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Roundtable Discussion on Innovation

1. September 2022

Let’s imagine a completely different setting for one minute: Imagine you are all members of an appointment committee, whose mission it is to find the most suitable candidate for a new professorship for theoretical physics at the University of Zurich and ETH. On the table in front of you you will find the application of a very promising candidate: Dr. Albert Einstein. Part of the portfolio are scientific articles and his doctoral thesis from 1905. To assess his research achievements, I would like to ask you to carefully read the articles in detail and make your recommendation based on your reading. But please, take your time. I won’t get back to you with my questions until after the dinner.

It is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this inspiring event organized by the Embassy of Sweden in Bern, Innosuisse and Vinnova. Thank you very much for making this roundtable possible.

Every two weeks, UZH registers a new patent and every two months, UZH researchers found a new spin-off company – and not counting all self-employed layers, dentists, and medical doctors! Even more, the University of Zurich and ETH have maintained close cooperation in research, teaching, and student exchange for decades. We have established joint professorships, and, as you know: we even share Albert Einstein, who declined a joint professorship at the University of Zurich and ETH in the early 1900eds. The world’s most famous physicist studied at ETH from 1896 to 1900. Five years later, he submitted his doctoral thesis at the University of Zurich, notably supervised at ETH! In 1909 he was appointed associate professor of theoretical physics at UZH. Later he became professor at ETH until, in 1914, he left Switzerland for good.

The University of Zurich and ETH are very happy to present you the publication in front of you. This is yet another result of a successful collaboration. There are several options to deal with this book. I recommend reading all the papers and in addition the entertaining part about Einstein’s life in Zurich, his Noble Prize as well as an introduction to his most celebrated accomplishments. Alternatively, you can put it on your bookshelf, likely next to a pristine copy of Douglas Hofstetter’s book on “Gödel, Escher, Bach”, which seems to be the most frequently bought book with the fewest persons actually reading it in full.

But please allow me to reveal a final detail. I am very happy and proud to inform you about a unique discovery the University of Zurich made while the preparations for this event were underway. A few months ago, an Einstein expert informed me that Albert Einstein’s original doctoral certificate from 1906 was up for sale. The idea that this important piece of contemporary history should return to the place of its creation was met with enthusiasm. The opportunity to make Albert Einstein’s doctoral diploma available to a broad public and to honor the outstanding alumnus of ETH and UZH on the 100th anniversary of his Nobel Prize was unique and unmissable. Thanks to a donation to the University of Zurich, we were able to bring back the original certificate to the place where it was issued. The poster-sized certificate is now on public display here in the main building, just nearby at the main entrance. So, if you haven’t had the opportunity yet, I would highly recommend that you pass by the main entrance when leaving and take a picture and spread words and photos on social media!

I am pleased to take this opportunity to hand over this gift to our keynote speaker, executive director of the Nobel Foundation, Vidar Helgesen. Thank you very much for being here and for celebrating with us the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize for Albert Einstein. It is a great honor for our universities and for all of us personally. Let me finally encourage everyone to read the seminal papers of Albert Einstein’s annus mirabilis.

I thank you all for your attention and wish you a pleasant and inspiring evening in the main hall of the University of Zurich.