TEDxZurich 2020 Format

The turmoil that 2020 brought had meant that our main event, which would have normally taken place with a live audience, had to be completely rethought.

We decided to instead release new unaired and pre-recorded Talks in four weekly livestreams throughout December. Together we counted down to the new year with the intention to “Break Out” of 2020 and into 2021.

Below you may find the full Main Event speaker line up and their subsequent talks. We hope you enjoy and find inspiration.

Full Speaker Line Up

Carlo Sferrazza

Carlo is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, ETH Zurich, under the supervision of Prof. Raffaello D’Andrea. His research targets the development of the next generation of robotic skins. He received the B.Sc. degree in Automation Engineering from Politecnico di Milano in 2014 and the M.Sc. degree in Robotics, Systems and Control from ETH Zurich in 2016. Carlo was a recipient of the Best Paper Award at the 2020 IEEE International Conference on Soft Robotics, and he received the ETEL Award 2017 for the best Master’s Thesis in Mechatronics at ETH Zurich.

Robots That Feel by Seeing

While modern cameras provide machines with a very well-developed sense of vision, robots still lack such a comprehensive solution for their sense of touch. The talk will present examples of why the sense of touch can prove crucial for a wide range of robotic applications, and a tech demo will introduce a novel sensing technology targeting the next generation of soft robotic skins. The prototype of the tactile sensor developed at ETH Zurich exploits the advances in camera technology to reconstruct the forces applied to a soft membrane. This technology has the potential to revolutionize robotic manipulation, human-robot interaction, and prosthetics.

Oksana Pilatova TEDx Zurich

Oksana Pilatova

Oksana Pilatova is a chemist by training, a new business developer and enabler of technological innovations by trade, and a nature and planet lover at heart. After more than two decades as a business and geographic leader in a global chemical corporation, Oksana stepped into the sustainability space as a strong proponent of sustainable technology investments for companies and large corporations. She has initiated various European consortias aiming to decarbonize energy intensive industries through advanced composites manufacturing and enabling hydrogen economy through breakthrough innovations, and she is cofounder of Swiss company ReCarbonX AG, where she focuses on blockchain based solutions for showcasing the eco-footprints of the products we consume every day. Having spent all her work time in the corporate, business and manufacturing world, and her free time outdoors (including participating in grass-roots reforestation and regeneration projects in her home country, Ukraine), Oksana is convinced that humanity can live in balance with nature and enjoy the great parts of our civilization without destroying the beauty and harmony of this planet.

Humanity, It's Time to Grow up​

With every single purchase, we are voting for the products we think are deserving of our attention. But, until now, knowing which actions and purchases have a real impact has been a bit like living in the Middle Ages, when access to information was granted to the elites while remaining shrouded in mystery for the rest of us. Blockchain-based systems allow us to leapfrog into the 21st century, to connect the widespread impact of the industrial age with our personal choices. What’s more, this technology grants us – and our governments – access to the exact information and data we need in order to take full responsibility for our planet’s future. And when real consumer choice is enabled, it will become profitable for industry to create solutions that allow us – as part of nature – to thrive for many years to come.

Anne Scherer tedx zurich

Anne Scherer

Anne Scherer is an Assistant Professor of Quantitative Marketing at the University Zurich, Research Priority Program on Social Networks. The heart of Anne’s research lies at the intersection of consumer psychology and new technologies. Prior to joining the University of Zurich, Anne has worked as a post-doctoral researcher at the Chair of Technology Marketing at the ETH Zurich and as a doctoral researcher at the Technische Universität München.

What Interactions With Machines Can Teach Us About Our Interactions With Humans

We increasingly interact with machines instead of humans on a day-to-day basis. While social norms and fears of social judgments govern our social interactions, machines can remove the social from the equation. The result: Machines give our constant need for self-presentation and our fear of being judged poorly a time-out. With this, machines can teach us a lot about our interactions with humans and even more so, what it could mean to be a good conversation partner.

Dorothea Baur

Dorothea Baur is an ethics consultant based in Zurich who helps leaders in tech and finance align value with values. She holds a PhD on business ethics from the University of St. Gallen and is also a regular lecturer on AI ethics as well as business ethics.

Ai – Freedom Within and Freedom Without

All eyes are set on the potential AI holds for monitoring and fighting crises like the COVID-19 pandemic; it epitomizes how AI has become the most promising tool that frees us from having to resolve complex problems ourselves. Because AI can detect patterns that we cannot see, we are prone to delegate our decisions to AI. But how can we be free when we delegate key decisions? Even more so when we let algorithms decide, which are effectively black boxes? We used to say ‘The ways of the Lord are inscrutable’, but the ways of the algorithms are equally inscrutable. If we want to keep our freedom, we need to remain in charge. Tech is our servant. We are the masters.

Rob Thompson TEDx Zurich

Rob Thompson

Rob Thompson is a team trainer. He uses innovative views to show human interactions in new ways. He challenges accepted wisdom and helps candidates more fully understand their team interaction, how group momentum and self-confidence are generated and how to deal effectively with high value but ‘high maintenance’ team-members. Rob works with both industry and Europe’s top research institutes, teaching the next generation of leaders how to improve their teams and be more successful.

