Switzerland will close its Swissnex research and education collaboration office in Singapore at the end of the year. Swissnex Singapore is one of six branches operating worldwide to stimulate closer ties with the host country in the fields of science, arts and business innovation.
The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) said that the Singapore office, established in 2004, had completed its work. But it also acknowledged that the need to expand the network into new countries, coupled with budgetary restraints, had played a role in the decision.
Singapore was the third location selected for a Swissnex office. Besides promoting Swiss culture, science and innovation it has helped foster closer links between Swiss educational establishments, such as the Swiss federal technology institute ETH Zurich, and Singaporean counterparts.
SERI conducted a strategic survey earlier this year that identified the interest of Swiss ERI stakeholders in expanding the network of Swissnex offices to new locations.
“In view of further development and limited resources, it is important to review our strategy and set priorities,” SERI head of international relations Mauro Moruzzi told swissinfo.ch. “SERI will examine more closely new locations in up and coming knowledge and innovation centres with strong cooperation potential.”
As the Singapore branch has “completed its mission”, it will be shut down to clear room for new offices in other locations. South Korea, South Africa and Japan are among the new locations being considered.
There are no plans to close other Swissnex offices, currently based in Boston (the first to be opened in 2000), San Francisco (2003), China (2008), India (2010) and Brazil (2014), Moruzzi added.
But the announced closure of the Singapore branch has been met with dismay by Fahti Derder, a parliamentarian with Switzerland’s centre-right Radical Party. Although in principle he agrees that the Swissnex network must remain flexible, still, he doesn’t fully understand the decision, he told the Geneva-based newspaper Le Temps. “Singapore seems to be a hub of science and technology in Asia.”
Far from cutting Swissnex offices, Derder wants parliament to approve the doubling of its current network.
Last year, the Swissnex public-private partnership network received CHF8.88 million ($9.5 million) in funding – nearly CHF6 million from SERI and the rest from commercial collaborators. The Singapore branch was awarded CHF500,000 from SERI.
A spokesman for SERI told swissinfo.ch that a science and technology counselor at the Swiss Embassy in Singapore will continue to support partners such as Swiss universities.