The FUTURE Network helps ensure that research and innovation stay top of mind in Swiss politics. Biotechnet spoke to Philipp Kutter, who is on the Board of FUTURE and a Member of Parliament (Mitte) for Kanton Zürich, about priorities for this fall's parliamentary session.
Tell us a bit about the FUTURE Netzwerk.
The FUTURE Netzwerk is an interest group that brings political, research and innovation actors together. About 35 politicians belonging to the National Council and the Council of States form the political contingent. Traditionally we have had broad and strong support across the entire political spectrum.
Politicians in the FUTURE Netzwerk interact with the Swiss Academy of Sciences, the ETH Board, Innosuisse, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), and Swiss Universities. These organizations provide recommendations, subject-matter expertise and advice and participate in information sharing events in Bern. Together, we aim to ensure the most favourable conditions for training, research and innovation in Switzerland, and provide resources for evidence-based decision-making in government.
What is FUTURE’s top priority for this fall’s parliamentary session?
From my perspective, the inclusion of Switzerland in the EU’s Horizons program remains the most urgent issue. We have already seen some researchers leaving Switzerland as a result of our exclusion. FUTURE continues to fight with this long-term goal in mind, though the EU has shown little flexibility in its current position.
In the meantime, it’s important to continue pressing the government on its implementation of Horizons interim measures. For example, we have called for greater transparency and disclosure in the allocation and spending of research money earmarked for Swiss participation in Horizons projects. We want to be sure the funds in the Horizons package are being allocated and spent at the same levels they would have been within Horizons. This motion, which we brought forward, was adopted by the Federal Council on September 29.
What are some other issues on your radar?
The replacement, reduction and refinement (3R) of animal testing is an issue we are committed to advancing. Here we need to balance the ongoing need for safety testing in the development of new medicines with evolving ethics in animal rights. Investing in research of cell and tissue models that can replace animal testing is key, acknowledging that this shift will be gradual but can be accelerated with the right policies.
FUTURE is also focused on increasing the participation of women in STEM. Policies need to start at the primary school level, where girls first become interested in science – here the fun side of science needs to shine, for example through science camps, games, and hands-on activities. Strong policies to grow the number of women who select STEM vocational training in secondary and post-secondary schools are also needed. And finally, we need to understand recruitment and retention of women in top science jobs and make adjustments to achieve equally here. Our postulate for a report to parliament on this subject was recently adopted by the Federal Council. The more data we have and the better we understand the challenges at each level, the better our policymaking in this space will be.
These are just a few of the files we are focussed on – others include digital technologies, scientific infrastructure, and pedagogy.
Why is a network like FUTURE important?
Scientific data and technical advice are key to so many areas of our society, whether it be health, the environment, or society. Innovation is also an important driver of economic growth. Thus it’s important through a strong network like FUTURE to build bridges between science and politics, for the continued prosperity and well-being of our country.