"We are delighted and proud of this great position in the FT ranking. This is the result of our commitment and the high quality of our teaching, executive education, and research. I would like to thank everyone who has made this possible."
– Reto Steiner, Dean of the School of Management and Law
Over the next quarter of a century, Irchel Campus will be fundamentally modernized and expanded, and its building density increased. The planned “PORTAL UZH” will be a linchpin in these developments. The new building will make it possible for the campus’ technical and logistical infrastructure to be modernized, as well as providing additional space needed for teaching and research.
Around a year ago, the Building Department of the Canton of Zurich – on behalf of the University of Zurich and the cantonal Department of Education – announced an architectural competition for the “PORTAL UZH”. Now the winning project has been selected: the winning team consists of the architecture practice EM2N Architects and Jaeger Baumanagement from Zurich. They were chosen from a total of 14 teams.
The winning project was selected for how it fits in with the overall vibe of Irchel Campus, developing the site for the future but not forgetting its heritage. “The project by EM2N and Jäger Baumanagement stood out with its excellent inner qualities and the way it successfully integrates into the existing campus buildings. The team showed they had understood the university’s needs and went a step further in really taking them on board,” says François Chapuis, Vice President Real Estate and Facility Management.
The planned wood and concrete hybrid construction consists of a six-story building and a long laboratory wing with five floors. An inviting entrance area with a planted roof terrace connects the two sections. In the front building a main thoroughfare houses lecture halls, classrooms and workstations/study spaces for students, researchers and employees. The lab wing directly adjoins this building and includes offices and recreation areas as well as labs. Photovoltaic panels will be installed on the roofs. Technical and logistical infrastructure for the whole campus will be installed in the basement of the new building, replacing the old infrastructure and ensuring the future supply of heating, cooling, lighting, air and water as well as logistics services for Irchel Campus.
Now that the winning project has been confirmed, the team will further develop their concept with the aim of presenting a building project ready for approval to the Government Council and the Cantonal Council in 2025. Provided the project is approved and there are no appeals, building works could begin by 2029 or 2030.
View of the new PORTAL UZH from the Magistrale (Visualization: EM2N)
Atrium hall in the new PORTAL UZH (Visualization: EM2N)
Lecture hall zone (Visualization: EM2N)
Laboratory zone (Visualization: EM2N)
Balcony zone (Visualization: EM2N)
The League of European Research Universities (LERU) is committed to promoting basic research at European universities. Its aim is to raise awareness among political decision-makers and opinion leaders of the important role that research universities play. It regularly comments on the EU’s research, innovation and education policies.
LERU currently has 23 members, including the universities of Zurich and Geneva in Switzerland and the British universities of Oxford and Cambridge. On 1 January 2024, ETH Zurich will join LERU by invitation as its 24th member.
Welcoming the news, Linda Doyle, LERU Chair and Provost of Trinity College Dublin said: “I am delighted that the leading research university ETH Zurich is joining the LERU network. LERU plays a really important role in standing up for research, innovation and education across Europe and beyond. With ETH Zurich, we will be even stronger in realising our collective ambitions.”
“Together with like-minded universities, ETH Zurich seeks to serve society and strengthen the European academic landscape. LERU stands for values that we share. It is an important voice for research and education in Europe,” says ETH President Joël Mesot.
ETH Zurich is joining at a time when the university remains excluded from the Horizon Europe research programme. This means it is more important than ever for ETH to join forces with partner universities in Europe.
(Photograph: ETH Zurich / Gian Marco Castelberg)
Zurich Airport has once again received the trophy as Europe's Leading Airport at the World Travel Awards. He has thus been the uninterrupted leader in this ranking since 2004. The award ceremony took place this year in Batumi, Georgia. According to a press release from Flughafen Zürich AG, the nomination was based not only on customer satisfaction but also on the quality standards of products and services at and around Zurich Airport.
"Keeping quality high on an ongoing basis is one of our top priorities at Zurich Airport," CEO Lukas Brosi is quoted as saying. "In recent months, we were faced with operational challenges due to strong passenger growth. However, thanks to the good cooperation with all airport partners, the measures taken showed effect. The fact that we are once again able to accept this award makes us all the more pleased."
