It began as a small regional offshoot of Science et Cité, but over time the project has been develop through collaboration with the education sector of the city of Lugano and the Università della Svizzera italiana. Today, this synergy makes it possible to bring together scientific research, schools and the public on a common platform for dialogue. The L'Ideatorio also runs a planetarium in Cadro.
The foundation was established in 1998 and was initiated by the former State Secretary for Education and Research, Charles Kleiber. The trigger for the foundation of Science et Cité was the so-called Genetic Protection Initiative, which called for the "protection of life and the environment from genetic manipulation". Although the political petition was ultimately clearly rejected, the referendum campaign made it clear that there was a deep rift between science and the public: on the one hand, researchers at universities and in industry who wanted to study genetic engineering and use it for their own purposes; on the other hand, the public with its often sceptical attitude towards green genetic engineering. In this situation, Science et Cité was to act as a neutral interface to promote dialogue and thus a climate of mutual trust between researchers and citizens.
Since 1 January 2012, the Foundation has been affiliated with the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences as a competence centre for dialogue.
Science et Cité is not an awarding foundation, but is operationally active itself. Basic funding is provided by the federal contribution to the Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences. Projects are financed through performance agreements and project partnerships.
- The Foundation's bodies are the Foundation Council, the Administrative Office and the Auditors.
- The Foundation Council is the supreme body of Science et Cité. It consists of at least 5 and at most 7 representatives from science, business and society.
- The administrative office consists of the management including the two coordinators for the Réseau Romand Science et Cité and L'ideatorio in Ticino as well as the project team.
- An independent, external auditor audits the Foundation's accounts annually and submits an audit report on the results to the Foundation Board.