Red-Liners, Blue-Liners and Green-Liners - a New Perspective on Managing Difficult Social Situations

Ever wondered why some people seem to find fault in almost everything? Why some people are really difficult to persuade? Why some people, who are so clearly very capable, can be so lacking in confidence? Rob’s talk will give you some surprising and useful insights into how some people subtly train (manipulate) their colleagues, why racism and sexism are so hard to combat and why improving your confidence won’t feel like you think it will…

Guy Katz TEDx Zurich

Guy Katz

The Swiss would say he is Israeli, Israelis would say he is German; the truth is, he is a little bit of both, while also blended with a dash of Arab and a pint of American. First serving in the military as an officer, Guy worked for governments, startups, non-profits, consulting firms, and giant companies. Always on the lookout for the right bit of science mixed with practical tips, he spends his days optimizing the magical recipe for being a father of two amazing boys, a Business Professor, the owner of a consulting & training company operating worldwide and teaching people how to fly airplanes.

How to Write an Email That Will Always Be Answered!

Research shows that each of us gets up to 120 emails per day, but we only open 34% of them. By learning just a few basic methods, you can optimize your day and make sure your emails hit the spot, and maybe more importantly: even have fun while writing them. Let’s spread the recipe of how to write amazing emails – Every character counts 😉

Janet Phan TEDx Zurich

Janet Phan

Janet T. Phan is the Founder and Executive Director of Thriving Elements, a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to helping underrepresented, underserved girls with long-term mentorship in STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics, & Engineering). She is also the EMEA (Europe-Middle East-Africa) Technology Program Leader for PwC responsible for rolling out one of PwC’s key global digital transformation programs. One thing that has really stuck out to her is that, oftentimes, she is the only female at the table. Mentorship has been a big factor in Janet’s success. Given the opportunities she has been presented by the mentors in her life, she sees it as her life mission to develop and empower as many women leaders as possible in the STEM fields.

3 Key Elements to Thriving Mentorship

We’ve all heard of stories about how mentoring has changed people’s lives but when it comes to jumpstarting the process yourself to find and maintain a mentor can be nerve wrecking…just like going on your first date. Janet puts you in the driver seat giving you the tools to navigate that journey and leaves you with the license to shift your own gears.

Jean-Baptiste Bosson TEDx Zurich

Jean-Baptiste Bosson

Jean-Baptiste Bosson is a bridge builder between countries (Switzerland, France), scientific disciplines (glaciology, ecology, geography, political sciences), nature conservation and science. He holds a PhD in Geosciences from the University of Lausanne where he focused on investigating the response of small alpine glaciers to ongoing climate change. In 2019, he led and published the first study on World Heritage glaciers whereby he made the compelling case for humanity to save glaciers. Jean-Baptiste currently works as Scientific Officer for the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in Switzerland as well as for the Conservatory of Protected Areas of Haute-Savoie in France.

Make the Glaciers Great Again​

Glaciers are disappearing – and their disappearance visualises the invisibility of climate change that is so hard to see in most ecosystems on Earth, and so hard to grasp for many of us. But glaciers are much more than melting ice – and saving them could very well mean saving ourselves.

Andres Andrekson Stress tedx zurich

Andres Andrekson

Andres Andrekson, more commonly known as the swiss rapper “Stress”, returns with an unprecedented openness in his Album “Sincèrement”, released last fall. The patron of Swiss rap is back; authentic and sincere with disarming honesty, leading listeners through a journey marked by highs and lows. Stress portrays his vulnerability and shows us the person behind the “Stress” brand. 

Getting Comfortable With the Uncomfortable

In his talk, Andres leads us through his very own experience of grappling with depression. He articulates how self-reflection led to growth, understanding and ultimately acceptance, and suggests how we might all strive to understand ourselves more compassionately, to find meaning by living a purposeful life.


Jody Lynee Madeira

Jody Lynee Madeira

Jody Lyneé Madeira studies the intersection of law, culture, communication, and emotion in the contexts of medicine, technology, and public health.

Shooting Blanks: What Happens When Law Can’t Keep up With Technology?

Donor sperm and 3D printed firearms have one thing in common—they both illustrate how technology outpaces law. Listen as Professor Jody Lyneé Madeira describes what lessons we can learn from two case studies that prompt us to examine how law should respond to technologies that take and create life. First, how can law best hold fertility doctors accountable after their patients learn decades later that they were impregnated with their doctors sperm without their consent? Second, what can courts do after the fact when courts initially permit 3D-blueprints to be distributed online, but then reverse course?

2020 Theme: Break Out

One way or another, 2020 was bound to be historic. We left the ‘10s behind and entered the ‘20s and no one could guess how the new decade would begin. Then came the Outbreak. An unparalleled situation that cast a net of uncertainty over the world we knew and demanded unprecedented steps into one we have only begun to comprehend. Any previous sense of normalcy we had was abandoned and we were all asked to make sacrifices.

And then something extraordinary happened. We collectively took up the challenge to cast off the mundane depression from months of lockdown. We found ourselves with the time to take up playing an instrument, learn that new language, catch up with friends, or improve the world immediately surrounding us. We have emerged in this new life with a shared experience and responsibility across all humanity and come now into the ‘20s better prepared and eager to do our part in working towards a brighter future. Towards a Breakout.

We live now in unprecedented times and the coming years promise to be revolutionary. Will we, as a global community, overcome the Outbreak? Can we break out of our confines and lay the groundwork needed to address humanity’s next challenges, from scientific leaps to mitigating climate change and even exploring the solar system?

Join the team at TEDxZurich 2020 Breakout as we look forward to a year of shedding our comfort zone and dive into new adventures together!

Special Thanks to All Our Main Sponsors This Year​


Stay up to date on all our events,
news and much more!