The World Travel Award is one of the best-known awards in the travel industry. It is awarded annually to various divisions and categories. In the aviation category, the award for Europe's Leading Airline went to Air France, according to a statement from the organizers. Lufthansa received the award in the category Europe's Leading Airline - Business Class and Virgin Atlantic received the award as Europe's Leading Airline - Economy Class. The honor as Europe's Leading Airline Lounge went to THE LOFT by Brussels Airlines and Lexus@Brussels Airport. ce/mm
Der Flughafen Zürich ist zum 20. Mal in Folge als bester Flughafen Europas ernannt worden. Bild: Flughafen Zürich
In 2019, the ZHAW defined its approach with its sustainability strategy. Since then, the strategic programme ZHAW sustainable has been driving the transformation process forward. The first university-wide sustainability report now takes stock of what the ZHAW has already achieved, what developments can be seen and how the next milestones need to be tackled. The focus is on the fact that the ZHAW can only implement its sustainability strategy together with its employees and students. In the report, some of them are representative of the many ZHAW members who are committed to sustainable development in research, teaching, university operations and also personally - in ecological, social or economic terms.
In order to reduce the ecological impact of its university operations, the ZHAW relies on realistic targets and evidence-based measures. In line with the motto “You can only manage what you can measure”, the ZHAW collects data in the areas of business and commuter mobility, resource consumption (catering, paper, ICT, water, waste) and energy consumption in buildings. In the latter, heating is responsible for the most greenhouse gas emissions, although the proportion of renewable energy continues to increase. In the area of resources, catering and ICT equipment are the largest emitters. In business mobility, air travel and commuting by car are the biggest sources of emissions that need to be reduced.
“With its report, the ZHAW makes its sustainability endeavours in its four service areas and for society transparent. The aim is to fulfil its responsibility towards internal and external stakeholders. In future, the report will be published every two years. The publication of the first university-wide report now provides the impetus for a “multi-stakeholder dialogue” to continuously improve sustainable development at the ZHAW. A series of events in the spring semester of 2024 will support this process.
During the course of the networking event, it became clear that many municipalities still lack strategies and effective measures in the three key areas of mobility, heating and renovation. Experts from Empa, among others, showed how precise operating data on the Swiss vehicle fleet (cars and trucks) can promote the conversion of the fleet, the addition of charging stations or shared mobility concepts and how building simulations can support energy-efficient renovation strategies. The canton of Lucerne presented how a publicly accessible online tool with GIS data in the heating/cooling sector can promote the phase-out of gas and oil.
In the discussion, the participants emphasized that there is a lack of good data in all areas. For example, the local building and housing register (GWR) is often not up to date. Municipalities often have far better data. However, it is usually not digitized and therefore difficult to make use of. Municipalities lack financial and human resources to electronically process this crucial dataset. Moreover, much of the data is not accessible to the public due to data protection and thus cannot be used to raise public awareness, which is urgently needed.
"Those who are willing look for solutions. Those who don't are looking for reasons (to do nothing)," one of the speakers concluded their presentation. Overall, the participants agreed that more courage to take risks is needed in all areas and that waiting for the perfect solution is often counterproductive.
The City of Zurich demonstrated the importance of acting quickly by expanding its thermal networks. The comparison between an optimized conventional expansion (90% CO2-neutral) and an "ideological" expansion (100% CO2-neutral) shows that the final expansion step of the second variant would only be realized at least three years later. This means that, in terms of total CO2 emissions, this variant would not have an advantage until the year 2048. The conclusion of the city: Variant 1 with possible subsequent improvements is preferable.
In the course of the network event, it also became clear that rapid action requires a more intensive exchange with all stakeholders and interest groups. As it became clear in the workshop on mobility, sustainable mobility does not simply mean switching to electric cars. It means less mobility with one's own car – or even less mobility in general. And this, like many things related to the energy transition, can only be achieved through a far-reaching dialog with all stakeholders.
What steps can Swiss municipalities take to achieve the energy transition? Problems and solutions were discussed at the Empa Academy. Image: Empa
The path to transforming our energy system: Research on three levels. Graphic: Empa
Renovation measures: Optimum solutions by year of construction. Image: Empa
What would the streets look like if a city took half its traffic space and gave it to cycling and e-biking? Would city dwellers use their bikes more often? Might the concept of an “E-Bike City” even be a way to help reduce transport-related CO2 emissions?
Nine professorships at ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne have been investigating these questions for a good year and a half. This research initiative is led by transport researcher Kay Axhausen, who is retiring in January 2024 (see box). The initial findings are now available, and the researchers have visualised their solutions and published them this week on a story-map website. Story mapping presents the vision of the E-Bike City as a story in text and images, making it easy to understand.
In a future E-Bike City, people will be able to use half the city’s road space when they are out and about on foot or travelling by bicycle, e-bike, cargo bike, e-scooter or other small modes (what’s known as micromobility). Today, over 80 percent of urban street space is reserved for cars and car parking; only about 11.7 percent is earmarked for e-bikes and bicycles. For the most part, cyclists and e-bikers share the roads with cars.
