Zurich to forge San Francisco partnership

San Francisco is attracting Swiss interest.

Zurich and San Francisco are set to come closer together this year as a new project starts building bridges between the two cities.

This content was published on August 5, 2003 - 19:49

The most visible symbol of the project is San Francisco’s Swiss House which is set to open its doors in November.

The scheme follows on from recent Swiss collaborations in Boston, New York and Chicago.

The “San Francisco-Zurich Initiative” will focus initially on the exchange of ideas and information between the two cities’ academic institutions.

But it is hoped that cultural and economic partnerships will also grow out of the scheme.

“The two cities are comparable in terms of both being mid-sized,” project leader Walter Anderau told swissinfo, “but also because they are academic world leaders thanks to the work of Berkeley and Stanford in San Francisco, and the Federal Institute of Technology and the university in Zurich.

“So although we hope to involve other walks of life, the initiative is first of all about improving knowledge transfer in science, technology, research and education.”


Unlike the “sister-city” schemes between Boston and Basel or Chicago and Lucerne, there is no talk yet of granting full civic recognition to the San Francisco-Zurich project, although Zurich’s city council is due to discuss the scheme in the autumn.

However, Anderau’s counterpart in San Francisco, Angela Marti, believes the more informal nature of the planned link-up could actually be of benefit.

“I really think our initiative will differ tremendously from a lot of traditional sister-city relationships, which often tend to be more about wining and dining,” Marti told swissinfo.

“This project is driven more by the business community than by politicians and so we hope it will lead to an exchange of knowledge and know-how that is much more visible to the general public.”

To help that exchange of knowledge, a "Swiss House" will open its doors in San Francisco in November.

Named SwissNex and conceived as a west coast version of the original Swiss House in Boston, the San Francisco base will offer a similar workspace for the two cities’ business and science communities.

“It will be a melting pot for all Swiss people in the San Francisco Bay area,” says Marti, “and a kind of incubator for Swiss start up companies. As well as sharing ideas, I hope it will bring new business to the two regions.”

Long history

Although the San Francisco-Zurich initiative is still in its early days, the project leaders are not exactly starting from scratch.

Many "exchange organisations", such as the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Zurich Area relocation service, the Swiss Science and Technology Office and Greater Zurich Area, are already operating in San Francisco and have expressed their willingness to work with the new initiative.

There are an estimated 10,000 Swiss living in the San Francisco Bay area, and the city also has its own Swiss consulate general (one of only six in the United States).

This was originally established in 1850 to provide support for a large number of Swiss who had headed to the city during the California gold rush.

Now that attention has shifted to silicon, it seems that Switzerland’s modern day investors are keen to follow the example of the 19th-century prospectors.

Swiss firms Credit Suisse, Swiss Re, Kuoni and Lindt & Sprüngli are already involved in the initiative's Zurich committee, along with California-based computer giant Hewlett Packard.

swissinfo, Mark Ledsom in Zurich

Key facts

Zurich is Switzerland's biggest city with a population of 364,558.
San Francisco has 776,733 inhabitants, but is only the 13th biggest city in the United States.
The new initiative aims to strengthen scientific, economic and cultural ties between the two cities.

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