«As a matter of principle, I aim to pursue a forward strategy.»
Interview with Willy R. Gehrer, newly appointed SATW President
Mr Gehrer, you were appointed to the presidency of the SATW back in May. What do you aim to achieve over the course of your term in office?
As a matter of principle, together with the Executive Committee, I aim to pursue a forward strategy. The potential and the competences available among the SATW, its various bodies and all those involved are to be optimally harnessed. In order to achieve this, it is crucial to know the needs and requirements of our members and our member organisations, and vice versa. Only then will we be able to set adequate objectives. It is important for our future to expand our network in order for the SATW to improve its visibility. Its task is to submit technical (rather than political) recommendations on topics that are relevant for Switzerland. Our forward strategy also implies the increased sourcing of external funding. This will allow us to freely and independently define new areas of activity. These new areas of activity should be forward-looking, adaptive and scalable, while occupying an important place in our overall strategy. I will naturally also seek to keep nurturing and developing our positive collaboration with the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI), the Swiss Academies of Sciences, policy makers, the business community, our individual members, specialist organisations and all our partners.
As SATW President, which are your most important tasks?
One of my major tasks lies in public relations and public outreach. I must attend events and personally nurture networks with our members, policy makers and industry players. The SATW must become more visible – including in the media – and carry messages of interest to the general public. In order to move forward, it is also important for me to systematically implement and follow up on our strategy, together with the Executive Committee and the Secretariat. This includes assessing whether the organisation and its different teams are optimally set up and whether we are making the best and fullest use of our members’ and expert organisations’ knowledge. Together with the Executive Committee, it is my responsibility to adapt the organisation to meet future needs.
What meaning does the claim «it’s all about technology» hold for you?
Technology is a key contributor to Switzerland’s prosperity. The SATW aims to play a central role in promoting technology. This includes coordinating core tasks with various partners or launching forward-looking projects, e.g. on issues relating to the Energy Strategy 2050. In my eyes, this is what our claim stands for. Next to the positive impact of technical advances and developments, their «side effects» should also be discussed and publicised. It is the SATW’s duty to address the ethical, social and political repercussions of such developments.
What do you expect of Swiss policy makers over the years to come?
I would like to see Switzerland pursuing a more active economic policy. The SATW Technology Outlook and other SATW publications would provide a sound basis to work from.
How can the SATW contribute to making this happen?
It can provide policy makers, the business community and the general public with objective, independent and comprehensive information on technical developments. We are not lobbyists, we provide neutral information. I view this as the SATW’s key strength. We are beholden to no one and therefore do not speak in the name of any particular stakeholder group.
How will you be spending your summer?
We will mostly stay in Switzerland. We have made no major plans and will let the weather decide whether we go hiking and climbing or sailing on Lake Lucerne.
Willy R. Gehrer was appointed President of the SATW in May 2017. He worked many years at Siemens Switzerland, most recently as CEO for the Energy and Transportation Systems Divisions. He was President of Electrosuisse until 2013. Today, next to his involvement with the SATW, Willy R. Gehrer also presides the Swiss Geothermal Association.