In the E-Bike City, by contrast, the lanes for cars, public transport (trams, buses), two-wheelers (bicycles, e-bikes) and the pavement for pedestrians would generally be separated from each other. Rather than widening roads or building new ones, this would involve repurposing the existing space. The E-Bike City’s road network would largely consist of single-lane, one-way streets, with lanes for bikes and e-bikes usually located to the left and right of the one-way street. Public transport, meanwhile, would continue to use its existing separate lanes. “A redesign like this would give more space back to people,” Axhausen says.
To present the innovations of the E-Bike City as realistically as possible, the researchers selected three typical examples from the city of Zurich: Bellevue square and Quaibrücke bridge near Lake Zurich, Birchstrasse in north Zurich and Winterthurer-/Letzistrasse in the Oberstrass district. Using these examples, they show how different a street would look if it were designed to be bike-friendly instead of car-friendly. An image comparison slider can be used to directly compare the current road space and its possible future state.
The design of the E-Bike City follows certain principles. Based on the existing road network, one half of each road is converted into a safe and comfortable cycle lane that can be used by bikes, e‑bikes, cargo bikes, e-scooters, etc. The other half of the road is still used for cars (petrol- or battery-powered), so access to residential and office buildings is guaranteed.
On their story-map website, the ETH researchers use the example of Zurich’s Bellevue square and Quaibrücke bridge to show how the E-Bike City principles could be implemented in four steps:
In addition to these key actions, the ETH and EPFL researchers are investigating further measures. For example, the switch to a one-way urban road network might cause congestion, but dynamic road use could reduce the probability of that happening. Depending on the time of day, traffic signals could be used to control the direction in which cars and bicycles use the road and how many lanes they can occupy. The team is also looking into how road users will accept the E-Bike City; for example, motorists may feel disadvantaged if cyclists are given priority. “In the research project, we’re examining how viable and cost-effective the basic assumption and principles of the E-Bike City are, and what conditions are necessary for possible conversion,” Axhausen says.
For Axhausen, the E-Bike City project also marks the end of his career as Professor of Transport Planning at ETH Zurich, although he will continue to supervise the project following his retirement. Having joined ETH in 1999, Axhausen earned a reputation as a researcher who delves deep into transport issues with a keen analytical eye and precise economic and mathematical models.
One particular achievement was the MATSim transport simulation system, which he and his research group have helped to develop over the past 20 years. Axhausen says the system has had “a major, resounding impact.” Today, MATSim can simulate numerous aspects of traffic behaviour. “The largest application that we can currently simulate in a reasonable computing time covers the whole of Germany – that’s the transport decisions of 85 to 90 million people.”
“Our vision is to make the city of the future more comfortable, quieter, greener and healthier than it is today.”
– Kay Axhausen
“As a researcher, I’ve never directly participated in transport policy debates before,” says Axhausen. “But with the E-Bike City project it’s different; we’re actually getting more actively involved in transport policy.” For example, the story-map website and the findings of the E-Bike City project were presented this week to Simone Brander, the Zurich City Council member responsible for transport. This involvement has much to do with climate change, a topic that overshadows many traffic problems, such as the classic traffic jam problem, and requires new solutions.
“In view of global warming, we can’t continue with our previous approach to transport planning. We need new transport policy ideas for cities. The E-Bike City is also a model of how the transport sector can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions,” Axhausen points out. “This project is intended to show that bicycles and e-bikes can serve as a standard means of transport in the city. Our vision is to make the city more comfortable, quieter, greener and healthier than it is today.”
(Image: ETH Zurich / mattership)
More space for pedestrians and cyclists: What a road junction in Zurich could look like if it were designed according to E-Bike City principles. (Image: ETH Zurich/L. Ballo, IVT)
View of an intersection in the E-Bike City: Two-wheelers will have their own double lane and public transport will have its own lane as well. Cars drive on one-way streets. (Image: ETH Zurich/L. Ballo, IVT)
In the E-Bike City, the urban road network for cars consists largely of one-way streets, whereas two-wheelers have dedicated lanes for both directions of travel. (Image: ETH Zurich/L. Ballo, IVT)
By implementing the E-Bike City principles, savings would be possible. (Infographic: ETH Zurich / mattership)
Schlieren-based Kuros Biosciences AG has received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) for the use of MagnetOs Flex Matrix in the interbody region. According to the press release , MagnetOs Flex Matrix can now be used in any interbody space such as the cervical spine, thoracic spine or lumbar spine and in any cage that is approved for use with a bone graft substitute. A cage serves as a spacer in the spine instead of a no longer functioning intervertebral disc.
