Within the scope of its obligation to report annually to the Confederation, the ETH Board illuminates various aspects of the development of the ETH Domain. The annual report is a critical self-assessment of the ETH Domain conducted by the ETH Board, combined with a report on how the annual federal financial contribution is used. This report is based on the Federal Council’s strategic objectives and is submitted to the Federal Council. However, it is also directed to the Federal Parliament and the interested public.
The coronavirus pandemic has dominated our daily lives during the past year. After several semesters of distance learning, students returned to the lecture theatres in the autumn semester – thanks to the COVID certificate. This was an important step. Students’ motivation had suffered during the pandemic due to the lack of personal contact with lecturers and fellow students. They were now able to exchange ideas on site with other students and teachers, form study groups or continue working on their projects. The employees of the ETH Domain also worked more frequently again in their offices, labs and workshops, instead of working from home.
In 2021, the Swiss National COVID-19 Science Task Force established itself as an important scientific advisory panel. Since August 2021, Tanja Stadler, a professor at ETH Zurich, has been its President. Previously, Martin Ackermann, Head of the Department of Environmental Microbiology at Eawag and also a professor at ETH Zurich, had performed this role. The task force’s work provided an opportunity to rethink the way scientists, authorities and politicians collaborate. For instance, the Parliament wants to better incorporate scientists in crisis management and facilitate authorities’ access to their knowledge. In addition, there is to be more extensive dialogue between scientists, politicians and administrators.
I see it as a duty of the ETH Domain to provide the best possible service to our country’s business sector and society as a whole. That is why we are happy to provide our knowledge and expertise, and intensify the mutual exchange of ideas. There are enough issues and areas where there is a need to act: be it in relation to the climate, the environment and energy, digitalisation and cybersecurity, or health.
The relationship between Switzerland and the EU remains an unsolved problem, but all the more urgent. Participating in the European Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation is key for education, research and innovation. The present exclusion from Horizon Europe cannot be compensated by national measures or greater cooperation with other countries. The international networking, competitiveness, attractiveness and reputation of Switzerland’s position as a centre of research and innovation will suffer directly, and the all the more the longer the exclusion applies. We must assume that researchers will move abroad or not come to our country at all anymore. This will lead to a substantial weakening of Swiss research, and our country runs the risk of gradually losing its leading international position. This would have serious consequences for universities, public research institutions and the research industry.
As a pragmatic optimist, I hope that Switzerland will quickly achieve full association status in Horizon Europe. I would like to thank everyone for their commitment to this cause and great support for the ETH Domain and our centre of vision and action in Switzerland.
Zurich/Bern, January 2022
Michael O. Hengartner
President ETH Board