This story is from the category Corporate and the dossier International cooperations

Mission international

International cooperations are vital to the success of the universities and Swiss research.

Text: Andreas Dudler, published on 10.10.2016

The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) published its first ever report on research and innovation in Switzerland this year. In it, specialists explain why cross-border cooperations are essential for our country: they give people in Switzerland access to key international networks and bring scientific, technological and economic benefits. The report concludes that the Swiss system of research and innovation compares very well indeed with others around the world.

Why Switzerland is at the forefront

This is no coincidence, it is the result of years of efforts that are now bearing fruit. In 2010, the Federal Council announced in its report on education, research and innovation that it wanted to ensure that Switzerland could develop into one of the world’s most innovative countries in the coming years. Its top priority was strengthening and extending the country’s international ties. The Federal Council report stated that international cooperations are decisive when it comes to maintaining excellence in education, research and development.

According to the Federal Council, international cooperations are decisive when it comes to maintaining excellence in education, research and development.

In its latest Dispatch on The Promotion of Education, Research and Innovation for the years 2017-2020, the Federal Council confirms that this area of policy remains a priority. It stresses that international cooperations will continue to be important going forward.

SWITCH has a mission to support the academic community’s research and education efforts and has thus fostered international cooperations ever since it was formed. For instance, it is a member of GÉANT, a collaboration between national research and education networks throughout Europe that is building a pan-European high-speed network to connect some 40 million users, including four million researchers, across 4,000 institutions in 35 countries. GÉANT means that SWITCH can guarantee Swiss universities access to the European network – and to the rest of the world. We also represent them in international discussions on network infrastructure, know-how, international standards and strategies.

How SWITCH takes advantage of the international network

But how does SWITCH make the most of these pooled resources? We can explain with the aid of a few examples.

SWITCH brought the idea of the authentication and authorisation system eduGAIN to GÉANT. This allows international research teams to access shared resources across national borders. It was inspired by SWITCHaai, which is in use at Swiss universities. Now eduKEEP is developing in a similar way. It is based on the Swiss edu-ID, the designated successor to SWITCHaai.

SWITCH represents the interest of the Swiss universities and academic research institutes in various international organisations.

SWITCH has been involved in eduroam, a global Wi-Fi authentication service for the academic community, since its inception. The service has its roots in Europe, but it has become a worldwide success story.

International cooperation is absolutely essential for our Security division. Cybercrime does not respect borders, so our Computer Emergency Response Team (SWITCH-CERT) works closely with sister organisations around the world.

Things are a little different in Procurement. Here, SWITCH acquires know-how through its collaboration with international partners, for example regarding the terms and conditions of software licences. This has helped it to save universities millions of francs.

International cooperation is highly informal, meanwhile, in our newer Infrastructure & Data Services division. That said, it is already proving beneficial in a project initiated by SWITCH in the field of big data.

All in all, SWITCH is playing a greater part than any single university could on its own. It represents the interests of universities and Swiss research in defining and enforcing standards and processes for the future ICT support of international cooperation. It is making an indispensable contribution to ensuring that Switzerland can hold a leading position in research, development and innovation. SWITCH does this in its own typical way: with and for the community.

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About the author
Andreas   Dudler

Andreas Dudler

Dr Andreas Dudler has been Managing Director of SWITCH since 2012. As a mathematics and IT graduate, he represents them within GÉANT, defending the interests of Swiss research – in particular with regard to cross-border authentication and authorisation systems.

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