Interbody cages are used in nearly half of the estimated 1.5 million instrumented spinal fusions performed annually in the U.S., according to Kuros. MagnetOs Flex Matrix is particularly suitable for interbody applications as it remains stable and flexible even when wet due to its excellent granule retention and can therefore be introduced either via a funnel or directly into a cage of any size.
"This is an important milestone for our company and for the surgical community. With this clearance, we have a significant opportunity to re-engage surgeons who were previously unable to use our MagnetOs Flex Matrix product for interbody procedures," Chris Fair, CEO of Kuros, is quoted as saying.
Kuros has received approval in the USA for the use of MagnetOs Flex Matrix in the interbody area. Symbolic image: ckstockphoto/Pixabay
Pregnolia AG, which specializes in the diagnosis of premature births, has Announcement successfully completed a financing round of 2.2 million Swiss francs on LinkedIn. The company intends to expand its measuring device for detecting premature birth risks into a diagnostic system and gain access to the US market, as detailed in a press release. Pregnolia has developed a measuring device that offers reliable detection of premature birth risks. A probe measures the firmness of the cervix. If this is too soft, the doctor can initiate therapeutic measures in good time.
Sabrina Badir, CEO of Pregnolia, recognized early on that the stiffness of the cervix is an extremely reliable indicator of a possible premature birth, according to the start-up's press release. "A soft cervix correlates with a premature birth. This fact has now been confirmed by several ongoing studies. Two of them were presented at this year's international symposium on spontaneous preterm birth in Holland," Badir is quoted as saying.
The start-up, which was founded as a spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich(ETH) at , is now working on developing this device into a premature birth diagnosis system that immediately shows doctors how high the risk of a pregnant woman suffering a spontaneous premature birth is. To this end, Pregnolia is building up a broad database of cervical stiffness values from normal pregnant women and pregnant women with premature labor or traditional risks in collaboration with specialists in Germany, the UK, the Netherlands and Italy.
The fresh capital will be used to finance the costs of ongoing clinical trials and data processing, as well as to prepare for the approval of the Pregnolia diagnostic system for the US market. ce/gba
Pregnolia's measuring device enables reliable detection of premature birth risks. Image: Carlo Navarro via unsplash
The innovation agencies of Switzerland, Israel, Sweden and Singapore have published a joint call via Eureka, the world's largest public network for international cooperation in research, development and innovation: Until February 26, they are looking for innovative development and research projects that promote alternatives to proteins from living animals.
According to the tender, the focus is on plant-based, fermented and cultivated meat and seafood. Hybrid products and basic technologies such as molecular plant-based agriculture also fall within the scope.
The amount of funding committed differs slightly from country to country. In Switzerland, Innosuisse provides grants of up to 70 percent of project costs for start-ups, up to 50 percent for SMEs and up to 25 percent for large companies. Universities and research institutions can count on up to 100 percent.
The call is based on cooperation between at least two of the participating countries: this will "increase sustainable food production, strengthen the competitiveness of companies, create new employment opportunities and develop future skills". In addition, international cooperation could "enable greater export opportunities and a higher rate of self-sufficiency, resilience and preparedness". The project must benefit all partners involved. Its maximum term may not exceed 36 months.
The University of Zurich aims to become carbon-neutral by 2030. It contributes to sustainable development through a wide range of measures in its research, teaching and general operations, as well as in cooperation with wider society. Specific examples include the University Research Priority Programs in the areas of global change, ecosystems and biodiversity; the new biodiversity course program which integrates sustainability skills into the regular curriculum; the transdisciplinary Sustainable Development and Transformation study week; the Sustainability Now! public lecture series; and the faculties' action plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by air travel.
UZH is now boosting its existing sustainability efforts with a new funding instrument. At the beginning of this year, UZH members were asked to submit ideas for “real-world laboratory” projects to research how UZH can reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. “Our members can use UZH as a real-world laboratory for our members to test innovative measures for sustainable operations. In this way, we are supporting interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research approaches in the field of sustainability,” says Elisabeth Stark, Vice President Research.
This concept means UZH itself becomes an object of research. One crucial aspect is that researchers need to work together with technical or administrative staff. For many, this is a new idea. “To achieve UZH’s carbon-neutral target, we need to rethink existing processes and habits. The real-world laboratory projects combine research and practice and thus help us understand which measures actually contribute to a reduction in climate-damaging emissions,” explains Gabriele Siegert, Deputy President and Vice President Education and Student Affairs.
UZH Sustainability Delegate Lorenz Hilty also welcomes this forward-looking approach of linking research and operational processes: “This way, we will learn to apply scientific findings within the university and at the same time gain knowledge about our institution’s structures and processes.”
