Swissnex SF team

Integrating the multidisciplinary approach in every program

One of the defining traits of Silicon Valley also happens to be at the core of Swissnex: enhancing
cross-sector collaboration to spark innovation and unlock new opportunities and connections. In 2022, with pandemic restrictions lifted, Swissnex in San Francisco was able to resume its in-person activities, connecting professionals from various disciplines, such as academia, arts, and the private sector.

Adding the Multidisciplinary Approach to Every Program

While public events at Swissnex in San Francisco have always been famed for providing unique perspectives, 2022 made the multidisciplinary approach integral to every program and visit, and even the Swissnex office space at San Francisco’s Pier 17.

“Silicon Valley is famous for fostering innovation by bringing different sectors together, and we strive to expose our participants to this unique approach.” Corine Thommen – Head of Impact Programs at Swissnex in San Francisco

By bringing different programs together, we endeavor to create fortuitous opportunities for synergies across various disciplines and industries. In keeping with this approach, we hosted one of the cohorts of Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) on short-term sabbaticals and the two winners of the Swiss National Fund (SNF) Agora Optimus Prize. This award recognizes science communicators’ efforts to bridge the gap between science and society by offering them a scientific communication traineeship at Swissnex in San Francisco.

Public event with a panel discussing innovations in the gaming and health sector. The diverse speaker panel allows for different perspectives on a shared topic.

Together, this cohort of five participants went through a program consisting of in-person and virtual lectures together with networking opportunities we designed for them as a single group. Positive feedback from the participants highlighted the value added by these synergies. Beyond the network they jointly created and the resulting shift in mindset, participants learned from each other by providing constructive feedback and exchanging ideas and best practices.

“Time and time again, we see that our program participants get a lot of additional value from expanding their horizons and looking beyond their usual fields of interest. Immersing themselves in seemingly non-related topics and collaborating with people outside their field offer unique opportunities for growth”, says Corine Thommen, Head of Impact Programs at Swissnex in San Francisco. It was certainly true in the case of one participant with a background in biology and science communication, when she engaged with experts from the game and health industries. Following her encounter, she was able to redefine the scope of her science communications activities.

Pier 17 as a platform for collaboration and impact

The community spirit created at Pier 17 was another benefit of the mixed-cohort approach, and the group met several times after returning to Switzerland. Successes like these illustrate Pier 17’s unique role as a platform for the community building that plays such a crucial role in facilitating collaboration and long-term impact.

To encourage a more collaborative set-up, we partnered with Swiss furniture company Vitra to reactivate our workspace and rethink how we work and live together as a community. By bringing their “Club Office” concept to Pier 17, we have showcased an innovative approach to collaboration and positioned our location as a meaningful place to build bridges between San Francisco and Switzerland.

The office of Swissnex in San Francisco with the new Club Office by Vitra that emphasizes the importance of social interactions

But the future of work and the workspace is not a question merely of furniture and physical surroundings. It also means embracing a different mindset. During a visit by Federal Councillor Guy Parmelin, Head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research, we hosted a multidisciplinary discussion about the innovative approaches needed to think and work differently. We hope it inspired him to return to Switzerland with fresh ideas and solutions for the post-pandemic future.

As we explore new frontiers in innovation, we will do our utmost to expose stakeholders to the relevant mindsets, skillsets and networks they need to successfully collaborate and bring about the impact they hope to achieve.