Budget 2024 and ERI Dispatch 2025–2028: amendments needed
Switzerland’s prosperity and success are based on our excellent education system and our strength as a centre for research and innovation. The ETH Domain plays a crucial role in this. It is the view of the ETH Board that real annual growth of 2.5% needs to be specified in the ERI Dispatch 2025–2028 if the ETH Domain is to continue to carry out its many and varied tasks, which not only benefit Switzerland’s economy and society but also provide the nation with comprehensive support in solving future challenges, such as the energy transition, digitalisation and cybersecurity.
However, the ERI Dispatch draft allows the ETH Domain nominal growth of just 1.6% annually. Inflation forecasts indicate there is reason to fear that the result will be zero or negative growth in real terms, harming not only the ETH Domain, but also the entire country as a centre for business and innovation. Switzerland risks losing its lead over other nations, especially since the ETH Domain is threatened with budgetary reductions of more than CHF 80 million per year from 2024 onwards owing to the Federal Council’s cutbacks. Given that 2024 is the reference year for growth calculations in the ERI Dispatch, the cuts in 2024 will lead to income being lost throughout the entire ERI period 2025–2028.
Artificial intelligence: a national initiative is required
In its position statement on the ERI Dispatch 2025–2028, the ETH Board also notes that Switzerland needs to pool its strengths in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and provide the necessary infrastructure for research, teaching, and the transfer of knowledge and technology. This will enhance the nation’s competitiveness and enable it to maintain its position in terms of research, thus also benefiting society and the economy. The ETH Board is requesting the Federal Council to compose a special dispatch on AI and allocate the requisite funding, thus enabling the Swiss higher education and research landscape to cooperate with industry and society in performing the work that is urgently needed in the area of AI. The ETH Domain has an interest in this project and is willing to play an active part in such a large-scale initiative.
ETH Board launches the procedure for appointing the Director of WSL
Upon the proposal of the ETH Board, the Federal Council appointed Beate Jessel to the post of Director of WSL on 4 June 2021. Beate Jessel stepped down from this role on 31 July 2023 and has been Professor of Landscape Development at EPFL since then. The ETH Board has now launched the procedure for appointing her successor and has set up an appointment committee for this purpose. The post will be advertised nationally and internationally. The goal is to submit a proposal for the appointment of the new Director to the Federal Council by the second half of 2024.
ETH Board appoints Anita Risch as a member of the WSL Directorate
Upon the proposal of Dr Christoph Hegg, Acting Director of WSL, the ETH Board has appointed Dr Anita Risch as a new member of the WSL Directorate. Anita Ritsch is an outstanding biodiversity researcher with an extensive network of national and international contacts. She is an ecologist and private lecturer at ETH Zurich who investigates the interactions and functions of animals, plants and soil-dwelling organisms in ecosystems. Following the appointment of Anita Risch as of 1 October 2023, the WSL Directorate will consist of three women and three men.
ETH Board appoints Sara Marks as a member of the Eawag Directorate
Upon the proposal of Professor Martin Ackermann, Director of Eawag, the ETH Board has appointed Dr Sara Marks as a new member of the Eawag Directorate. Sara Marks has a great deal of experience of translating research into practice. With her background in studying at Stanford University, conducting research at Johns Hopkins University and managing projects in 11 different countries, she will strengthen the global perspective of the Eawag Directorate. Following the appointment of Sara Marks as of 1 November 2023, the Eawag Directorate will consist of three women and four men.