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Opening Fireside Chat

Simon Fraser University
Tuesday April 2, 2024
5-7:30pm PST

With an official introduction from the Swiss Consulate, special guests were invited to explore an exhibition featuring Swiss cleantech solutions followed by a discussion about the future of cleantech innovation among panelists from our partnering organizations, with the opportunity to connect over cocktails and light catering throughout.

The invite-only reception in person was streamed live and is archived online, while the exhibition continued to run publicly April 2-15, 2024.

Collaborate to Innovate:

The role of collaborative technological innovation in building a cleaner, sustainable future.

Switzerland and Western Canada are facing increasingly complex challenges, driven by the global political crisis, economic development, environmental factors (climate change, air and water pollution) and rapid population growth, resulting in increased demand for food production, resource scarcity and the search for alternative energy sources. Innovation is key to addressing these challenges, and effective collaboration among stakeholders, sharing of best practices and fostering innovation is a key approach.


There is no one-size-fits-all solution to sustainability - even in a country the size of Switzerland, there are huge local and regional differences in the ability to generate and store renewable energy. Finding solutions to the challenges we face requires creativity. International, interdisciplinary collaboration can expose us to new ideas, help us to take our own less for granted, and stimulate the kind of out-of-the-box thinking and innovation we desperately need.

The panel will bring together different sectors of society in an open dialogue to explore how the multi-level stakeholder engagement in the area of technical innovation can help effectively manage current and anticipated future challenges. The session will explore where Swiss and Canadian communities align and inspire potential international partnerships in the area of cleantech innovation.


Jeanette Jackson

CEO, Foresight Cleantech Accelerator

Jeanette is a CEO and entrepreneur with broad experience in strategy, innovation, business development, marketing, and operations. At Foresight, she has led rapid growth, transforming a regional organization into Canada’s largest cleantech accelerator pioneering a sectoral approach to advance cleantech innovation. Jeanette is a frequent speaker, media guest, and advisor to innovators, industry, investors and government. Jeanette previously launched, scaled and exited two companies, and as an Executive in Residence with Foresight advised 25+ ventures in several markets including bio-energy, electric vehicles, smart buildings, water tech, robotics, and wind.


Elicia Maine

Associate Vice-President, Knowledge Mobilization and Innovation (AVPKMI), Simon Fraser University

Elicia is the W.J. VanDusen Professor of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at the Beedie School of Business, and founded the Invention to Innovation (i2I) program, a "mini MBA" in Science & Technology Commercialization which contributed to SFU's top national and global rankings.  She has deep interdisciplinary roots, with degrees in Materials Engineering, English, Technology & Policy and Technology Management. Her widely published research focuses on the dynamics of innovation in the advanced materials, nano-materials, biotechnology, and clean tech sectors with a focus on science and technology ventures.

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Patrick Bertschi

Senior Consultant, Cleantech and Infrastructure, Switzerland Global Enterprise

At Switzerland Global Enterprise, the official Swiss export and investment promotion organization with offices throughout Switzerland and in 30 countries, Patrick together with its partner network supports Swiss SMEs in their international business. After graduating as a Geomatics Engineer from ETH Zurich and completing an MAS in Management, Technology and Economics (MAS ETH MTEC), he has worked for 10+ years in various international engineering and planning companies. He is convinced that Switzerland is one of the leading cleantech countries. Swiss products and services in the fields of environment, energy, mobility, water, recycling, sustainable agriculture, smart cities and circular economy are highly regarded and in demand worldwide.



Ken Sim

Mayor of Vancouver

Ken Sim is a born and raised Vancouverite. A passionate entrepreneur, he graduated from the UBC Sauder School of Business in 1993 with a BComm in finance and holds a FCPA (FCA) designation. Ken saw a need for improved community health and home care which led to him starting his first of two-Vancouver based companies: Nurse Next Door and Rosemary Rocksalt Bagels. He is a two-time recipient of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Pacific Region) in the Emerging Entrepreneur category (2006) and Healthcare Services category (2016). In 2022, he was elected as the 41st Mayor of Vancouver, making history as the first Chinese Canadian to hold the position.


Joy Johnson

President and Vice-Chancellor, Simon Fraser University

Before joining SFU, Joy had a distinguished career in academia and research leading her to the role of Scientific Director at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's Institute of Gender and Health. She co-authored 180+ peer-reviewed articles and led several research initiatives that influenced practice and policy. As former Vice-President, Research and International at SFU, Joy enhanced support and services for SFU's research community, secured two Canada 150 Chairs, hosted Canada's most powerful academic supercomputer, launched the cross-cutting Big Data Initiative, and established a unifying innovation strategy. Joy is an elected Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and the Royal Society of Canada.

Bruce Ralston

BC Minister of Forests and Minister Responsible for the Consular Corps

An advocate for innovation in BC’s technology sector, Ralston brings his experience and knowledge to his current portfolio, where he is focused on the revitalization and modernization of the forest sector leading to expanded diversification in manufacturing. His priorities include the sustainable management and conservation of B.C.’s old-growth forests in the face of climate change, while ensuring a competitive and sustainable future for communities, First Nations, workers and companies.


Olaf Kjelsen

The Ambassador of Switzerland in Canada

Mr. Olaf Kjelsen is the Ambassador to Canada and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas with residence in Ottawa. Originally from Cologny in the Canton of Geneva, Mr. Olaf Kjelsen graduated from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, joined the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and worked out of Bern, Ottawa and Moscow. After returning to Bern, he held his position in the Integration Office (relations with the EU) and became the Executive Assistant to the Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs. He subsequently held the posts of Minister and Deputy Head in New Delhi and Warsaw, was assigned to the Mission of Switzerland to the European Union in Brussels as Minister and Deputy Head of the Mission focusing on economic and financial affairs, and returned to Bern as Ambassador for the cross-border cooperation and relations with the neighboring states. Since 2015 he was Swiss Ambassador to Liechtenstein. Prior to joining the Swiss Embassy in Ottawa in 2022, Mr. Olaf Kjelsen held the post of Head of Mission in Athens.

Olaf Kjelsen - Welcome Speaker.webp

Thomas Schneider

The Consul General of Switzerland in Vancouver

Thomas Schneider was posted to the Consulate General of Switzerland in Vancouver in September 2023, and looks forward to continuing to enhance the collaborations in science, technology, innovation, education and culture between Switzerland and Canada West. Born in 1967 in Bern, Switzerland, he holds a federal diploma in business administration, spent 6 years in the banking sector, and joined the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) in 1989. He later obtained a Certificate of Advanced Studies in International Relations and held various diplomatic posts including in Bern, Barcelona, Frankfurt, Manila and Paris. From 2008 to 2012, he was Deputy Consul General and Head of the Cultural, Media and Education Section in Shanghai, China. From 2012 to 2016, he joined the team of the Swiss Consulate General in New York as Head of the Culture and Education Section. After a stay in Switzerland, where he served as Deputy Chief Financial Officer of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, he was appointed Consul General of Switzerland in Los Angeles in January 2018. He then served in an interim capacity as Consul General in San Francisco until the end of October 2019, and most recently served as Consul General of Switzerland in Lagos, Nigeria.

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