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Pascal Marmier, 
Director, Consul
, swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland 07-29-09 Interview

Pascal Marmier, 
Director, Consul
, swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland 07-29-09 Interview



Pascal Marmier, 
Director, Consul
, swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland, shares an in depth interview of his insights, passions, and discoveries incubating locally based and globally ...

Pascal Marmier, 
Director, Consul
, swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland, shares an in depth interview of his insights, passions, and discoveries incubating locally based and globally connected knowledge networks to drive innovation in industry, culture, government, and education.



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    Pascal Marmier, 
Director, Consul
, swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland 07-29-09 Interview Pascal Marmier, 
Director, Consul
, swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland 07-29-09 Interview Document Transcript

    • 1 Interview and transcription July 29, 2009 Pascal Marmier, Director, Consul , swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland INTRODUCTION My name is Pascal Marmier, and I’m here at the Swiss Consul and Director of the swissnex Boston. Swissnex Boston is the science and technology Consulate for the Boston area, a very unique initiative. As I said, swissnex Boston is really a very innovative organization even though we have existed here for ten years I think we are still a “work in progress”. If you want, what we do is two things: one thing is definitely trying to bring a new light and position Switzerland as a key player in a kind of fast moving global and dynamic economy here, not only in the U.S., but in different places around the world. So, we are really trying to find new ways to come up with imaginative ideas, imaginative people, people who can bring Switzerland and all it’s history here into a different light than what has been known to a certain extent up to now. So, this is the first part. The second part is engaging in collaboration; collaboration is really at the core for what we do. We try to find new ways to basically bring together people that are working in what I would define as kind of science and technology circles and this is really understood in a very broad term. Science, of course, includes the humanities, and technology also includes places like design and parts of others. Our role, as we say it, and our general motto is called “connecting the dots” which is basically finding people that don’t necessarily know each other, don’t necessarily work together, don’t necessarily have any affinities to work together and then to a certain extent by our suite of programs, the events, the collaborative tools, the video conferencing that we have here, some social media tools and others, making sure that they have a chance to work together in a collaboration factor, that they can maybe be part of a consortia, or open projects that already exist, or more likely, that they can define new rules, new areas of approaching ideas and things that they can sustain themselves. Very quickly, swissnex Boston was here with the first similar Consulate, a similar organization, with this mission and since then our colleagues in San Francisco have built up a wonderful organization there as well on the West Coast and then from the west coast Asia has been the next round with now a swissnex outpost, a “no ledge” outpost as we call them in Singapore, another one in Shanghai, and another in Bangalore. So, just by having the location, you already understand what we are looking at is already been a very active, and a very present, and physical presence in a way in our location work, it’s very important to be present in what Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 2 are key, I would say, in key general economies and hot spots of innovation and ideas around the world. [00:03:01] So, really, one of the main drivers at the beginning of the swissnex story was the idea of Brainpower. Switzerland, to a certain extent, started to see a loss of Brainpower, we called it the “brain drain” at the time and one of the problems we had was that we were spending a lot of time educating people. We have probably one of the best public education systems from kindergarten all the way to PhD studies and beyond which means that when people were coming to outside places, Boston being, of course, one of the highest density of brains everywhere and attracted them so when Swiss people or ‘Swiss drain’ and not necessarily Swiss by nationality, but were Swiss in the sense that they were educated in the Swiss education. When they were staying here, it was a certain loss for the country, so there was a certain alarm being raised at the time, and this was before 2000, about basically the risk that we were loosing a few people a year. One of the main reasons was there was no network around these people, there were no connections to them, there were no relationships, there was no mechanism to even track them. So one of the original ideas of the founder, Xavier Comtesse, who was then in Washington, DC. Washington, D.C. being much more a place for policy making than project, than applied project, was that he wanted to create, and he worked together with our Swiss State Secretariat for Education and Research (SER) and Swiss bank was basically at the core of the ideas; they worked together in collaborative ways, which was interesting in itself, they worked together and tried to focus on how can we create basically a place where young talent and interesting people that are representing the future of the Brainpower, how could they come together, get to know about what they do, connect or re-connect to Switzerland and at the same time also create a peer-to-peer network where they would their share stories, their soul, the future of their career, and for their government, and basically putting together a strategy of connecting a little bit with these people. So, this is one of the main drivers to make the story short: we’ve moved a little bit from talking about brain drain to more brain circulation because what has happened in the meantime is Switzerland has positioned itself really well in this kind of, I would say, talent search, and we have kind of reversed