What we do

Fostering reliable knowledge for society
Strong and durable part­ner­ships with peo­ple, in­sti­tu­tions, and com­pa­nies are a key­stone of the unique suc­cess sto­ry of the De­part­ment of Eco­nom­ics. To­geth­er with our part­ners we have formed a broad sci­ence and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty that shares the same pas­sion for eco­nom­ics and is con­vinced of the need of re­li­able knowl­edge for so­ci­ety. We join forces with our part­ners to ul­ti­mate­ly help the De­part­ment of Eco­nom­ics con­tin­ue to bring to­geth­er the world’s best tal­ent here in Zurich. So that Zurich is known for renowned eco­nom­ic re­search that de­liv­ers an­swers to the most press­ing is­sues on which our fu­ture as a so­ci­ety de­pends.
Tackling major global challenges
How we, as a so­ci­ety, deal with the ma­jor chal­lenges of our time will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on how the world de­vel­ops in the com­ing decades. The De­part­ment’s mis­sion is to tack­le five ma­jor chal­lenges the world is fac­ing to­day. At the Ex­cel­lence Foun­da­tion Zurich, we sup­port the De­part­ment in re­al­iz­ing this mis­sion.

Achieving a Sustainable Economy

The on­go­ing de­struc­tion of our nat­ur­al en­vi­ron­ment threat­ens our sur­vival. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true for cli­mate change, which is wide­ly rec­og­nized as one of the great­est risks to hu­man­i­ty. We need to re­spond to this risk through cli­mate change mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion. This re­quires fun­da­men­tal changes to our econ­o­my, such as re­duc­ing fos­sil fuel con­sump­tion and prepar­ing for ex­treme weath­er con­di­tions. The broad­er goal is to achieve a sus­tain­able econ­o­my in the sense of “meet­ing the needs of the present, with­out com­pro­mis­ing the abil­i­ty of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions to meet their own needs.”

Reducing Poverty and Inequality

The Unit­ed Na­tions have put the re­duc­tion of pover­ty and in­equal­i­ty at the core of its 2030 Agen­da for Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment in which it pledges to “leave no one be­hind.” It thus re­mains a cen­tral pol­i­cy pri­or­i­ty of our time. Over the past 25 years, there has been a con­sid­er­able re­duc­tion in ex­treme pover­ty and be­tween-coun­try in­equal­i­ty. At the same time, ex­treme pover­ty re­mains high in sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa and there has been a marked in­crease in with­in-coun­try in­equal­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly through ris­es in in­come and wealth at the very top.

Managing the Digital Revolution

Dig­i­tal tech­nol­o­gy con­tin­ues to rev­o­lu­tion­ize our econ­o­my. Its dis­rup­tive na­ture is com­pa­ra­ble only to that of ear­li­er gen­er­al-pur­pose tech­nolo­gies such as the steam en­gine, the elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­a­tor, or the print­ing press. What is new, how­ev­er, is the enor­mous speed of this change, which means that pol­i­tics and leg­is­la­tion lag be­hind re­al­i­ty. It is there­fore im­por­tant to care­ful­ly man­age the dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion so that we can reap its so­cial ben­e­fits at ac­cept­able so­cial costs. Im­por­tant con­cerns in­clude its ef­fects on jobs, com­pe­ti­tion, and pri­va­cy, par­tic­u­lar­ly with re­spect to re­cent ap­pli­ca­tions such as big data, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, ro­bot­ics, and 3D print­ing.

Developing Effective Public Policies

Na­tion­al­ist, pop­ulist, and ex­trem­ist move­ments are shak­ing up our po­lit­i­cal sys­tems. It re­mains to be seen whether this is only a tem­po­rary cri­sis of lib­er­al democ­ra­cy or a turn­ing point for the post­war lib­er­al in­ter­na­tion­al or­der. Against this back­ground, gov­ern­ments have to con­tin­ue to de­vel­op ef­fec­tive pub­lic poli­cies. Key pub­lic pol­i­cy chal­lenges be­yond the four is­sue ar­eas list­ed here in­clude an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, ris­ing sov­er­eign debt, un­con­ven­tion­al mon­e­tary pol­i­cy, and in­creas­ing­ly com­plex fi­nan­cial mar­kets.

Overcoming the Globalization Crisis

Glob­al­iza­tion as we know it is in a deep cri­sis. Prob­lems re­lat­ed to the way in which we move goods, cap­i­tal, and peo­ple have be­come so se­vere that some­thing fun­da­men­tal will have to change. The most vis­i­ble ex­pres­sions of this in­clude the trade war, the col­lapse of the WTO, the fi­nan­cial cri­sis, the Euro cri­sis, the refugee cri­sis, and the “Brex­it” of the UK from the EU. Un­der­pin­ning this is a broad­er cri­sis of in­ter­na­tion­al co­op­er­a­tion, rang­ing from se­cu­ri­ty mat­ters to en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.