Don’t stifle research and innovation

Don’t stifle research and innovation

Whether it’s 5G, the coronavirus vaccine or genetic engineering, there is a lot of resistance to new technologies at the moment. Are we living in a technophobic era? This question was discussed by publisher Markus Somm and Green Party National Councilor Regula Rytz in the June 13 issue of “SonntagsZeitung” as well as on the “SonntagsZeitung Standpunkte” program.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Regula Rytz says that Switzerland should not be viewed as hostile to research. She correctly notes that Switzerland took the top spot in the Global Innovation Index. The country is also far advanced in terms of digitalization. This was demonstrated, in particular, during the coronavirus crisis when many people’s daily working life was quickly shifted online. Whether it’s the COVID app, the coronavirus vaccine or blockchain legislation, Switzerland is at the forefront in many areas. At the same time, however, the population must weigh the opportunities and risks of new technologies. According to the Swiss Constitution, the precautionary principle applies when it comes to new technologies. Innovation must be steered in a sustainable direction because, as Rytz notes, “In the 21st century, everything needs to be sustainable.”


Politicians cannot decide which technologies are the “right” ones

Markus Somm views things differently. Technological progress has been politicized since the 1970s. Previously, the market decided whether a new technology was successful. And it was up to future generations to assess whether a technology contributed to the well-being of humanity. Nowadays, politicians increasingly take it on themselves to decide the benefits of a technology in advance. It is determined at the beginning of a technological breakthrough which risks are acceptable and which aren’t. However, research and innovation must be an open process, one that does not focus on the wishes of politicians.

Assessing the consequences of a technology, i.e. the political process to which new technologies are subjected, is now a greater danger than innovation itself, according to Somm. While Switzerland used to be a technology leader, it has now fallen behind in many areas because of regulations and prohibitions. High regulatory hurdles also prevent start-ups from being able to even enter the market. Rather than bashing companies, the important role that large companies play in research and development should be recognized and appreciated. After all, they are the ones who invest money in many areas and drive innovation.

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