the trends to a certain extent and also have a lot of people either go back home or go there directly, so you see a lot more of exchanges going on. This is the whole Brainpower organization. The other one, and this comes also a little bit to the idea of talking about networks is that, as competition continues to heat up inside science and technology, you want to be in the networks where things are happening fast, you want to be close to the decision makers, you want to be well known by the people that make all kinds of decisions from, who are they going to be working with, which companies are of interest to them, or even which people do they want to hire, or in the innovation process who they want to follow, and again this is not something you can do from the side of the field if you want to you really need to be there and you need to be with these people on a day-to-day basis, hence basically the advantage of the location here right in the middle of the Cambridge area where we could have the daily interactions that provide a lot of the opportunities for the people who in the end would benefit from what we do which are the Universities, the organizations supporting Science, the businesses that will hire technology, and all the people who are incubating innovative ideas. One of the other drivers I would say is the competition for scarcer and scarcer Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 3 resources in a knowledge economy and this is our way of basically trying to adapt to this changing world. A. CATEGORY What are you passionate about now? [00:07:01] I think what I’m really passionate about and something that goes way back is really two things: one, is I am continuously learning. I don’t know if you describe it as pure curiosity, or it is more finding new interesting things to challenge, I don’t know if I qualifies as some sort of attention deficit, but there is definitely a part of me that is always very interested in learning more and to a certain extent, in kind of confronting, or at least challenging some parts that I still don’t know about. I like to have new areas of interest be open, so that’s why I think part of the story of this organization fits well with what I do which I am passionate about. The other part I’m really passionate about is the contact to people. I think one of the best parts of the job, and I hope also for the organization for what we do, is definitely understanding people, listening to what they do, to a certain extent anticipating what they are interested in as well, and then kind of providing some support, so I’ve been very interested in making this kind of connection and building up a network both on a personal basis and on an organizational basis. What would you like people to know, think, feel and do? [00: 08:19] So, I think if you take the two sides which is a little bit the idea of exploring new ground and of connecting people, it fits basically very well with what we do here, which is basically promoting science and technology by connecting people. I think what’s happening, is we’re entering an age where knowledge is key and networks are very important, and by knowledge I don’t necessarily mean only the kind of knowledge you can derive from all kinds of textbooks and others but also the knowledge about others and everything that can be to a certain extent transcribed also into interest, values, culture, and some others. We are entering a phase I think where this is becoming very important for all kinds of work. At the same time, I think the notion of network is also key to what we do because we want to try to understand how from all different scientific fields we can make sure the people get to know each other, find their ideas, find new ways to basically work together and then the networks are just our kind of daily activities if you want. What do you see for the future? [00:09:31] If you would like to look at what the future, I think with the increasing amount of data for everybody, it’s just mind blowing to see what you can find through Facebook, Linked In, and some other kinds of recent social networks, I thinks it’s we’re going to continue to find more output for deeper conversations. I think what has now sometimes been labeled or described as casual networking to a certain extent, you’re still relying on chance and others, I think you can look at this in the future in a much more strategic way and to a certain extent find ways and find original ways to search and develop, and Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 4 facilitate ways for people to find each other in a much more refined ways. So, I think that’s also where we’re going in the future as an organization, which is understanding how we can for the benefit again of our stakeholders which are Universities, individuals, and innovators, how can we basically try to find here locally new people that they can work with together? B. TOPIC – Innovation Framework What category of the Innovation Framework do you primarily invest your time and attention? Brainpower? Networks? Quality, Connected Place? Dialogue and Inclusion? Or Branding Stories? [00:10:41] So, in terms of describing our first category if you want of the Innovation Framework, I think we work a lot in Innovation and Entrepreneurship Networks. I think one of the very important aspects for us in terms of operating in a place like Boston that has a very strong innovation ecosystem has been first to try to understand or model to a certain extent, as a scientist would do, what are the pieces of such an ecosystem? The first phase, and it’s a continuing phase, has been the learning and we try to understand what are the dynamics, the dynamics of the networks inside this ecosystem, and what are some of the “formal” initiatives we are working on, how do people define business plans? Is there a competition that might help that, maybe bring in mentors and students together, mini funds that are offered by colleges or states, very important in terms of fostering more entrepreneurship. We really try to track down and understand this kind of formal part of the ecosystem. The second part, which has been more an informal one, is, “How are people relating to each other? And this has been very interesting because we’ve been using some of the sixty plus events we have every year here as a lab or as just a proxy for what is going on, we can see which kind of people