Research institutes of the ETH Domain strengthen cooperation in strategic areas

Enriching partnership for research and innovation

Sep 4, 2023 | DIETER SCHMID

Energy transition, climate change, biodiversity and resource scarcity – today's challenges are complex, and the clock is ticking. So joining forces and working together ever more closely is the name of the game these days. This is exactly what the four research institutes of the ETH Domain – Empa, Eawag, WSL and PSI (Paul Scherrer Institute) – are doing. With cooperation platforms and joint projects, the four institutes are positioning themselves even more clearly than before as THE bridge between research and innovative solutions for today's challenges.

The four research institutes of the ETH Domain PSI, Empa, Eawag and WSL (clockwise) join forces. Image: Maybaum / Avista / Empa

"Materials are also being investigated and developed elsewhere, the water in Switzerland is reasonably clean, the forest has not died, and nuclear research is passé after the nuclear phase-out." Every now and so often, the four research institutes of the ETH Domain are confronted with statements such as these. Hence, it's a matter of demonstrating that their research is still spot-on in helping Switzerland deliver answers to the challenges of our times and thus remain global innovation champion – even 35 years (PSI) or around 140 years (Empa & WSL) after their foundation. Now they are further strengthening their collaboration. "We can only solve the major challenges facing industry and society, such as the energy transition or an aging society, together, and this requires close cooperation between the institutions," says PSI Director Christian Rüegg, who represents the research institutes on the ETH Board.

Common topics and cooperation with ETH Zurich and EPFL
Short video of the four research institutes of the ETH Domain: "4RI - 4 our future".

In various workshops, the key topics for all four research institutes were identified, and cross-institutional projects were launched. Net Zero technologies, circular economy and personalized medicine are such key topics, and the four institutes are also establishing a joint internal education and training platform. The Swiss Sensor Net project for sensor technologies and networks is already running at full speed. Only when data and facts are precisely known can tailored improvements be developed and the basis for well-founded decisions be provided to policymakers.

At the same time, the four institutes are expanding their collaboration with the two Federal Institutes of Technology, ETH Zurich and EPFL. Accordingly, the focus is on the strategic areas of the entire ETH Domain and their joint initiatives that had recently been launched. Other initiatives, for instance in the area of personalized medicine, are also underway – again coordinated with the two Federal Institutes of Technology, for example through a new professorship with ETH Zurich in the area of biosensors at Empa in St. Gallen.