A jury consisting of representatives from the faculties and Central Services reviewed the submissions. Of the eight projects submitted, six were selected for best meeting the criteria because, among other things, they are expected to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, are based on transdisciplinary research, and could potentially be adopted by other UZH organizational units or external institutions.
UZH is supporting these five real-world laboratory projects to the tune of around CHF 228,000. The amount of funding varies depending on the project: “In addition to pioneering projects that directly reduce emissions, we also wanted to support smaller projects that make it easier to monitor developments or make decisions,” explains Lorenz Hilty. The funded projects will last for between six and 24 months. Initial results are expected by the middle of next year. For a detailed description of the real-world laboratory projects and the involved parties, visit the website.
How can the vegetation on the Irchel campus be managed as sustainably as possible? A UZH project team will be researching this over the next few months. (Image: Stefan Walter)
Washing plastic pipettes instead of throwing them away – can it work? A UZH project team wants to find out. (Image: Ursula Meisser)
The Boston Dynamics AI Institute is set to bring a develop team to Zurich at the start of 2024. In so doing, the organization, which is based in Cambridge in the US State of Massachusetts and focuses on leveraging the benefits of Artificial Intelligence, intends to support further growth and attract the best talent in Europe, as the Institute writes in a press release.
“The Zurich team will expand the Institute’s focus in core areas such as AI, hardware design, machine learning, dexterous mobile manipulation, and robot ethics, and will help us connect to talent, universities, and research organizations in the vibrant European ecosystem”, the press release states. According to information from the Institute, its culture is geared towards bringing together the best features of academic research labs and corporate development labs.
The Boston Dynamics AI Institute was founded in August 2022 by Marc Raibert, who previously founded Boston Dynamics, a robotics company based in Waltham, in 2013. It primarily focuses on researching and developing autonomous mobile robots, initially for the US military. In 2020, Boston Dynamics was taken over by the Hyundai Motor Company.
To begin with, Hyundai and Boston Dynamics invested more than 400 million US dollars to launch the Boston Dynamics AI Institute, further details of which can be found in a press release. In its first year of operation, the Institute has expanded its research, technical and operational teams to over 150 employees and brought on board ten guest professors, who work across 100,000 square meters of lab and office space in the heart of Cambridge. ce/mm
The Boston Dynamics AI Institute is set to bring a develop team to Zurich at the start of 2024. Image provided by Boston Dynamics AI Institute
In recent years, engineers at ETH Zurich have developed the technology to produce liquid fuels from sunlight and air. In 2019, they demonstrated the entire thermochemical process chain under real conditions for the first time, in the middle of Zurich, on the roof of ETH Machine Laboratory. These synthetic solar fuels are carbon neutral because they release only as much CO2 during their combustion as was drawn from the air for their production. Two ETH spin-offs, Climeworks and Synhelion, are further developing and commercialising the technologies.
At the heart of the production process is a solar reactor that is exposed to concentrated sunlight delivered by a parabolic mirror and reaches temperatures of up to 1500 degrees Celsius. Inside this reactor, which contains a porous ceramic structure made of cerium oxide, a thermochemical cycle takes place for splitting water and CO2 captured previously from the air. The product is syngas: a mixture of hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which can be further processed into liquid hydrocarbon fuels such as kerosene (jet fuel) for powering aviation.
Until now, structures with isotropic porosity have been applied, but these have the drawback that they exponentially attenuate the incident solar radiation as it travels into the reactor. This results in lower inner temperatures, limiting the fuel yield of the solar reactor.
Now, researchers from the group of André Studart, ETH Professor of Complex Materials, and the group of Aldo Steinfeld, ETH Professor of Renewable Energy Carriers, have developed a novel 3D printing methodology that enables them to manufacture porous ceramic structures with complex pore geometries to transport solar radiation more efficiently into the reactor’s interior. The research project is funded by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy.
Hierarchically ordered designs with channels and pores that are open at the surface exposed to the sunlight and become narrower towards the rear of the reactor have proven to be particularly efficient. This arrangement enables to absorb the incident concentrated solar radiation over the entire volume. This in turn ensures that the whole porous structure reaches the reaction temperature of 1500°C, boosting the fuel generation. These ceramic structures were manufactured using an extrusion-based 3D printing process and a new type of ink with optimal characteristics developed specifically for this purpose, namely: low viscosity and a high concentration of ceria particles to maximise the amount of redox active material.
Successful initial testing
The researchers investigated the complex interplay between the transfer of radiant heat and the thermochemical reaction. They were able to show that their new hierarchical structures can produce twice as much fuel as the uniform structures when subjected to the same concentrated solar radiation of intensity equivalent to 1000 suns.