collaborate together, or which kind of people know each other to a certain extent, and this has been our way of kind of understand how, for example, is it easier in certain regions in Boston for Professors to use graduate students, also external advisors to start a company, or how, for example, the state might have a different strategy than saying, OK, we’ve created jobs by giving Stimulus money, but using some I would say softer ways of facilitate, spinning off within the Universities or a larger company. So, this has been the learning in terms of the innovation and what we’ve put on it is a way to try to find a way to add value for our people back home, so I would describe our stakeholders as a little bit in two groups: first, are the ones in the process, I would say, or in the work of working on creating these ecosystems over there, they can be policy makers, they can be directing funding agencies, they can be people in economic development work. What we found interesting, rather than writing a report, just connecting the people, and connecting probably a little bit differently than not necessarily the person in the trade agency office who is the trade agency somewhere in Switzerland but making sure the person in the public side of it, also knows what is going on in the private side. So, we had all kinds of discussions through video conferencing, through the exchange of people, we had a technology transfer fellowship, for example that was connecting people over here. We had all kinds of jobs and we even found ways for people to collaborate, for example, inviting some U.S. people to go to Switzerland and participating in conferences, or even in some cases now, Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 5 summer schools and internships in entrepreneurship. But really, we used all the ways we could think of in terms of connecting these people with the idea of developing more innovation networks, if you want. The other side of what we’ve done, which has also been very interesting, is taking the front line of this innovation ecosystem of entrepreneurs, these are the people, men and women with the ideas, they are developing more often than not, in the private sector basis, the new ideas of tomorrow. They might be people churning out some technologies out of their lab or they might be people just finding new services, and then we have a variety of organizational programs that we put together. To describe one, just very briefly, over the last nine years we’ve really refined the way we’re working with the best and most promising entrepreneurs from Switzerland by bringing them here for a ten day boot camp. This has been of benefit not only to our entrepreneurs back home, but also to a lot of people here in the Boston area and this is under the label of “trans-Atlantic operation”. What we’ve tried to do is help the entrepreneur get inspiration from the best so, working on kind of personal, if you want, boosting their morale by meeting the ones who have done it here, but also finding opportunities for interns and entrepreneurs here to share and mentor some of their earlier stage entrepreneurs coming out of Switzerland. The final part has been finding ways for partnerships to created with people interested here to kind of look at taking technologies that are not as developed here in the U.S. We found it very, very interesting to kind of connect these innovation networks across entrepreneurs and others. Since then we’ve continued extending the way we’re operating. Just next door, behind me, for example, is also own entrepreneurship corner where we can on a rotation basis have entrepreneurs come in and then again, just introduce them here a little bit to the network on what’s going on in the Boston area. So, our primary role has really been finding innovative ways to do this connection across the Atlantic. What secondary categories are you interested in? [00:16:13] If I look at the second category, I would say that strengthening Brainpower has been something we’ve really, really been thinking and doing activities very strongly. And now we are focused a little more on higher education then we are in the K through twelve, if you want, but there are also some ramifications over there. And then what’s been very interesting in trying to do two things: on one side, I think what we’ve been good is nurturing young talents and making sure that the ones that were coming here had a chance right from the beginning to connect to the best and the brightest. So, again we went through organizing knowledge sessions where we had sometimes Brown Bag lunch either faculty coming in from Switzerland, faculty coming from here, we had also a two semester long trans-Atlantic complexity networks series, where we had someone videoconferencing from Zurich and someone here from Harvard discussing on the two sides and again this was of benefit to the post-Doc’s and the other people all participating. The idea is to always bring them, to a certain extent, outside of the zone of comfort of their lab and into a place where they were confronted with more questions related to their careers, their research interests, and others. We had also all kinds of activities where they were operating in inter-disciplinary ways where they had to present, we forced them to kind of make presentations like poster presentations, but not as they would do 95% of the time to scientists, but if they were doing it to non-scientists then we Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 6 could be more inter-disciplinary collaboration into the networks that are already existing here. So, it’s really the idea of taking a very strong look and putting a lot of resources into Brainpower. On the other side, we’ve also been working more and more with what we call our University’s of Applied Sciences. Switzerland has a kind of style of education, or part of our education system that is a vocational system, which is here becoming more and more popular, a very practice oriented way to look at what’s gong on here. What we’ve been doing here is engaging, and kind of just distance of people reflecting on what they do from outside is trying to bring people over and have them here and especially educators, people that are working with kids, find new ways to think about how kids learn, how kids operate, for example, in a science environment. We just had, last week for example, about twenty-five