Charlotte Geerdink is European Advisor for Innovation at SwissCore, the Swiss Contact Office for Education, Research and Innovation in Brussels. SwissCore’s mission is to act as a bridge between Switzerland and the European Union in those areas in order to support the participation of actors in Switzerland in EU programmes, provide early and relevant intelligence and contribute to make the voice of Swiss stakeholders heard when it comes to the future orientation of these programmes, in close cooperation with the Mission of Switzerland to the EU. SwissCore is funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) and the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI).
Charlotte spent a week with us at swissnex San Francisco to better understand the Bay Area’s ecosystem that supports startups scale so well and to take these learnings back to Brussels.
Can you tell us about your role at SwissCore?
A main aspect of my role is to help researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs in Switzerland to remain connected and better understand the future orientations of the EU policy and programmes for innovation and the ways to influence them. I keep track of the different policies and strategies being made by the EU Commission and find ways to tap into the opportunities that are being designed. Together with my SwissCore colleagues, I provide strategic advice and support our partners and clients in developing positions on various themes such as research and innovation in the fields of energy, climate change, arts and design or the role of the Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences in those programmes. At the moment we are focusing on the next European Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (post Horizon 2020). This new Framework programme will commence in 2021 however the first parameters for this new programme are already under way and being set.
Why do you do it?
Ultimately, I believe that science and innovation can make the world a better place. I think it is extremely important for the EU to have a collaborative approach to inform decision making as well as different and broader perspectives on research and innovation: that’s where I come in. On a more personal note, the role fits with my personality; I like being in service of our community, and I truly care about our future.
I also enjoy the wide variety of stakeholders that I work with: from all the Universities of Applied Sciences in Switzerland to the many new and exciting Swiss startups – the diversity means there’s always something interesting to work on.
There is a desire from the EU Commision to create a European Innovation Council to help European startups to scale. To date, startups have found it difficult to scale in Europe, so I’m here in the Bay Area to learn more about the ecosystem that supports startups to scale so well, and to take these learnings back to better understand what is needed for an innovation ecosystem to flourish and support my work. I’ll then focus on bringing those insights into the discussions I have in Brussels in the context of the European Innovation Council.
I’m also working on the explorative phase of the next European Framework program to be launched in fall next year which will cover various themes. It is our role as SwissCore to provide early intelligence on those developments so that stakeholders in Switzerland can optimally prepare and make sure that their interests are taken into consideration in this programme in order to allow for excellent participation by the Swiss in the future.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.