The CHEOPS mission is being jointly led by the European Space Agency ESA and Switzerland. Following the successful launch, and once routine tests of the satellite in orbit have been completed, operations are set to begin at the end of March 2020 and last around four years. The scientific community the world over is eagerly awaiting the data gathered on exoplanets.
The head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, announced the launch of six new National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs) at a press conference in Bern on 16 De-cember. The NCCRs are intended to boost Swiss research and innovation long term in major fields such as automation, antibiotics resistance and quantum technology. VIDEOS
For the past five years, around 38 000 people per year have been excluded from unemployment insurance. 55% of them find work in the first year after exclusion. Excluded persons who are reintegrated into the labour force are often paid lower wages in comparison with other employees and are more likely to have atypical working conditions.
The ETH Board intends to create a new institute in the area of the environment and sustainability. It thus aims to focus research in the ETH Domain on urgent social questions such as climate change and the sustainable use of resources in a more targeted way. In this context, the two research institutes WSL and Eawag will be united for this purpose in the medium term. (ETH-Board press release)
"Corrosion" comes from Latin "corrodere": to gnaw something to pieces. This refers to the gradual destruction of a sub- stance due to the influence of other substances in the environment. Specialists at Empa take a close look at such processes and can find timely ways to prevent material failure due to corrosion – long before disasters such as those in Genoa occur.
Federal Chancellor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, met the Chinese science and technology minister Wang Zhigang in Bern on October 9th, 2019. During their discussions, which rounded off the eighth Joint Committee Meeting on Science and Technology, they considered the many links between Switzerland and China in research and innovation.
Tiny particles that can fight cancer or that can easily pass through any interface within our body are a great promise for medicine. But there is little knowledge thus far about what exactly will happen to nanoparticles within our tissues and whether or not they can cause disease by themselves. Within an international research consortium, Empa scientists have now developed guidelines that should enable the safe development of nanoparticles for medical use.
Economic forecast by the Federal Government’s Expert Group – autumn 2019 -- The Expert Group is revising its expectations for the Swiss economy in the coming quarters slightly downwards. Weaker development than previously assumed is anticipated for the global economy and uncertainty is high. In the coming year, the Swiss economy is set to brighten gradually.
Nicola Spaldin, docente di teoria dei materiali al Politecnico federale di Zurigo, è stata insignita del premio scientifico svizzero Marcel Benoist per le sue ricerche pionieristiche sulla multiferroicità. La docente ha gettato le fondamenta di una nuova tecnologia di memorizzazione dei dati ultraveloce ed energeticamente efficiente. Il premio, del valore di 250 000 franchi, le sarà consegnato il 7 novembre 2019 a Berna.
On 4 September, the Federal Council elected Michael Hengartner as the new president of the ETH Board (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschulen) , at the request of the head of the EAER Guy Parmelin. Michael Hengartner, 53, succeeds Fritz Schiesser, who stepped down from the post at the end of April. Mr Hengartner has been rector of the University of Zurich since 2014. He will take up his new post on 1 February next year.
The “Manufacturing technologies” impulse programme from Innosuisse aims to promote modern manufacturing technologies as a contribution to the transition of industry into the digital age. Of the 29 applications for 12-month projects submitted in the second call for projects, Innosuisse has approved 17. The total funding amounts to more than CHF 6 million.
Up to now, the gas exchange valves of four-stroke engines are controlled through camshaft drives. Empa has now developed an innovative, electrohydraulically actuated valve train that enables completely free adjustment of stroke and timing, while at the same time being robust and cost-effective. The new technology saves up to 20 percent fuel in typical passenger car low load operating conditions.
Consumer sentiment in Switzerland remains slightly below average. Low expectations regarding consumers’ own budgets are clouding the outlook. However, respondents are cautiously optimistic about the future general economic situation. The labour market has still been assessed positively but prospects have deteriorated somewhat.
The head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, will lead a business and science delegation to Japan and Vietnam from 7 to 14 July. The focus of talks with governments in both countries will be on free trade agreements. The accompanying representatives from Swiss firms and the Swiss education, research and innovation landscape will have access to decision makers on economic policy, and so expand their network of contacts.
On 24 June 2019, Ministers from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland met in Malbun, Liechtenstein, for EFTA’s annual summer Ministerial Meeting to discuss the broad range of EFTA’s activities. Ministers expressed their concern regarding the increasingly uncertain global trade environment, both due to the uncertain outcome of the Brexit process and escalating trade tensions. (EFTA Press release)
Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), gave a speech on the future of work and social partnership at the ILO’s Centenary Conference. He told conference delegates that ‘investment in education and training is essential for managing the opportunities and risks posed by digitalisation and new forms of work’. He also signed a declaration of intent with the Indonesian Minister of Manpower.
