The Swiss House, a high-tech consulate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is celebrating its first year as a link between the scientific, academic and high-tech communities of Switzerland and New England.
When it opened, the facility was billed as the first consulate in the world exclusively dedicated to science, research and education. Its existence sparked the interest of other countries, such as Britain, France and South Korea, which decided to launch similar projects.
The Swiss House for Advanced Research and Education, known as SHARE, teaches Swiss entrepreneurs how to set up business plans, develop their knowledge of the market and establish contacts. It is also aimed at American scientists and high-tech companies that want to undertake research and development projects with Swiss partners.
The consulate was founded by the former science and technology officer at the Swiss embassy in Washington, Xavier Comtesse.
"Science and technology drive our society and our economy," Comtesse said. "This has been recognised in the America, but not in Switzerland."
"Swiss authorities are usually quite passive. They don't see that we have to look after our budding science and technology experts, so that we can stay competitive in the future," he adds. "That's why we tried to set up something new. Our project should help stimulate future generations."
SHARE occupies one floor of a building near Harvard Square in Cambridge. It was conceived as a "global village", where exchanges can happen through brainstorming sessions and networking events, or digitally, thanks to state-of-the-art video conference facilities and the "virtual Swiss House" on the Internet.
"Nowadays, knowledge is our most prized commodity, particularly in countries like Switzerland, where there are no raw materials," Comtesse explains. "We have to look after this asset."
The project was also conceived as a way to provide guidance for the 5,000 or so Swiss students and academics currently studying in the US and to encourage them to maintain contact with their homeland.
The Swiss house was established in the Boston area because of the high concentration of universities and high-tech companies there. Massachusetts has more than 100 higher education institutes, including Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
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