Nexus Preparatory Week 2018

All four international student projects had the chance to listen to very unique speakers during the Preparatory Seminar 2018. Read all about it in our joined newsletter. All of these articles, memories and learnings, would not be existent without our precious partners. We thank every one of them.

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Inspiring presentation of Blaser Swisslube

Blaser Swiss Lube is the Sponsor for all four projects. Last Friday morning, the CEO Marc Blaser, held an inspiring presentation about the company in front of all the participants of the prep seminars.

Global Competitiveness

Logical and rational thinking will make a difference! Marc Blaser was telling us how people came to him and asked for lower prices. What he did instead was actually the opposite. He increased the prices but promised them, that they will make no losses but will reach gains. The lube price makes only 0.5% of the overall price in operating an assembly line. However, the lube improves the productivity and increases the lifetime of a machine, therefore, clients will save money.

It’s all about the people

The most important assets are the employees! The goal is to remain competitive and keep the leading edge. Next to all new technologies, the introduction of „smartBusiness“ and „Industry 4.0“, the people will stay the number one priority. Because trust is built through people and not through computers.

Marc Blaser inspired us to keep expanding our horizons and learning from other cultures. He mentioned the importance to discover the potential in yourself and to end up doing what you love.

Panel Discussion & Key Notes

Christa Markwalder, Swiss National Councillor, Cyrille Wetter, a Student from the FHNW, André Wolke, CEO & Co-Founder Validity Labs, Sven Mentl from the company Accenture and Prof. Dr. Knut Hinkelmann from the FHNW and Daniel Meier, from the company Huawei, were discussion and exchanging different examples and potential outcomes of the blockchain development and from the artificial intelligence. 

The panel discussion session was opened by the question what the most dynamic impacts are. 

Markwalder was convinced that technology will help improving daily life. What we do not know yet are the consequences of malfunctions or misuses of these technologies. Meier brought an example of a mobile that recognizes a dog on the street while the autonomous car is sidestepping, which demonstrated the powerful potential of A.I. 

Wolke pointed out the importance to have people that are interested in A.I. the question from this area is the legal side. Who is responsible? In case of a car accident with autonomous cars, who takes the blame, the car or the company? Fact is, A.I brings new technology, new business models and new life structures. Mentl mentioned that you always have to prefer material damage over personal damage. There is no allowance for discriminate between age differences for example. 

Hinkelmann talked about the new opportunities and possibilities nowadays. A phone that takes a picture of a Chinese menue cart and translates it in English is a great invention as view years earlier you would have needed to type it into your phone, but how would you type in Chinese signs? So there are many progressions. 

Meier pointed out the challenge, that the question of “what is next?” is always discussed. 

Also the tax issue arose during the discussion. Each token would be needed to be taxed. Not everything is just great. Before investing great amounts of money, it is crucial to understand how the new technology works. 

Mentl underlines the meaning of deep learning, which means a lot of input data is needed. But input data is biased which is a huge challenge. 

Influence of Digitalization on Innovation and Business

As our last presentation in the theme of technological innovation, the delegation could welcome Valentin Naegeli and Michael Schranz from Apps with love. This was a special honor, as Michael Schranz is one of the founding members of the connectUS project. When Michael was a student himself, he felt that he kept hearing how important networking is but could never gather any real experience. Therefore, he had the idea to create the project Networking New York. Before Valentin took over and told the delegation more about digitalization and innovation, Michael gave us one important advice for networking: “Give a lot, don’t expect to get much back”.

The following presentation was structured in three parts. Firstly, we took a quick look at how innovation and digitalization are influencing us today. Now, as we covered several topics during the week, Valentin just summarized the core points: The age of information has massively disrupted the way we conduct business. By showing us the most important companies, which only consist of tech companies, this point was made very clear to us. We also learned about the so-called network effect. This effect means that the more people use it, the more value it creates. If for example only a few people would use Facebook, the value for the people using it would be much smaller. The topics of blockchain, cryptocurrencies, innovation and transformation where only covered shortly, as aforementioned, these topics were already covered.

The second part of the presentation was about the Tomorrow. Interesting fields include AI, Smartness, the power of a company like Google (Alphabet), real-time communication and the Singularity. The discussion of these topics was very interesting, as Valentin added a critical view on the technologies. What are the social impacts of digital transformation? Will we always be recorded and all our data in the internet forever stored? What will happen if an AI that has a similar intelligence as a human will be created? With such questions and more, he gave us some food for thought.

