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COVID-19 Testimonial Series | E4S

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E4S’ Testimonial | A policy approach to fighting COVID-19


The following article is part of BioAlps’ testimonial series and was written by Dr. Paula Cacault and Prof. Jean-Pierre Danthine from E4S Enterprise for Society. Our series aims to provide a platform for the different life sciences actors from western Switzerland, who are active in finding and developing solutions to fight against the new coronavirus, to share their experience. 


Presentation of E4S’ COVID-19 related activities

E4S is a joint venture of EPFL, IMD and UNIL-HEC founded on the conviction that unprecedented challenges (climate change, the current COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of populism and the digital and biological revolutions) place our world at a critical juncture and that many drivers of our social and economic lives will soon be unrecognisable. This situation creates both uncertainty and opportunities that academic institutions have a responsibility to help address. The mission of E4S is to help society overcome its challenges and to spearhead the transition toward a more resilient, environmentally responsible and inclusive economy. In particular, we aim to strengthen economic institutions, rethink the “conditions-cadre” and accelerate the changes conducive to greater resilience when faced with rare or unforeseen external shocks such as COVID-19.


Exogenous impact of COVID-19

Impact of COVID-19 on E4S’ activities

COVID-19 had a direct impact on the activities of our platforms as it directly affected their objects of study; there was a reorientation towards understanding how the crisis affects the labor market, the operations of companies, public perceptions, etc. Moreover, we launched a call for proposals to secure funding for new research directly related to COVID-19.


Impact of COVID-19 on E4S’ visibility and relationship with partners

Thanks to the articles and policy briefs that we published on the topic, we had increased media visibility during the lockdown. On the contrary, the pandemic was detrimental to our external relations, as many potential partners were heavily affected and had to revise their own processes and priorities.


E4S’ future in terms of operations and activities following COVID-19

We believe that COVID-19 will leave a long-lasting mark on our activities. It has structurally affected many of the areas that we identify as key “working-zones” to fulfil our mission. Whether reaching a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive economy becomes easier or harder will certainly depend on the changes the pandemic is provoking today.


Endogenous impact of COVID-19 on the company

Impact of COVID-19 on E4S’ internal processes

Our principal output being intellectual (we do not depend on laboratory work), the lockdown provoked simply a change in internal communication: we easily switched from in-person meetings to videoconferences. Most likely, some of these changes will become permanent because they have substantially simplified the collaboration between our academic partners who belong to different organisations and are spread around multiple locations.


Cantonal and/or Federal support measures | E4S’ feedback

The cantonal and federal support measures did not impact the development of E4S’ activities directly. However, these measures have been the object of analysis of our teams and the resulting recommendations are presented, for instance, in the articles How to financially support swiss SME’s?, A win-win proposal to improve financial support to SME’s and How to make digital proximity tracing work. The view from economics.