COLLABORATION

ETH Zurich collaboration nurturing Switzerland-Singapore diplomatic ties

SOURCE: Justin Adam Lee / Shutterstock
The Singapore-ETH Centre brings Swiss and Singaporean researchers together to solve real world problems.

Relations between Singapore and Switzerland are at an all-time high. The pair cooperate closely on economic and financial policy in particular given each’s reputation as some of the freest economies in the world and attractive destinations for banking.

The beneficial ties have proven lucrative for both partners with over 400 Swiss companies operating in the small island state. To further cement their relationship, the “Declaration of Enhanced Partnership” was signed in 2014, paving the way for close political dialogue and cooperation.

While both Singapore and Switzerland may be known as financial strongholds, they also have one other important thing in common, namely, education.

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They may not have the scale of education powerhouses like the US and the UK, but both countries had institutions ranked in the top 11 in the world in 2019 and they’re all heading up the table.

The National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University Singapore came in at 11 and 12 respectively. While Switzerland’s ETH Zurich came an impressive seventh, beating out Imperial College London and UCL.

The strength of their education sectors has been a bonding force in Singapore-Switzerland relations, and it is ETH Zurich that is leading the way.

Research and innovation were a main pillar of the 2014 signed declaration, and that’s exactly what the Singapore-ETH Centre has been focused on.

The centre was established in partnership with The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and Singapore’s National Research Foundation (NRF), as part of the NRF’s CREATE (Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise) campus.

It speaks to the strength of the diplomatic relationship that the Singapore-ETH Centre is ETH Zurich only research centre outside of Switzerland.

“Setting up the Singapore-ETH Centre in 2010 has helped us to further broaden and strengthen our network in the Asian region,” founding director of the centre, Gerhard Schmitt, told Business Times.

“The Asia-Pacific region is among the most dynamic regions of the world, with megacities like Shenzhen, Shanghai and Jakarta requiring innovative solutions to keep pace with their growth.”

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Urban sustainability is the centre’s main focus as it aims to provide practical solutions to some of the most pressing challenges posed by growing population, increasing urbanisation, and mounting environmental concerns.

While the centre was developed in partnership with Singapore’s NRF, its collaboration goes well beyond that. Singapore-ETH Centre researchers actively collaborate with universities and research institutes and engage with industry and government agencies in order to translate knowledge to practical solutions to real-world problems.

Their tight-knit work with Singapore’s movers and shakers means they are finding real solutions to real-world problems and playing an important part of Singapore’s sustainable development strategy.

One of their flagship projects, Cooling Singapore, is a research project dedicated to developing solutions to address the urban heat challenge in Singapore.

ETH Zurich Singapore
A general view of Singapore’s modern financial district lined with high rise buildings and Chinatown’s traditional shophouses is seen on February 14, 2019. Source: Roslan Rahman / AFP

The Urban Heat Island (UHI) has become a matter of increasing concern because of its many, mainly negative, effects upon the quality of urban life. In tropical Singapore, increased temperatures due to UHI negatively affect people’s liveability and outdoor thermal comfort (OTC).

The Cooling Singapore project aims to assess and measure cooling strategies, develop a decision support system, and design climate-responsive guidelines.

“Singapore and Switzerland have much to gain from exchanging views and joining forces in meeting these challenges,” Switzerland’s Ambassador in Singapore, Fabrice Filliez, told Business Times.

“We look after bilateral relations and constantly care for nurturing the existing cooperation and extending it to new fields of mutual interest.”