English and student teachers of middle school for a weeklong program and there again, we’re in two different places, and it’s just a kind of an exchange. I think operating here locally has been able to offer some opportunities that kind of gives them a little bit more of an understanding of how brains function and how Brainpower would be efficient back in Switzerland. So, this has been the second part of what we’re doing working with all kinds of educators and again, bringing them into a little different environment than they would see back home in Switzerland. Which category would you like to collaborate with next? [00:19:29] If I had to choose a collaborator category in which we would like to collaborate, I think it would be the one on “Promoting the effective Brand”, or the power of stories. It’s probably something we feel a little bit internally but we have not expressed so much. A lot of what we want to do is show success, measure success, to a certain extent. What we’ve noticed is that we’ve used various ways to think about creating metrics and what we do is measure success in a traditional kind of data driven ways, but what we’re finding and what we’d like to learn a little bit more is how can we use some of the stories that emerge from our activities as a way to kind of shed some light on what we do. We’ve been going to some people (we have not used video like this but just for reference or to make a statement) but what we would like to know is how can we engage people in telling their stories and then having them also reflect a little bit more about how an environment here and the work we do in terms of bringing people together has served their needs and created some activities for them. One of the problems, of course, is attracting these people and then refining it into a nice and positive story. C. ACTIVITY – Strategic Doing Explore and Research What research areas interest you? Why? [00:20:52] In terms of the research area I’m very interested in: one of them is trying to, if not align, at least understand better and see how we can get the external environment and all the area in which we work, the various topics in science and technology together with the internal piece, which is the practice or the way we organize our processes. So, let me just talk about this a little bit if you want, and I’ll cover the ground with one or two examples. We are working in a lot of different topics so in terms of what we do see in Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 7 terms of the external community be in Switzerland or the Boston area, we’re very much kind of topic driven and we need to find a way to classify to a certain extent people, which we also do internally, but the way we approach it, we say, Okay, this is the topic of interest here that is also the interest in Switzerland, so therefore there might be some opportunities for collaboration it can be nanotechnology, life sciences is one in the Boston area, or it can be now going more into green technologies, the environment, there’s some that are little bit subtler, like robotics [?], or activities like this. The external environment is something that we continue to explore on a very frequent basis and more often then not we’re kind of connecting the dots on hearing from one or two different people saying, “Ah, maybe that’s something.” Or when we’re in an open source environment when we have an event something and we see the questioners coming, “Why does Switzerland do this or not?” Or, when we have people back home from Switzerland asking us different things then we use this a little bit as a barometer for what we do. What we like to do is kind of find more innovative ways to get a sense for what are some of topics that are right for collaboration before they actually emerge so that you can do more work of preparation. In terms of the internal one, in the way of researching, is, “How can we work in what we are here, which is a public private partnership?” So, How can we have this networked way of operating if you work externally with an organization where you need to have basically to have people who are in both in processes in government work but at the same time having a very transparent, very open kind of work that basically necessitates a lot of different tools that managing or processes that are administrative way. So, we have been living in a hybrid environment and the research is definitely continues in terms of how can we have structures and processes that are also kind of continuing to help us improve. We have started to take in from the external environment to see what we get, the feedback we get from people and then using them internally to refine the way that we interact, the way that we research and others, so this was one of the transverse way going from the external environment to the internal one. This is also connected to the fact that we need to find a way, and this is the second part of the question between having to a certain extent a strategic core where we don’t necessarily share what we are doing, but at the same time being very open and very transparent because you never know who’s going to be interacting with you in the future and it’s always basically through people who are looking at you from the outside that you get the opportunities to work then on some inside projects. So, we started doing was using a social media tools, for example to keep all the boundaries between the different geography a bit closer, we’ve started to use things like Facebook or Twitter which has been very interesting because finally people interact with us a little bit closer, and this is definitely a work in progress, it’s always interesting for us to find out hoe much do we want to share and how do we kind of want to keep to ourselves, but I think the future is definitely pushing us in a way that we’re very, very transparent on what we’ve done and to a certain extent for the people who are here who are coming through the building it’s a couple of thousand people every year, so it’s going to be interesting when we see people say on Facebook that they’ve been there and if that becomes public information or if we use it in a kind of private way. There are some very important ways to work together. [00:25:39] In terms of collaborating in entrepreneurship, I think this is really something we’ve really found very interesting. I always like to say our best ideas come from Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 8 collaboration. We’ve never really had our self internally, a great idea that we incubated all the way through. It always has been through discussion with outside researchers and others; very often times we start with one well-defined idea and by the time we have talked with two or three people it has changed completely and more often than not, it is for the better. An example has been when we were trying to education the people here about a way to change. We had the idea of having a few posters, or a poster session on climate change. A researcher came on board and she had grown up in the mountains where she had experienced for a very long time a climate trail, a nine-mile long trail where she could get information on climate change. She brought this idea, mixed it a little bit with our interest in education and we started what we call a “climate trail” around Cambridge that then became national and went to a lot of different places in the U.S. and now it’s part of the government and a public diplomacy effort that our colleagues all around the world can put the “Swiss Climate Trail” that is basically a series of posters that is again a great example of what came through a collaboration here with a researcher. [00:27:02] Then finally, the kind of people we liked to be connected with - and I would use the infinite sign – if we have anything in common or anyone in common, or any activities, so it’s very difficult for us to even have a strategic map of what we want to be connected to because I always feel, and especially in a place like Cambridge where people are operating in different circles and different networks then any type of their activities, be it social, be it professional, be it even sometimes philanthropic which is of interest to us, so we’ve had a great collaboration with neuroscientists that then brought us some contacts to a design place where we would do an exhibit where at the same time we started with some people that had some cultural interest in working with us but ended up introducing us to neuroscientists or people in the life sciences with whom we ended up having here for lectures or some other reason. It is very difficult to say, the only thing we would like to try to do is to a certain extent is having people interact with us in a way to try to track and search in a little more automated ways than by one meeting at a time and I don’t think there is any substitute for personal interaction, but we now for the young talents, asking them to be a little more clear about their objectives and what they have in the background so that we can kind of process that a more searchable way than simply having a lot of personal conversation. [00:28:42] So, I think thinking in networks is really at the core of our activities. We are faced on one side with a country that had more than 7 million people with basically whose future depends on strategies related to knowledge, economies, knowledge, and innovation and other, and here we’re in a place where there’s just hundred’s of thousands of interesting people. So, what we’d like to do is of course, is organize ourselves so that we can touch the highest numbers of people and I think we use a way in general of building networks that’s probably pretty common, which is we certainly have a circle which is probably I would say 20% of the people that are very close people to whom we can reach a lot of different people. This 20% of people we have not defined any kind of timeline of closer interaction but if it happens that we find them or re-connect with them at events, they come in here or we end up working on a project, these people have been key to our activities because they have enabled us to then bring in more people to the Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 9 platform, bid on a specific workshop, or if we are looking for a specific contact. So, this has been one way to build networks. What we’ve started to do which has been very interesting is to also try to build networks across industries. We’re thinking now, for example, with a colleague from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) to refine this and forcing people to look at, for example, how not only how urban planning looks, but maybe think about diversity and sustainability and have something for example, on urban planning, a sustainable mindset, and bringing practitioners and thought leaders together in various formats to facilitate change. I think this is one way we have been working already on a different approach. It’s been very interesting also, reflecting on networks in Switzerland, which is our home base, is we’ve been sometimes able to even use our “outside’ view to bring people together inside Switzerland. Sometimes people are looking for answers from people in the Boston area, or that they were coming to the Boston area and they were leaving with contacts of people who were 100 kilometers from them and then they started working together over there. So, I think that is one way that has been very interesting here is looking at the strengths, what people do in a way that is very different from being embedded in a region or place where you’re very often limited by political activities or the way that people are placed in an organization; here, I think we have the freedom to look at networks in a much more subjective way and this has lead us to a number of very interesting activities. Focus and Networks What networks are you building? Why? How? [00:31:39] The new frontier for us is also for us as an organization is to be functioning as a network. We really only used to be thinking ‘swissnex Boston’ – Boston being really the only place we were operating. What’s becoming more and more interesting is that swissnex has become a network itself with five different locations and there is just a lot we can still learn from each other and a lot we can accomplish in terms of developing different places not only for the people that might be coming from Singapore to Shanghai and then end up in Boston and you know how mobile people are so there’s a lot of these loaded travelers and what people are working on but also in terms of our own knowledge we can fuse all kinds of experiences and share them and basically grow as an organization in a networked way. So, this is definitely also where we’re going to be spending a lot of time in the