Experts recommend to the ETH Domain to develop better entrepreneurship capacity

23.12.2015 09:28

For the 2015 evaluation of the ETH Domain the experts focussed on its economic impact. They have compiled a total of 13 recommendations. One of the ideas: A seed or venture fund created by the institutions of the ETH Domain.

The Federal Act on the Federal Institutes of Technology stipulates that the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research carry out evaluations of the ETH Domain half way through each funding period. The purpose of these evaluations is to verify whether the ETH Domain is on track with regard to the execution of its current mandate, to critically review its strategy in light of the challenges confronting it, and to formulate recommendations regarding its future positioning and development.

For the 2015 interim evaluation, priority has not been given to the quality of teaching and research as is usually the case. Rather the group of international renowned experts, headed by former State Secretary Jean-Daniel Gerber, examined the system of the ETH Domain and how it operates with a particular focus on its economic impact, its policy on innovation, and the role of the ETH Domain within the tertiary education sector in Switzerland.

In their report the experts emphasised the major importance of the ETH Domain for Swiss society and the economy. They note that its institutions have an excellent reputation both in Switzerland and abroad, that industry recognises them as extremely important partners, and that they develop and operate outstanding research facilities that enable leading research to be carried out in numerous fields.

The experts have compiled a total of 13 recommendations, some of which directly address the ETH Board and the institutions of the ETH Domain, which are responsible for the practical implementation of the recommendations. The Federal Council will take the recommendations into account when it sets the strategic objectives of the ETH Domain for the 2017-2020 period.

One of the recommendations is to develop a better entrepreneurship and innovation capacity. The Expert Committee (EC) recommends that the institutions within the ETH Domain reinforce their commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship. The EC believes that this can take different forms and vary among institutions.

For instance, efforts could be undertaken or expanded, in cooperation with universities and UAS as well as business actors, to develop a stronger culture of entrepreneurship among the student body, faculty and research staff. Whenever applicable, resources and incentives could be applied to these efforts.

Creation of a venture fund
The institutions of the ETH Domain could also consider the creation of formal (possibly externally funded) seed or venture funds. It may also be useful to share practices and expertise among the institutions, especially between the universities and research institutes.

These efforts should include selecting broader measures of success and appropriate benchmarking criteria. For instance, survival rate of spin-off companies is not sufficient as criteria, and could be complemented by measures of growth, jobs, impact on SMEs, etc.

The report however also warned all actors concerned that efforts would be necessary to maintain the outstanding position of the ETH Domain. It pointed out that the institutions must be flexible and continually prepared to adapt in view of the increasingly tough competition between leading universities, the rapid changes in scientific practice, and new forms of teaching and studying. The experts also stated that the onus is on the government to ensure good and stable conditions. The report calls on the ETH Domain to strength cooperation and exchanges with business and civil society.

The evaluation can be downloaded at the website of SERI.

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