The technology for 3D printing the ceramic structures is already patented, and Synhelion has acquired the license from ETH Zurich. “This technology has the potential to boost the solar reactor’s energy efficiency and thus to significantly improve the economic viability of sustainable aviation fuels,” Steinfeld says.
The artwork illustrates a 3D-printed ceria structure with hierarchically channeled architecture. Concentrated solar radiation is incident on the graded structure and drives the solar splitting of CO2 into separate flows of CO and O2. (Graphic: Advanced Materials Interfaces, Vol 10,Nr. 30, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1002/admi.202300452)
Would you let a trainee surgeon practice a procedure on your body during an operation? Most people are likely to answer the question in the affirmative, if at all, with some skepticism. But in the past, training depended on the willingness of patients: In the "see one, do one, teach one" model, they learned the craft by first observing a procedure, then performing it themselves, and finally demonstrating it to fellow students. Bruno Schmied of the Kantonsspital St.Gallen (KSSG) says that this is no longer the case. "The approach comes at the expense of patients being put at risk," says the chief of surgery. In addition, assisting costs a lot of time. "Surgery that is assisted takes 20 to 30 percent longer," Schmied explains. "That goes into the money immensely - because the operating room is the most expensive place in a hospital."
Innosuisse flagship project
As one of three clinical partners, the KSSG is leading the "Proficiency" project launched in 2022, which will comprehensively modernize surgical training in Switzerland. Hand in hand with a comprehensive update of the corresponding curricula, continuing education courses for aspiring medical specialists will be completely redesigned with state-of-the-art simulation technologies such as virtual reality (VR) applications, augmented reality (AR) glasses or high-end simulators by the beginning of 2025. In addition to the three hospitals, several companies as well as the ZHAW, ETH Zurich and the University of Zurich (Balgrist) are involved in the Innosuisse flagship project, which is being funded by the national innovation agency with 12 million Swiss francs.
"The technologies integrated in the program open up entirely new possibilities," says Helmut Grabner of the ZHAW School of Engineering. The professor of Data Analytics and Machine Learning and deputy head of the ZHAW subproject cites the high-end infrastructure in Operating Room X (OR-X) at Balgrist University Hospital as an example. The simulation infrastructure in the hypermodern teaching and research center allows for the realistic education and training of physicians. "Here they can learn the surgical skills without any risks. The setting also allows to practice interventions that, in real people, would first have to be approved by the ethics committee."
Replicas of organs
In addition to high-end platforms such as the OR-X, the project also includes simpler applications, such as Box Trainer. These are replicas of organs or body regions on which, for example, minimally invasive procedures can be practiced. In combination with a smartphone or laptop, such box trainers can also be used at home and thus represent a low-threshold training option. "The Proficiency project envisions prospective surgeons going through a Journey as they practice a procedure - from low-end to high-end simulations," explains Philipp Ackermann, ZHAW project leader and deputy head of Human-Centered Computing at the School of Engineering. Surgical interventions could be compared to playing the guitar. "You don't learn the craft by watching - you have to practice, practice, practice." It was only through the repeated performance of hand movements that muscle memory was formed, and with it the skills that surgeons needed in the operating room.
The simulations for various interventions are developed jointly by the companies and the universities. The ZHAW plays a "bridging role" in this, says Ackermann. "For example, we are incorporating the algorithms developed by ETH into the project." In addition, the team from the School of Engineering is responsible for tracking the surgical instruments in the simulations. "We make sure that the instruments are correctly located in AR or VR." In addition, the team is working on grading the movements, i.e., scales that can be used to grade the movements during a procedure. "Grading enables data-based and therefore objective feedback - with Proficiency you get away from medical judgment, where there is a risk of arbitrariness and randomness," Helmut Grabner elaborates.
More favorable after initial investment
For Chief Physician Bruno Schmied, the residents will be the main winners of the new training model - not only because it allows for fair assessment. "Standardization allows you to get the best out of all trainee surgeons. It takes into account individual skills and weaknesses."
According to Schmied, "Proficiency" also makes it possible to complete continuing education more quickly in the future - simply because procedures can be practiced much more often. "Considering that surgeons are 40 to 45 years old when they receive their residency, this is a strong incentive," Schmied said. Overall, he calls the new continuing education model a "win-win-win situation." In addition to residents and patients, hospitals also benefited from simulation-based continuing education. "Hospitals, many of them loss-making, primarily cost money to train surgeons." And because of the flat rates per case, they cannot charge for these costs.