future. What criteria do you use for mapping knowledge networks? [00:32:31] In terms of mapping knowledge networks, and we had tried this very early on, we had started by having online survey’s for example. We wanted to understand how, especially the young talents out of Switzerland on what they were working, what they were interested in, we found pretty fast the limitation that people who didn’t necessarily want to share directly because there was a privacy concern to a certain extent, so we worked with Peter Gloor in visualizing our own social networks and he made that and what we did was not only looking backwards so you think that some of the data before that happened, but I think the best use of the visualization of our network has been to use Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 10 a two week program here and San Francisco, of a well defined Swiss group and then finding a way to kind of introduce it and reconnecting it to all the different people who were part of this growing network of collaborators during this two weeks, and then basically visualizing this network has been something we used a lot because it was a well defined project that we could see very well how they developed, formed, contracted, and then restarted on a very well defined timeline. I think what will happen in the future work is that we can see that we’re probably going to be much more active when we are using some of our internal contact management and then to a certain extent plotting this against what we see from outside sources, such as Linked In or the way that people would be connected on the Internet, so I think that this is going to be very strong and this is definitely also for the future is to combine what you have as private information in your own system with what’s publicly available and we still have yet to see an explosion of public activity so that’s why I feel that in terms of visualizing a network we are in a little bit of a transition phase. What criteria do you use to identify best practices in those networks? [00:34:33] In terms of best practices in those networks I don’t think that we’ve been too successful in identifying best practices. What we’ve been able to do in a few specific cases for example there is a knowledge management form that we know really well or we are pretty well embedded for example in what is called a technology transfer community here and rather than find the best practices, we’ve been able to kind of be recognized as a partner and a person or an organization that is kind of the form of this global knowledge networks that are being formed and this has led us to basically using the people and then kind of circulate or having them spread out the information and request so that we can solve the problems or get access to a certain person through the network that we have built, so it’s not necessarily finding the best practices but it’s again using some of the past connections that we had developed and the kind of reputation that we had built up and the kind of trust we had built in this network to then being able to be used to find some solutions of best practices. Execute and Enterprise What is the next enterprise opportunity that you see? Why? [00:35:42] One of the projects that we are very interested in is in a field we define broadly as technology innovation, to be a little bit more precise. I think we have knowledge of how to work both with start-ups and very large multi-national companies and we know on both sides what we can deliver, what we can offer, and what is of interest. How much time would you like to spend on this opportunity, from idea to execution? [00:36:06] What I’m very interested in and what we’d like to focus some time on is designing programs for SME’s (Small and Medium Enterprises). SME’s are very Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 11 important to Switzerland, accounting for close to 98% of all employment for example, so this is definitely vital to our economy and in Switzerland there is a huge need for continuing to innovate, whether it’s processes, services, product, or even the way companies are organized. This is definitely one place where we want to spend some time reflecting, learning, and trying to see if we can design services. I don’t think it will be, for example, too difficult to imagine a consortia of SME’s would come here or use some of our contacts to further their learning. The way we are looking at this, is basically thinking again in networks; it would be much too difficult to go individually to these organizations so the first stage for us has been, “What are some of the existing networks where SME’s, industry partners and then academic partners and then the government are evolving?” We have identified three or four different groups either because they have received some funding from a project, or there are a few forums for knowledge exchange on the executive level and we also found it very interesting to work with schools that are educating typical SME managers. So, using these three well defined communities, we now have entry in a phase where we’re going to try to probe a little bit for questions as to what are the needs, what are the opportunities, what are sometimes the limitations that people see in SME’s in terms of their innovation potential. Whose insights and guidance do you/would you engage? [00:37:56] The guidance that we’re looking at is basically working with other practitioners that might have already tried this route or might have been in contact with this community and might not have had any success; so learning from this. What benchmarks and measurements do you use in your work? [00:38:14] In terms of benchmarks and measurements, I don’t think we have any strong timeline at this time, or strong benchmark regarding how are we going to progress, but by definitely focusing our attention on this and the attention of our organization, I think we can have very meaningful conversations and then just use the time sometimes of the trade organizations, some of them being here, to understand how they work, and also making some research on how other countries, or other regions around the world have thought in terms of pushing innovation, pushing innovation in a way that’s not only regional but also looking a bit more internationally. Performance and Education What next steps do you envision to pro-actively respond in education, economic