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The Swiss Australian - Academic Network (SAAN)

Australia and Switzerland are global players in science and technology and make an above average contribution relative to the size of their population. Similarly, Australia and Switzerland maintain strong economic links, with Switzerland’s influx of global direct investment into Australia in 2009 ranking second among European countries and sixth globally. Both countries maintain world-class academic institutions of excellence, with several of their universities found among the global top-100 lists, and each country accounts for many Nobel Laureates. However, current bilateral arrangements are limited to a few agreements between individual Australian and Swiss universities, publicly and privately-funded research institutes and government agencies. Accordingly, there is a need and opportunity to expand and strengthen the reciprocal academic exchange between the two countries on all levels.

The Swiss Australian Academic Network (SAAN), created as an open and highly interactive “grass-roots” organisation, is committed to identify, develop and improve networking opportunities between Swiss and Australian academics. This will assist in expanding collaborative research, increasing bilateral exchanges and lobbying government and industry in the two countries. SAAN aims to reciprocally raise awareness and profile of Australia and Switzerland throughout the academic, industrial and business sectors covering life sciences, engineering, humanities and the arts. SAAN has a track record of organising regular events and lectures that directly link industry, academia and other stakeholders, and SAAN has made a submission on this subject to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Innovation.

SAAN is seeking to establish and maintain connections between leading academics in Australia and Switzerland, and hosts events and lectures to facilitate, expand and nurture strong ties within academia, as well as to provide linking opportunities with industry. SAAN’s current focus projects include:

"there is a need and opportunity to expand and strengthen the reciprocal academic exchange between the two countries on all levels"
  • Actively promoting the establishing of a bilateral agreement between the major Swiss universities and the Group of Eight (Go8) leading universities in Australia to establish and resource short-term exchange programs for postgraduate academics.
  • Facilitating the creation of dedicated fellowships for the exchange of students and postdoctoral fellows between the two countries.
  • Increasing the representation of SAAN in Switzerland.
  • Extending communication among SAAN members and to add further value to its members through the expansion of the SAAN website (www.saan.id.au) and monitoring existing collaborations and programs between Australian and Swiss academics, as well as other stakeholders.

SAAN is a not-for-profit organisation, incorporated as a company limited by guarantee and is promoted by the Embassy of Switzerland in Canberra, the Consulate-General of Switzerland in Sydney, the Australian Embassy for Switzerland in Berlin, the Swiss Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SACCI) and SWISSNEX in Singapore. SAAN proudly acknowledges existing corporate sponsorship arrangements with industrial partners to pursue its missions.

Since its inception, originally as the Swiss Academic Network Melbourne in 2004, SAAN is now a national organization that has been growing steadily and today has a membership base in excess of 250 individuals, with approximately 200 residing in Australia and 50 in Switzerland. SAAN members comprise scientists, physicians, lawyers and other leaders from academia, industry and commerce. SAAN has representatives and promotes activities in Switzerland and in all Australian States and Territories. Since SAAN strives to act as a resource hub across all professional sectors, membership is open to academics working in Australia or Switzerland and is free of charge.

- Matthias Ernst,
Associate Professor SAAN

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