Supraregional centers for training
Cost pressure is also one of the main hurdles to implementation. "When it comes to investment for equipment, jobs and manpower for training, it gets difficult," explains Bruno Schmied. The solution, he said, lies in supra-regional centers "so that expensive simulators don't have to be in every hospital." And in low-cost platforms like Box Trainers, which would allow residents to train in a low-threshold, low-cost way.
"Proficiency" requires some initial investment, he said. "After that, however, continuing education is significantly less expensive than before," Schmied said. Hospitals also seem to be aware of this. For example, a survey conducted as part of the project among the hospitals involved in continuing education showed great interest in modernizing curricula and using simulation technologies.
In the modern OR-X teaching and research centre at Balgrist University Hospital, the surgeons of tomorrow are being trained - faster and better. (Image: Daniel Hager)
Questions such as these were addressed by the various speakers at the University Day in Wädenswil, which, according to Jean-Marc Piveteau, provided an opportunity to reflect on the role of the ZHAW.
In his opening speech, the Rector of the ZHAW emphasized three points that he considers to be central: Anchoring in the European higher education area, innovative thinking and action, and a focus on sustainability in teaching and research.
In her keynote speech "Leadership for sustainable change", Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi showed what consequences are required at management level. The co-founder and chairwoman of Applied Sustainability GmbH, which advises and supports companies and organizations in matters of sustainability, pointed out that sustainable action requires systemic thinking, which is still not sufficiently established today, especially at management level - this is where we need to start.
In the subsequent discussion with communications lecturer Claudia Sedioli, who hosted the evening, she clarified her message. We have to learn to unlearn internalized beliefs at a young age - and thus become ready to learn new things.
Guest speaker Silvia Steiner, Director of Education of the Canton of Zurich, emphasized the importance of stability in times of change. According to Steiner, the ZHAW is the best example of an institution with a stable foundation. A solid education is the necessary basis for social change.
With its offer, the ZHAW is helping to combat the labor shortage. Their training model is attracting interest abroad.
With these presentations, Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi's closing words began to take shape. She hopes that one day we will no longer use the word sustainability, but will act accordingly as a matter of course.
From left to right: Ximena Franco, Salome Berger, Silvia Steiner, Anke Kaschlik, Jean-Marc Piveteau, Claudia Sedioli, Nicoletta Piccolrovazzi, David Jenny, Olivia Frigo-Charles
At the hybrid symposium "SVSM Dialogue on Business Promotion", location and business promoters from all over Switzerland met in Olten. The occasion was, on the one hand, the professional exchange and networking and, on the other, the presentation of the annual SVSM Awards. These awards have been presented since 2007 by the Swiss Association for Location Management SVSM, the umbrella organization of Swiss business and location promotion agencies. With this award, the umbrella organization honors targeted, effective and innovative projects in the areas of location marketing, location development and business promotion.
12 applications, five nominees, two awards
For this year's awards, 12 applications were received from all over Switzerland. An expert jury evaluated these based on defined criteria and nominated five projects for the 2023 awards:
The participants in Olten eagerly awaited the announcement by jury president and SVSM board member Katharina Hopp as to which of the nominated projects would actually receive an award. "The decision was not easy for the jury this year either," said Hopp in advance. Even a nomination for the award is an honor and recognition. The coveted trophies were finally presented to Raphael von Thiessen from the Canton of Zurich Location Promotion Agency and Sabrina Honegger from the Zürioberland Location Promotion Agency.
Award for innovation sandbox artificial intelligence
The "Artificial Intelligence Innovation Sandbox" project of the Canton of Zurich's Economic Development Agency is a test environment for the implementation of AI projects. The Sandbox is designed to promote responsible innovation by allowing the administration and participating organizations to work closely on regulatory issues and to enable the use of novel data sources. At the award ceremony, jury president Katharina Hopp praised the clear strategic approach and emphasized that projects such as the Sandbox are urgently needed, as Switzerland is lagging far behind internationally, particularly in the regulatory aspect of artificial intelligence. The jury also considered the fact that a cantonal office is networking with companies in order to jointly promote Switzerland as a high-tech location to be remarkable.
Award for "Echt regional" platform
The second award went to Standortförderung Zürioberland for its "Echt regional" project. This is an IT system for the simple certification of regional products. Until now, this has involved a great deal of effort, which has deterred some producers from applying for certification. The new platform, which several regional brands have already joined, simplifies the process and can be expanded as required. "Although the Zürioberland location promotion agency has taken the initiative, it has not created an isolated solution, but a forward-looking platform with great potential," said jury president Hopp at the award ceremony. The strengths of Swiss regional products would be brought into focus with this digital showcase.