and workforce development? [00:39:00] In terms of economic, and education and really the changes that are affecting communities, one thing we did, which I think had a lot of value, is using some of the Swiss people who had a story to tell, to come and tell their stories and I found this very powerful. I think in Switzerland we have a little bit of the spirit of sometimes being not promoting enough and not valuing sometimes enough the celebrity or some of the people who should be celebrated to a certain extent and what we’ve done here is provide a Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 12 platform for people who might not necessarily been recognized everywhere as a celebrity. They were both related to sustainability last year; one of them was a person who went around the world in a solo car and the solo car had interestingly, had a technology he had developed himself, a sort of off the shelf technologies, but the person had been in this very small car serving around the world, driving famous people and not so famous people and just kind of showing a little bit about the power of ideas and how going across all these communities he could make a difference. He was really very interesting because he was in touch with both technology people and people from the community. This was a great example of showing a pioneer spirit. Another one who was very strong was someone who went from Los Angeles to Boston just by foot, walking to raise awareness about climate change and we welcomed him on the Boston Commons. This was someone we introduced to the community, a person who had a personal change project, or a personal project that was linked also to the kind of larger issues of climate change and this was our way to kind of bring him here a little bit to the people of the community, so we had various representatives of the cities, but also NGO’s, general citizens, together is a discussion with this person. What next steps do you envision to pro-actively respond to the powerful topics affecting communities and their regions, such as: climate change, green job creation, water, land, energy, technology, and health care? [00:41:04] A step further, is another way we like to think about climate change and others is trying to recreate a little bit of what we see as the environmental awareness and some of the successes of the environmental awareness and technologies that we see in Switzerland. Not only is this easy to do but one key example in a very successful partnership for us has been collaborating with the Charles River Conservancy. Technically speaking, the Boston River here called the Charles River is very safe to swim most of the time but the problem is that having grown up here a lot of people still think is just a toxic stretch of water. What we’ve been doing with them is showing how in a very efficient way Switzerland has transformed it’s river from a technology stand point, from a really kind of dirty to extremely clean, you can swim in any Swiss river and also not only the technology but also the social life around it has totally evolved and how people have been totally innovative in how they have used the rivers, from creating a bath that hadn’t been existing for a long time but now have new uses such as a place for lunch, places for culture in the evening, bars, movie goers were moving over for out door spaces so how urban rivers have been becoming beacons of life in different environments and the way that we’ve done this is basically trying to recreate this environment by having a Swiss Beach Day last year and bringing not only viewing mechanisms for which people could have a sense of how a swimming structure would look like on the banks of the Charles River but also bringing the other attributes of what makes this place so nice, so games, a relaxed atmosphere, the chairs were on the river, the music played, the food, the games that the kids could play, so we tried to recreate this is a way. So this is how we can have an impact not necessarily by talking strong technologies and all kinds of very hard science facts even if they can be explained to people, but also offering the experiential activity that comes with sustainability because a lot of the topics that are mentioned here, use of water, use of land and others are linked more to your personality, your values, the Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 13 way you are embedded in the system more than a large project that can rolled out all across. So, this is the way we have been working and we also have more traditional workshops on how to render your house more sustainable and things like this. Who would you like to be connected to that you are not? [00:43:54] So, if we look into the future and you would like to think about what is happening now is having this kind of one to one interaction or this one to one discussion we become much larger; I think the issues here will be felt in different places around the world and what is happening on a local basis, so for example what is happening on a stretch of river has become much more a matter of global issues all around the world. I think what is happening and what you see emerging is virtual collaborations where some people with projects such as the one I described we also think about in an interactive and interdisciplinary ways and we create solutions, or improvement in the way we bring together all kinds of collaborations. I know that this already exists, for example in water, because we had some activities there, this ongoing water technology development groups that exist and I am sure you see the same thing be it for example in the use of energies, or health care or others. I am very positive about the ways that the technology or the social technology that we use can be put to good use on this. How will your research/business serve the sustainability of communities and their regions 50 years from now? [00:45:10] So, in closing, I think it could be interesting to just talk a little bit about what we’ve seen emerging in the various cultural areas that exist here and how this relates to some of the challenges that we have here. As I explained in this interview about the sort of cultural gap we have here. We operate in a place here, a Swiss retreat very much embedded in a lot of nationalities and different geographies that come up together; the distance, the way that we have also tried to bring the people