In the third part, he talked about how to get from the today to the tomorrow. This can be summarized in a very short sentence: Innovate or die. Businesses cannot use the same business idea, same model etc. for decades, but have the need to constantly innovate.

Before ending the presentation, Valentin asked us to brainstorm some ideas, how we could innovate important Swiss business sectors like watches, banking, tourism or the chocolate industry and the delegation presented their ideas in groups.

The presentation of Valentin was very interesting, especially by bringing light to some of the ethical and social challenges we, as humankind, will have to face in the future.

Innovation in the Diagnostics

On Thursday, Dr. Dirk Schneider, the president of the Förderverein swissbiolabs, introduced us to the “Innovations in Diagnostics”. One of his main topics covered the personalized healthcare, which is stimulated by the possibilities arising from the use of diagnostics. By tailoring healthcare to patients’ needs, they are allowing the right treatment to reach the right patients at the right time and move away from a one-size-fits all approach. Personalized healthcare shifts health-systems from being treatment-centered to being comprehensively patient-centered. In this evolution the diagnostic industry plays an important role as it is growing at a rapid pace. Especially the molecular diagnostics has the potential to cut down on overtreatments, reduce waste in the practice of healthcare, and give physicians a new arsenal in their fight to treat patients. Molecular diagnostics is one technology of In Vitro Diagnostics (IVD), which can make an important contribution to make the healthcare systems more efficient. IVDs are tests on bodily samples like blood, tissue or urine and are used to detect diseases, conditions, or infections. IVD companies embrace technological innovations, e.g. remote monitoring through phones. The diagnostic testing play an important role in increasing the knowledge base, as they provide insights into the links between individuals, their illnesses and their treatment. Therefore, the scientific understanding of health and wellbeing is constantly improving. In future, we will not all be taking the same medicine for the same diseases, but we will have the best treatment for every individual patient.

The innovations in diagnostics have a high potential to improve medical services. They can lead to personalized medicines and treatments, what not only for institutions can be an interesting evolution as it reduces various costs but also for patients as they do not have to try multiple treatments with different side effects. As in the other fields, it will be a question for companies to adopt the innovation or stay stuck to traditional ways. Dr. Dirk Schneider provided us with some very interesting insights into the industry of diagnostics. He also added theoretical knowledge about genetics, different cancer types, and how they can be cured or at least be treated.

Embassy of Mexico Visit

Today we visited the Mexican Embassy in Bern. For the first time the project connectUS will visit Mexico on the On-Site Seminar. For the Mexican Embassy it was also the first time a group from an university visited their embassy in Bern. The presentation was hold by the representative of the Mexican Embassy and the head of press.

The history of bilateral relations between Switzerland and Mexico goes way back to the year 1945, when diplomatic relations between Mexico and Switzerland began. The current topic between the two countries right now is the unique Swiss dual education program, in which Mexico is very interested in. At Swiss companies in Mexico the Swiss dual system is already integrated.

It is a very important year for Mexico because of the election, which takes place on the 1st of  July. The last big election was 1992 and this year a third of the government and senators will change, as well as the president. Mexico is a political and economic stable country with an open market and has the 15th largest economy of the world. Mexico is the largest exporter of silver, beer, flatscreen tv’s and avocados. They are also the 3rd largest exporter of smartphones and 5th largest exporter of automobiles.

Guadalajara, the city which we will visit on our trip to Mexico, is the most important technology hotspot and set to become the next Silicon Valley, where thousand startups are founded. Most of the companies which transfer their production to Mexico do that because of the production costs. Mexico has changed its main focus from oil industry to technology products. There are also many Swiss companies, which are major investors in Mexico as Nestlé, Roche, Novartis and Hilti.


Swisscom Visit

The first company visit with our delegation led us to the headquarter of Swisscom in Ittigen. After a quick introduction by a former FHNW student to some important figures regarding Swisscom’s business environment, a data security specialist presented us the main challenges in data security. Whereas trust is a positive feeling in personal relationships, it could pose a major threat for security systems. In order to make a system as save as possible, it is essential to create distrust within a certain network system. That prevents full access to a whole network after an attack. Since it is very difficult, time-consuming, and costly to detect the numerous attacks which are being performed on Swisscom’s network every day, the hackers can be roughly categorized into vandals, hacktivists, criminals and governments. In order to improve and strengthen their security systems, Swisscom uses an interesting approach where employees are being allocated to a team of defense and a team of attackers. This approach aims to detect potential security issues and hopefully leads to the improvement of their defense capabilities.