Sonja Wollkopf Walt is location manager of the year
Every year at the SVSM Awards ceremony, the umbrella organization also honors a deserving personality as Site Manager of the Year. After Christoph Lang, Samih Sawiris and Bruno Marazzi, for example, received the award in previous years, this year the jury decided to honor one of its own: Sonja Wollkopf Walt, Managing Director of the Greater Zurich Area, received the award for Location Manager of the Year 2023 in Olten. In his laudatory speech, Ambassador Eric Jakob, Head of the Directorate for Site Promotion SECO and jury member of the SVSM Awards, described Wollkopf Walt as a "pioneer and inspiration for national site promotion". It has repositioned the Greater Zurich Area in difficult times and enabled growth thanks to a new approach - away from geography and towards the marketing of ecosystems that know no cantonal borders. "In an interview a few years ago, when asked about your career plans, you said that you wanted to work internationally and make a difference. You have succeeded in this: Your great achievements and successes are widely recognized - today's award is testament to this."
Through its Strategic Focus Area Personalized Health and Related Technologies (PHRT), in collaboration with Swiss hospitals, the ETH Domain has been promoting the integration of ETH technologies into clinical practice for the benefit of patients since 2017.
Expressing his enthusiasm for the newly funded projects, Bernd Wollscheid, Chairman of the review panel, stated: “By supporting these three projects spearheaded by Empa and PSI, PHRT enables innovative technologies developed within ETH Domain institutions to be evaluated with clinical partners on human samples. Successful translation of such projects today and further testing in clinical trials are the basis for new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies benefiting patients tomorrow.”
These groundbreaking studies, funded by PHRT, exemplify the ETH Domain's commitment to, together with its clinical partners, drive the future of healthcare. By leveraging novel technologies and algorithms developed by the ETH Domain's institutions, these projects aim to enhance clinical decision-making and therapeutics, benefiting patients in Switzerland and worldwide.
The project proposed by Inge Herrmann from Empa in collaboration with the Cantonal Hospital of St. Gallen and the Cleveland Clinic (USA) aims at developing a monitoring system to analyze the surgical drain fluid after digestive surgery. Based on colorimetric sensors, the results of this project will help in preventing complications after surgery and support a more efficient health care for patients undergoing digestive surgery.
The project proposed by Serena Psoroulas at PSI, in collaboration with the University Hospital of Geneva, will test a new form of radiotherapy, called flash proton therapy, in a preclinical model of an aggressive form of brain cancer mainly affecting children. The results of these studies should open the door for the first clinical trial implementing this therapeutic approach in children suffering from this type of cancer.
The project led by Marco Stampanoni of PSI, in collaboration with the University Hospital of Zurich, aims at developing a computer tomography imaging technique based on X-ray phase contrast for mammography. This new technique allows a more detailed assessment of the soft tissues compared to classical X-ray imaging. This study will improve the capacity of diagnosing breast cancer.
Three new projects from Empa and PSI, funded by PHRT, have collectively received CHF 1 million in funding.
Since the first call in 2019, 44 fellows have been selected. The 12 new fellows will start their projects in January 2024 and are working on various topics:
David Jaggi from the School of Management and Law is examining company publications and patent texts in order to develop a method to identify greenwashing using natural language processing and machine learning.
Alice Aubert from the School of Life Sciences and Facility Management is investigatingthe benefit of a digital tool for participatory decision making. The tool will allow citizens to share how they address trade-offs of sustainable developments. "The DIZH Fellowship brings to life that was until now developed and tested in experimental conditions," says Aubert.
Pasquale Cirillo from the School of Management and Law wants to use machine learning to provide industry and regulatory authorities with reliable tools for climate-related financial risks. "Fighting climate change requires huge amounts of money. Our goal is to help financial markets do their part, by offering a more reliable quantification of potential financial losses due to climate change," he says.
Christian Rapp, from the School of Management and Law, will look at teaching academic writing and align it with new AI technologies.
Next to Christian Rapp, also Malgorzata Anna Ulasik from the School of Applied Linguistics has a project about AI and texts. She will compare text production with and without text generators to identify best practices.
Michelle Haas, from the School of Health Sciences, will build on a recently completed project in which the ZHAW and ZHdK developed an exergame for the rehabilitation of cruciate ligament injuries, will deepen the knowledge and validate other important aspects.
Sven Hirsch from the School of Life Sciences and Facility Management is researching the concept of the digital twin in healthcare to virtually recreate patient-specific pathophysiological systems.
Further information on the fellowship program and the other funded fellows (Michael Jüttler, Florian Spychiger, Andrea Günster, Andreas Schönborn and Yulia Sandamirskaya) can be found on the ZHAW digital website.
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