in through video conferencing. We felt very strongly that when people come here there is excitement, they get to meet others, for the people who are here we’re working on continuing to provide this cultural experience, with having them here for events, for conversation and others, for our colleagues and the partners back in Switzerland, it’s been kind of using the video conference to keep the conversation going. I think the part, of you organized this, to the physical structures that have contributed to this culture; so we see our self as a collaborative space. One of the cultural aspects of the way we organize is definitely being parallel, or to a certain extent being also kind of going into some colliding, connecting direction. A key example is during the day, we often have one group on the side talking about a specific topic, and then we may have a visitor, and then as we introduce the visitor to the group working, a conversation will ensue and that is also how we work in terms of processes inside. We might be thinking, “Oh, let’s do something with science” and start talking with a few people and then suddenly notice that one of the person’s we had been working with for a while has become the CTO, or some position in a new technology group or that someone at MIT has started this special group on this topic and then what we do is use this culture of what we call “connect the dots” as a way to go there. Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 14 [00:47:22] I think what has been interesting also to look at in terms of culture, is that there are sometimes cultures that have tensions that we can always have to work on and this is not always the case here on this specific organization but also at the other places in the network. One of them is definitely the culture of the organizations such as for a concert or a presentation that has a very well defined story or long processes deeply embedded with a culture with of more start up and entrepreneurship, where you need to be sensing and working on opportunity with a more, a much faster, kind of cycle, a regular cycle than you would in a typical place that has a lot more reflection. So, this has been very interesting and this has been one of our key achievements has been kind of continuing on solidifying, if you want, the kind of government model and the way that this is working with basically defining the processes or ideas and ways to be very responsive to the opportunities we were seeing here in the external environment and bringing these two groups together again through workshops and others. Closing comments: [00:48:40] I think that if we look forward and if we look a little bit more global, what would be very interesting and something that we’ve started to do, and I have to admit it’s kind of new, but again using these network mentalities now to help the Swissnex network for how do we use some of what we’ve seen here to work, and what our colleagues have seen work somewhere else, and what some of their attentions and charges are so that we can kind of basically learn what are some of the attributes that we can definitely continue to do especially if the network continues to grow so that the learning that we’ve had here over the last ten years can kind of be much faster embedded over there. I wanted to just finish by saying that a lot of it starts with the people and especially in a team like here, where as I mentioned you need to be strong on internal processes as well as strong in terms of entrepreneurial mindset, we try to recruit people that have a very kind of broad set of skills and we’re looking specifically for personalities and this is true also with my colleagues around the network. So, I think we see the emergence of also a new class of employees here, people that basically have decided their specific expertise, or use that expertise in a much broader way and are able to translate opportunities and what they see in a specific discipline and transform them into another one. So, I hope that this kind of networks, this kind of knowledge base type of person will continue and for now we are delighted to share more of this story with anyone who wishes. Our generous thanks to Pascal Marmier http://www.swissnexboston.org/ The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Floor Cleveland Ohio 44103 USA Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open Creative Commons License Attribution-Noncommercial No Derivative Works 3.0 United States Website: http://i-open.org Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 15 Keywords Entrepreneurship, networks, place, culture, climate change, global, ideas, innovation, technology, sustainability, process, people Related Links I-Open http://i-open-2.near-time.net/wiki/pascal-marmier-director-consul-swissnex-boston- consulate-of-switzerland Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/i-open/sets/72157621888195744/ Scribd http://www.scribd.com/doc/24342507?secret_password=2fsvd776e5p9d07qitkq Slideshare http://www.slideshare.net/IOpen2/pascal-marmier-director-consul-swissnex-boston- consulate-of-switzerland-07-29-09-interview Livestream http://www.livestream.com/iopen/ondemand/flv_76f797fa-56fe-43f4-8216- 22a88c33933d?initthumburl=http://mogulus-user- files.s3.amazonaws.com/chiopen/2009/12/14/76f797fa-56fe-43f4-8216- 22a88c33933d_1520.jpg&playeraspectwidth=4&playeraspectheight=3 Vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/8194177 Facebook The Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) http://th-th.facebook.com/group.php?gid=35942064712 I-Open http://www.facebook.com/pages/Cleveland-OH/I-Open/170817416694 Contact Information Keep informed about activities and upcoming events, sign up for our Facebook fan page http://www.swissnexboston.org Pascal Marmier Director, Consul swissnex Boston, Consulate of Switzerland 420 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02138 Ph: (617) 876-3076 ext. 110 Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA
    • 16 Fax: (617) 876-3079 Cell: (617) 331-3989 Email: pascal@swissnexboston.org Web: www.swissnexboston.org Skype: themarm Biographical Information http://www.linkedin.com/in/pmarmier Copyright 2009 Betsey Merkel and I-Open. Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution- Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. Institute for Open Economic Networks (I-Open) 4415 Euclid Ave 3rd Fl Cleveland, Ohio 44103 USA