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Couchepin says investing in knowledge essential

Couchepin (left) and ETH president Olaf Kübler at Saturday's event

(Keystone)

Swiss Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin says the business world should become more involved in research and development.

He was speaking at the end of celebrations marking 150 years of the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH).

He said that the historic partnership between the institute and the business community was vital for Switzerland's success. It therefore had to be continued and widened.

During the anniversary speech, Couchepin commented that investment was central to knowledge, and encouraging knowledge was essential for value creation and prosperity, particularly in a small country like Switzerland.

He praised the pioneering spirit of the institute's founders, noting that ambitions at the beginning were modest.

Flagship

Today - "150 years and 21 Nobel Prizes later" - it was a flagship of Switzerland and had spread its influence across the globe, he said.

The president of the ETH board, Alexander Zehnder, said the institute needed courage to overcome the challenges of the future. Barriers had to be removed to make progress and be creative.

He told an audience of more than 400 guests that the young Swiss Confederation had shown much courage when it founded the institute 150 years ago.

Zehnder said it was not enough simply to optimise what already existed, adding that it was important to overcome mental barriers in particular.

A critical, innovative and entrepreneurial spirit was needed, together with pioneering ideas and a commitment to strive for excellence.

Close cooperation

He commented that research should not be an end in itself. Close cooperation with the business community and the public authorities was important, he said.

Zehnder noted that the institute and other research establishments received more than SFr2 billion ($1.52 billion) in public money. This had to be spent wisely so that the Swiss economy as a whole could benefit.

He added that people had the right to benefit directly from work at the institute, in such services as security and protection from natural catastrophes.

Earlier in the day, which stood under the motto "Welcome Tomorrow", a ceremony took place in Zurich's Höngg district to lay the foundation stone of the Information Science Lab, which is the first building of the future "Science City".

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The Swiss government founded the first Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich in 1855.
In 1969, the Engineers' School of Lausanne University became the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.
Apart from Zurich and Lausanne, there are four smaller research institutes.
Together, they include 19,000 students and 550 professors.
The total annual budget is SFr2.3 billion.

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