President's Blog

Why did Google choose Zurich?

Earlier this week I wrote an op-ed for Spanish daily El País (“Bringing Zurich to Spain“, in Spanish), where I argue that the presence of world-class universities is becoming an increasingly important factor in how innovative companies choose where to establish their operations. For instance, while Zurich may not be as vibrant and culturally rich as Madrid or Barcelona, clearly not as warm and sunny, and definitely much more expensive, it is the home of two of the top 100 research universities in the world (according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities), including ETH, the leading institution in continental Europe. That alone would explain why a company like Google would choose it as the location of its largest development center outside of the United States.

Following on my earlier post about equality or excellence in higher education (see “A Perfect Mess“), I argue that Spain would benefit from granting a small set of universities sufficient autonomy and funding to have a chance to enter the world elite, without sacrificing the system’s overall accomplishments in terms of equality and access.