A German delegation’s journey through the Swiss research landscape under COVID-19 conditions
With the aim to highlight the importance of both bilateral relations in the area of research and innovation and Swiss participation in the EU Framework Programmes for Research and Innovation, a group consisting of members of the committee for education of the German Parliament and university rectors was invited to travel to Switzerland in March 2020. To our dismay, the first wave of COVID-19 hit and the trip had to be cancelled. However, as a window of opportunity opened up in August 2020, we immediately seized the opportunity together with Presence Switzerland: Respecting a strict hygiene regime, the German delegation set off to Switzerland where it was received by State Secretary Martina Hirayama. She set the journey’s agenda by emphasizing the importance of the Swiss participation in the EU Framework Programmes. During the following days, the delegates were presented with a wide range of practical evidence; to name just a few examples: At the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), they visited the Tokamak, which hosts a key European nuclear fusion experiment which imitates the creation of energy by nuclear fusion as observed in the sun. The delegation travelled from the solar heat to the eternal ice of Antarctica: A consortium of 14 European institutions participates in the research project “Beyond EPCIA- Oldest Ice” at the University of Berne. By retrieving and analyzing a 1.5 million-year old ice core, insights about climate and the global carbon fluxes can be gained to improve future forecasts of climate development. In Zurich, the delegation was received at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ) and Wyss Zurich, an accelerator, which helps translate research findings from the areas of regenerative medicine and robotics into concrete products, which is jointly run with the University of Zurich. Always equipped with masks and respecting social distancing rules, the delegation received the researchers’ vivid testimonials on how Switzerland can contribute to the world’s most important scientific challenges, among them the current COVID-19 crisis. They inspired the members of the delegation and had a concrete impact, as proven by the political inquiries launched upon return in Germany.