The second part of the presentation was devoted to design thinking. During this workshop, we have learnt the approach of hear – create – deliver. We started off by interviewing another student about his interests, needs and wants for the perfect wallet. Once we knew each other’s preferences we were asked to draw the ideal wallet, whereon we reflected on our first drawing and generated 5 alternatives which were supposed to meet the opposite’s desired ideal wallet as good as possible. After presenting our solutions, we were asked to build our final solution which led to very interesting and quaint results.

The first presentation gave us a basic understanding about data security and the potential impact of hacker attacks. It was insane to see how many times such businesses actually are being confronted with attacks and inappropriate content. The design thinking workshop introduced us to the process of how to analyse a market and develop an appropriate product. The main message was to rather do than overthink things in the early stages of product development.

U.S. Embassy Visit

The US Embassy manages the official relationship between the United States and the Swiss Confederation and the Principality of Liechtenstein. They represent the interests of the United States. One of the main commission is to issues passport, birth certificate and other documents for US citizen and visas for non- US citizen. Another important commission is to talk with Swiss politicians about taxes, jobs, etc.

In case of the US-policy there are two main tasks. One about the media and the other about the culture and admission. On the media task they have to monitor the newspaper, television and radio and rapport (and sometimes comment them) to Washington.

In the US Embassy, the nationality of the employees is a mix of US citizen and Swiss or people who live in Switzerland for a long time. For the US Embassy, it is important to have a mix as the officers with US citizen change after three years their location. Locals who work in embassy help US officers to get a better understanding of the culture and language.

The visit of the US Embassy was very interesting. Especially because they give us an insight about the pros and cons of the life of an officer and how to become an officer of the US Embassy.


Culture USA

The purpose of the lecture ‘Culture USA’ from Kathy Hartmann-Campbell was to ensure that delegation members are able to make the best possible experience in the United States of America. Furthermore, to ensure that participants understand how culture is impacting people and how small talk is practically working in the appropriate way when it comes to networking in the USA. To fulfill the mentioned goals, the lecture has been conducted in form of an interactive workshop.

Students had to name words which they would use to describe their gained experiences and impressions of US Americans. Terminologies like outgoing, patriotic, open-minded, conservative, divided, mass consumers, shallow, traditional and self-focused came up. The lecturer was happy with the result and stated that the mentioned words are not reflecting the truth but are also not completely non-connected to US Americans. The words represent a mix between the given values and the gained experience of each participant. That is also the reason why some of the mentioned terminologies are contradicting each other.

Culture is a word with various definitions, from “programming of the mind” to “just how we do things here”. After a short discussion, the participants of the workshop concluded, that culture is mostly shaped by historic events, given geographical conditions as well as by minor players like the media. For the USA with its young history, the most important historic event was colonialism. People came to the USA with the drive to seek freedom and to be innovative and explore the limitless possibilities such a new land can offer. This led to the American dream culture and the understanding that if you want to, you can do anything. So, succeeding in the USA is a point of high importance. Many people still believe in the “nothing is impossible if you try hard enough”-philosophy. Unfortunately, this is not anymore like that in reality which leads to a lack of solidarity in certain social layers and a general division of the popularity.

Genome Editing

The Genome Editing conference was given by Dr. Daniela Suter, a biologist that talked about the human genome, what CRISPR is and what it is used on, new technology regarding genomes, the definition of epigenetics, the importance of data science in medicine, breakthroughs on cloning, genetic testing and of course, the ethics that are involved on this subject. She explained to us basic concepts, starting by defining what a genome is. She then talked about Gen Suisse, the company she works for.

She then gave us a biological explanation of the genomes, and continued by talking about the initiative to read a human genome. Some data she shared with us was the cost of the project, the effort, and the advances that had happened in only twenty years. About CRISPR, she basically said that it was a new technology that could change the world, and that it is doing just that. It is used on rats, food, fuel, surgery and drugs. Every aspect of human life can be affected by it. And on the topic of epigenetics, she made it very clear that your experiences may impact your DNA since the codes are passed on your DNA, but they are choices you have and can revert. With the data, scientists will be able to build sequences that will form patterns and help fight and give a better understanding of diseases. She talked about cloning, and how it has evolved from being an idea to a rapidly advancing reality, since just a couple of months ago a monkey was effectively cloned. And she finished the conference with a couple of ethical questions that were left open, because there is no correct way of answering them.