Switzerland works to combat poverty, overcome global challenges like climate change and promote peace and human rights. This is a significant contribution to sustainable development and a stable international environment, as can be seen in the 2018 annual report on international cooperation published today by the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER).
The Federal Council intends to consolidate and further develop the bilateral approach, the cornerstone of relations between Switzerland and the EU. This also requires the search for solutions to the institutional issues. At its meeting of 7 June 2019, it approved the report on the consultations on the institutional agreement between Switzerland and the European Union (EU) and decided to demand clarifications. The Federal Council also underlined that maintaining the current level of wage protection is a key Swiss demand. Press conference
Huge floating solar islands on the ocean that produce enough energy to enable CO2-neutral global freight traffic - what sounds like "science fiction" researchers from ETH Zurich, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), Empa, the Universities of Zurich and Bern and the Nowegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim have now calculated for the first time, as they write in the latest issue of the journal "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS).
320 events held throughout the world with 180 Swiss partner organizations, networking for start-ups, expert discussions on topics such as drones and environmental technologies – all this and much more to promote education, research and innovation in Switzerland. ‘Best of swissnex’ is the motto of the swissnex Network’s 2018 annual report, published on its website at www.annualreport.swissnex.org.
Switzerland’s GDP rose by 0.6% in the 1st quarter of 2019. Growth was driven primarily by increasing domestic demand. Foreign trade also provided positive impetus. Value added grew in most sectors. Private consumption (+0.4%) saw slightly above-average growth for the first time in six quarters. Consumption expenditures increased in almost all segments and most significantly in healthcare, followed by mobility.
On 22 May, the Federal Council issued a dispatch on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the EFTA states and Indonesia. The dispatch has been submitted to Parliament for approval. EFTA is the first European partner to sign a free trade agreement with Indonesia. The increasing purchasing power of the Indonesian middle class makes Indonesia, with a population of over 260 million, an attractive market for Swiss exports.
On 15 May the Federal Council opened consultation proceedings on the trade agreement with the United Kingdom and on an additional agreement extending the provisions of the trade agreement to the Principality of Liechtenstein. The agreements are intended to ensure to a large extent the continuation of existing trade relations after the UK’s departure from the European Union.
Chief Minister of Kerala pays courtesy visit
On 18 May Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin received Mr Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister of the Indian State of Kerala. The meeting focused on bilateral economic relations. Kerala, whose economy is mainly based on agriculture, is located on the southwestern tip of the country. With a GDP of USD 120 billion, the state ranks 9th among the 35 states and territories of the federation and has 33.5 million inhabitants. India is a priority country in Switzerland’s foreign economic policy.
Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin met the Indonesian trade minister, Enggartiasto Lukita, in Bern on 9 May. The two ministers discussed both the opportunities and the challenges for Swiss businesses on the Indonesian market. The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement signed in December 2018 gives the two countries new opportunities to further expand bilateral trade and investment.
Swiss development cooperation is to become more focused, making it more effective. This is the proposed strategic approach for Switzerland’s international cooperation, submitted for optional public consultation by the Federal Department for Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Federal Department for Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER) on 2 May 2019.
President Ueli Maurer, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin and Thomas Jordan, Chairman of the Governing Board of the Swiss National Bank, will be in Washington from 12 to 13 April 2019. They will attend the joint Spring Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WBG).
Since the founding of the International Labour Organization one hundred years ago, working conditions have improved around the world. What will work look like in the future? Digital transformation is changing the way in which we work, says ILO Director-General Guy Ryder. The latest edition of SECO’s magazine ‘Die Volkswirtschaft’ contains a special dossier to mark the ILO’s 100th anniversary.
Switzerland must not slip behind the EU’s active free trade policy, stated Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin at the Aussenwirtschaftsforum 2019 in Zurich on 27 March. It is the first time that the new head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research EAER has spoken at a gathering of business representatives on trade policy issues. Click on title to read the speech in full.
The head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research (EAER), Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, will pay a working visit to Vienna on 27 March, where he will hold talks with Margarete Schramböck, Minister for Digital and Economic Affairs, and Heinz Fassmann, Minister for Education, Science and Research. Austria is an extremely important partner for Switzerland, particularly in the fields of trade, education, research and innovation.
