership, researchers from both institutions have engaged in intensive exchanges in various areas of research, including stem cell medicine, evolutionary biology, law, and artificial intelligence. 

Viviane Gao