ETH Board, 02 December 2011

At its final meeting of the current term of office, the ETH Board clearly backed the call for more resources to be invested in the education of excellent professionals at ETH Zurich and at EPFL. The increasing student numbers are necessary for the Swiss economy and for Swiss society. In order to safeguard the quality of teaching, however, the ETH Board is no longer able to rule out cutbacks in other areas and will discuss concrete measures in 2012. In ad-dition, the ETH Board appointed executives for the ETH Domain.

In 2012, federal politics will make trail-blazing decisions with regard to education, research and innova-tion in Switzerland for the coming years. In view of increasing burdens, the ETH Board had already given voice to the ETH Domain’s accumulated requirements. The number of students in the ETH Domain rose from 15,592 in 2000 to 24,104 in 2010, i.e. by 54.6 %, whereas the Confederation’s funding contribution increased by a mere 24.8 %. At the same time, there is a lack of 15,000 professionals with a background in mathematics, information technology, natural sciences and technology (MINT), as a current analysis conducted by Economiesuisse and Swiss Engineering has revealed. “The growing student numbers are crucial to Switzerland’s competitiveness”, says Dr Fritz Schiesser, President of the ETH Board.

At the last meeting of the 2008-2011 period of office, the ETH Board therefore discussed the ETH Domain’s problem caused by having to educate more students without lowering its sights with re-gard to quality. ETH Zurich and EPFL have so far handled growth by means of intramural measures and gains in efficiency, but these options have now been exhausted. “High-quality teaching must be close to research, which requires personnel and infrastructures”, points out Professor Ralph Eichler, President of ETH Zurich and member of the ETH Board. ETH Zurich may have been able to establish about 70 addi-tional professorships by means of funding transfers and thanks to third-party resources since 2008, but now investments in further chairs, in senior scientists, as well as in practice rooms and apparatus are necessary. EPFL has mainly coped with the growth in student numbers through the involvement of younger professors but is now reaching its limits in terms of campus infrastructures. “Our analyses demonstrate that most of our students come from Western Switzerland and adjacent neighbouring coun-tries and that 80 % of them pursue careers in Switzerland after graduation”, says Patrick Aebischer, President of EPFL and member of the ETH Board. At present, the financial prospects for education, re-search and innovation are becoming gloomy for the ETH Domain in particular. The ETH Board has there-fore decided to dedicate an extraordinary meeting in early 2012 to concrete cutbacks that could be made for the benefit of teaching. “Switzerland cannot afford, for reasons of cost, not to provide the highly quali-fied graduates required by the economy and by society with an education or to provide them with a poor education, but must instead make investments”, says Hans Hess, the President of Swissmem and mem-ber of the ETH Board.

Energy research: special efforts require special resources

The ETH Board insists that no competition must emerge between teaching and research. In the ETH Board’s view, special research efforts require special resources. For instance, the ETH Domain has so far established competencies in energy research and annually invests approximately CHF 140m in this. If additional teams of researchers were funded, the ETH Domain would be able to extend its activities in a number of fields, thus tackling the challenges in a concerted fashion.

Additionally, the ETH Board has set up a working group, whose function is to further strengthen the already intensive knowledge and technology transfer of the institutions of the ETH Domain while facilitating exchanges with the private sector. “In research, we have to invest just as much in cooperation for the purpose of innovation as in lighthouse projects. Enterprises consider the accessibility of research and the international impact of visionary and high-risk research ventures to be prerequisites for investment decisions”, says Professor Paul Herrling, Vice-President of the ETH Board.

Management decisions concerning Empa and EPFL
Appointment to the General Management of Empa

Upon application of the Director General of Empa, Prof. Gian-Luca Bona, the ETH Board has appointed Dr Brigitte C. Buchmann (*1958) as a member of the General Management of Empa as from 1 September 2012.

As the new member of the General Management of Empa, Brigitte Buchmann will take over the Depart-ment of Mobility, Energy and Environment at Empa. Brigitte Buchmann, who holds a doctor’s degree in chemistry, has successfully headed the Laboratory for Air Pollution/Environmental Technology with its 30 scientists ever since 2002. This Laboratory conducts research into the distribution of pollutants in the at-mosphere and their relation to emission processes. After submitting her doctoral thesis at the University of Zurich in 1988, Brigitte Buchmann made a name for herself with her scientific work in the field of Nu-clear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. After her move to Empa, she specialised in air pollutants and environmental technology. Soon, she was at the head of the National Air Pollution Monitoring Network (NABEL) and took on international responsibility in the WCC (World Calibration Centre for surface ozone, carbon monoxide, methane and carbon dioxides) of the Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) programme. Through her expert activities, she has established a wide-ranging network in various domains of the fed-eral offices, but also in international bodies. She has also rendered services to teaching and has excel-lent connections with various universities of applied science.

Dr Peter Hofer, the Director General’s present Deputy and long-standing member of the General Management of Empa, will retire on 1 September 2012. To ensure his succession, a new member of the General Management was sought to head the Department of Mobility, Energy and Environment. The members of Empa’s General Management have jointly opted for Brigitte Buchmann to fill that vacancy.

Reappointment as Vice-Presidents of EPFL
Upon application of the President of EPFL, Professor Patrick Aebischer, the Vice-Presidents Dr Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli and Professor Philippe Gillet have been reappointed for the period of 1 March 2012 to 29 February 2016. By way of an exception to retirement age regulations, it also reappointed Professor Francis-Luc Perret as Vice-President for a term of office lasting until 28 February 2014.

Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli (*1958) has been reappointed Vice-President for Innovation and Technology Transfer at EPFL. In this capacity, she will continue to be responsible for all activities in the field of the transfer of knowledge and technology, as well as for strategic partnerships and research cooperation ventures with the private sector. In the context of her successful activities to date, she has been an influ-ential driving force behind EPFL’s Quartier de l’Innovation. Even before her appointment as Vice-President of EPFL in 2008, Adrienne Corboud Fumagalli had an excellent track record both as an execu-tive in reputable Swiss companies and in teaching and research.

Professor Philippe Gillet (*1958) has been reappointed Vice-President for Academic Affairs at EPFL. Since his appointment on 1 April 2010, Philippe Gillet has already successfully pressed ahead with both intramural and international initiatives, among them the strategic EPFL projects Guardian Angels and Blue Brain, which have been selected as FET Flagship candidates by the EU. Even before he was ap-pointed a Vice-President of EPFL, the renowned geophysicist and geochemist, who is a Full Professor of Physics, had an impressive track record both in teaching and research and in university management and science policy.

Professor Francis-Luc Perret (*1943) has been reappointed Vice-President for Planning and Logistics. Since his appointment on 1 April 2000, he has supervised the constructional changes on the EPFL cam-pus with far-sightedness and success. Under his leadership, the construction of the future congress cen-tre of EPFL has also made great progress and is expected to be completed by early 2014. In view of this important project, the ETH Board has exceptionally extended Francis-Luc Perret’s contract, which had al-ready been extended two years beyond his retirement age, for another and final time until he has reached the age of 70.