Since they were first introduced in 2004, two-year programmes for the Federal VET Certificate have expanded to cover a current total of 56 different occupations. This fact was mentioned in an interim report approved by the Federal Council on 22 March 2019 on introduction of the Federal VET Certificate. Several evaluations have shown that learners, vocational school teachers and workplace trainers are all satisfied with these two-year programmes.
The 2019 Marcel Benoist Swiss Science Prize will be awarded in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences and engineering sciences. The research community is invited to submit nominations by 8 April 2019. Seraina Rüegger explains what it is like to nominate one’s own boss.
In January, the Federal Council gave the go ahead for the creation of a national centre of expertise in cyber security, thereby demonstrating the importance it places on IT security. The ETHZ and the EPFL are lending their support to this national effort through teaching and research. As such, they will be launching a new joint Master’s programme in Cyber Security from autumn 2019. Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin gives his view on the launch. (Video)
Empa is presenting sustainable fuels of the future at the Petroleum Association's stand in Hall 6 of the Geneva Motor Show. Not only electric cars or hydrogen vehicles can be fuelled with low CO2 emissions, but even a 1965 VW Beetle that decorates the stand.
In his capacity as the new minister for agriculture and research, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin shared his vision of Swiss agricultural research with the journal Agrarforschung Schweiz / Recherche Agronomique Suisse. The key to success is ensuring sound financing and making efficient use of the available resources.
SECO has had projects running as part of the Dispatch on Switzerland’s International Cooperation externally evaluated. Around 85% of projects are successful. However, while they are well targeted, the results are not always sustainable. An article in ‘Die Volkswirtschaft’ published by SECO provides a summary of the main conclusions.
The European Southern Observatory (ESO) is the leading European organisation for astronomical research. Using its state-of-the-art telescopes in der Atacama desert in Chile, ESO conducts ground-breaking astronomical research. ESO is supported by 16 countries, including Switzerland. On 5 and 6 March the ESO Committee of Council will hold a meeting in Bern chaired by Switzerland.
04.03.2019 Free Trade Agreements
Council of States approves free trade agreements with Ecuador and Tukey
The Council of States unanimously voted in favour of the free trade agreement with Ecuador. It also came out in favour of renewing the existing agreement with Turkey. However, certain Council members expressed concern regarding the human rights situation in the country; 13 Council members therefore abstained. The Council of States nevertheless approved the agreement by 27 votes to 1. Both items of business will now pass to the National Council.
Switzerland’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rose by 0.2% in the 4th quarter of 2018.
The manufacturing industry developed dynamically and exports of goods rose significantly. Domestic demand, on the other hand, stagnated. GDP growth for 2018 as a whole was 2.5%.
The Federal Council will recommend that Parliament reject the popular initiative ‘For a Switzerland free of synthetic pesticides’ without a counter proposal. In a dispatch adopted on 27 February, it recognises the concerns raised by the initiative. However, the federal government has already undertaken efforts to reduce the associated risks as part of its action plan on phytosanitary products. These efforts will be intensified under its Agriculture Policy 22+.
The finalists of the Concours national d’art culinaire faced each other at the Kursaal in Bern on 25 February for the title Cuisinier d’or 2019. By attending the competition, Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin wished to draw attention to the importance of gastronomy in Swiss tourism, a vital sector for the country’s economy. Le Cuisinier d'Or
Around two-thirds of the global adult population cannot digest lactose – milk sugar – due to a deficiency in lactase, the required enzyme for lactose digestion. Generally, consumers are unaware of whether they are able to digest the lactose contained in dairy products. However, Agroscope, - a State owned institution for agricultural research -, and Lausanne University Hospital (CHUV) researchers have now discovered a new method to determine an individual’s ability to digest lactose. The patent is pending.
At its meeting on 13 February, the Federal Council approved a report on cross-border investments and investment controls which indicates that introducing such controls would currently bring no additional benefits to Switzerland. On the contrary, restricting capital flows into Switzerland would increase red tape, generate uncertainty and make Switzerland a less attractive place to invest. However, the Federal Council intends to conduct a monitoring procedure and review the report within the next four years.
The continuation of economic and trade relations between Switzerland and the United Kingdom after the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) is assured. Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin and the British Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, signed a bilateral trade agreement in Bern on 11 February. (VIDEO)
Consumer sentiment in Switzerland remains slightly above average. Despite less favourable predictions regarding the economy in general, the outlook for the labour market and consumers’ own budget has improved.