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Science and tech hub opens in San Francisco

San Francisco has become the home for a second "Swiss House" Keystone Archive

Switzerland has opened a second science and technology centre in the United States – three years after a similar project was launched in Boston.

This content was published on November 14, 2003 - 17:59

San Francisco’s Swissnex aims to bring together people and ideas from both countries in the fields of science, technology, education and innovation.

The city is one of the United States’ major research and development poles, with two leading universities, Stanford and Berkeley, and nearby Silicon Valley providing impetus for growth.

The surrounding Bay Area is roughly the size of the Lake Geneva region, but is home to around seven million people. It is also the biggest biotechnology centre in the US.

Christian Simm, director of Swissnex, told swissinfo that demand for such a facility on the West Coast had been high.

“There have been requests from organisations here and in Switzerland for a place to showcase themselves, and to meet and network with others,” he said.

Like its Boston counterpart, Swissnex is considered a diplomatic mission – an annexe of the Swiss consulate in San Francisco.

The project has cost approximately $300,000 (SFr403,000) to set up, and running costs are estimated at $160,000 a year.

Bridging the gap

The building is also home to two organisations, the Greater Zurich Area and CTI Start-up, which are looking to bridge the gap between Switzerland and the west coast of the US.

“The main characteristic of these organisations is that they are too small to be noticed on their own,” said Simm. “The idea is that together we are stronger.”

Swissnex’s tenants will share contacts and information, as well as undertake common projects in the future.

“This will give real visibility and make things happen,” added Simm.

The Swiss government is also seconding staff to Swissnex: a representative of Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology has joined the team.

Three main sponsors, the Swiss Science Agency, Geneva’s Oltramare Foundation and the reinsurance giant, Swiss Re, contributed most of the initial funding.

Other sponsors, including American firms, contributed smaller sums or time towards the project.

Challenge ahead

Simm admits Swissnex would not have existed without this support and says he now has to prove that their faith has not been misplaced.

One of the main challenges will be making a name in a crowded marketplace.

“We hope that by getting some results, we will convince people it is a worthwhile undertaking,” he said.

“We have a very unique offering, and there have been many expressions of interest.”

Its director stresses that Swissnex is not aiming to strike out on its own, but to work with the many other organisations promoting Switzerland.

“If somebody comes to us requesting specific information we don’t have, we will refer them to the right people straightaway,” he added.

swissinfo, Scott Capper

Swissnex

Swissnex is Switzerland’s second science and technology centre in the United States.

It is housed in a historic building in the heart of San Francisco and cost $300,000 to set up.

The operational budget, estimated at $160,000, will be partially covered by fundraising.

It is a mix of consular and non-diplomatic areas, with space set aside for private organisations.

The Greater Zurich Area and CTI Start-up will be two of the building’s tenants.

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