Corporate Philanthropy — What can we do for you?

When we at ETH Zurich Foundation talk about Corporate Philanthropy, the first question we ask is “what can we do to suit your needs as a corporation?”

In our environment, private philanthropists typically give because of their personal bond and solidarity with ETH, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. Corporate donors on the other hand are more likely to get involved because an investment provides them with access to developments and lets them interact with talent. But there is much more than that to be derived from a fruitful cooperation. As a famous saying has it, “the results of philanthropy are always beyond calculation”. At ETH Zurich Foundation, we are convinced that Corporate Philanthropy has an enormous potential, with benefits for both sides.

The cooperation principle

Since our foundation 12 years ago, we have steadily invested in enabling Corporate Philanthropy. In fact, 40% of all our donations today are from corporations — which is a high ratio compared to peers. Why is that? Over the years, we have developed a range of strategies to enhance long-term, effective relationships between ETH Zurich Foundation and renowned corporate partners.

- First, we offer an inclusive approach by inviting a whole branch of an industry rather than a single corporation. We found that competitors are likely to team up for a common interest that benefits them.

- Second, we have established a Partnership Council with meetings on a regular basis. This is a platform where partners and ETH representatives discuss relevant topics, get to know experts and researchers, get insights into projects, early access to research and participate in workshops.

- Third, we enable companies to meet in Open Lab facilities where donors and researchers discuss exciting ideas and plan cooperative projects.

Now you may ask the “academic freedom” question — what influence does a private or corporate donor have? According to our code of conduct, the freedom of teaching, research and publication is guaranteed at all times to all persons and projects supported by donations at ETH Zurich.

Best practice — why does it work?

Let me give you an example: The media industry is currently undergoing a fundamental transformation driven by digitalization. Media content is shifting increasingly towards digital, mobile and time-delayed consumption. The boundaries between media producers and consumers are dissolving, as personalised, user-generated content is occupying an increasingly prominent position and new players are entering the media market, pushing aside traditional content providers. A data-focused approach is needed in media technology to understand these challenges and to deliver solutions in both industry and academia. In order to pool and leverage corporate and scientific media expertise, ETH Zurich has launched the Media Technology Initiative together with leading industry partners, aimed at the establishment of a new Chair in Media Technology and a dedicated research center based in Zurich. Interestingly, the four largest Swiss media companies — normally heavy competitors — have joined forces and made donations to foster the initiative.

This is just one example of how ETH Zurich Foundation is providing platforms for private and corporate philanthropy to team up for excellence in research and the achievement of greater goals.

In conclusion, we strongly believe that partnerships are vital to corporate involvement. Increasingly, large-scale, multi-stakeholder science partnerships, including industry competitors, will amplify impact for change and bring Corporate Philanthropy to the forefront of corporate governance.

Dr. Donald E. Tillman, Managing Director, ETH Zurich Foundation will be speaking at the CASE Europe Annual Conference talking about ways to create successful partnership models. For more information and to view the full programme click here

ETH Zurich Foundation acts as a bridge-builder between companies, private individuals, foundations and ETH Zurich to help the technical university reach its strategic goals in teaching and research. Donors gain a unique access to magnificent and bold collaborations with one of the world’s leading universities and the possibility to push boundaries.