In Lausanne, the EPFL Innovation Park gives an encore

For the thirtieth anniversary, the Federal Polytechnic launches Ecotope, which will expand with a new hub for research and start-ups one km from the previous one

A rendering of Ecotope, the additional innovation hub of the ETH Lausanne to be built in Ecublens (Illustration: GXN and Itten+Brechbühl)
A rendering of Ecotope, the additional innovation hub of the ETH Lausanne that will be built in Ecublens
(Illustration: GXN and Itten+Brechbühl)

The Innovation Park of the ETH Lausanne turns thirty and is ready to expand with a new site, called Ecotope, where startups, researchers and external companies will be able to pool their resources to explore innovative ideas, all with the Canton of Vaud as main partner.
“Ecotope will be a great advantage for our Canton”, says Philippe Leuba, head of the Vaudois Department of Economy, Innovation and Sport.
“It will stimulate innovation, and therefore job creation, make EPFL a more competitive school and strengthen our economy overall”.
About six decades after the opening of the Innovation Park, plans are being made to double its capacity.
“But it's not just about adding surface”, says Ursula Oesterle, Vice President of the ETH Lausanne for innovation and architect of the initiative.
“Today, companies interested in innovation, whether they are startups or established companies, need a place to meet on a daily basis to share ideas. This is the kind of vibrant and inspiring environment we aim to create with Ecotope”.

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The objectives of Ecotope, the additional innovation pole of the ETH Lausanne which will be built in Ecublens
The objectives of Ecotope, the additional innovation pole of the Federal Polytechnic University of Lausanne which will be built in Ecublens

Additional 55.000 square meters for the benefit of the community within the next ten years

The approximately thirty spin-offs that leave our laboratories every year struggle to find a commercial location and the space assigned to large companies to carry forward innovative ideas is full.
The Innovation Park is already home to over 150 startups and 30 large companies employing over 2.600 people.
In view of the need for more space and the attractiveness of the Park, the EPFL Innovation Park Foundation has partnered with the Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, the Canton of Vaud and the city of Ecublens to double the surface area of ​​the Park, currently 55.000 square meters, within the next ten years.

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Ursula Oesterle is the Vice-President of the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) for innovation
Ursula Oesterle is the Vice-President of the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) for innovation

Ursula Oesterle: "Many companies think about how they can contribute to a better future"

But Ecotope's goals run deeper. After listening to researchers, startups and other businesses describe the challenges they face, Ursula Oesterle and her team wanted to provide more than just additional office space.
“We have heard many entrepreneurs talk about their companies in terms of their mission, impact and role in society”, explains the manager.
“Beyond expected financial returns, more and more companies, small businesses and business executives are looking more closely at how their businesses can contribute to building a better future, especially in the current climate of challenges and uncertainties”.

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A rendering of Ecotope, the additional innovation hub of the ETH Lausanne to be built in Ecublens (Illustration: GXN and Itten+Brechbühl)
A rendering of Ecotope, the additional innovation hub of the ETH Lausanne that will be built in Ecublens
(Illustration: GXN and Itten+Brechbühl)

A peaceful work environment in harmony with all the surrounding nature

Ecotope wants to be an ecosystem in its own right, where politicians, researchers, investors, managers, entrepreneurs, students and citizens can come together for an open dialogue and debate. The specifications given to the architects for the project were therefore exacting.
The new site must not only integrate perfectly with the surrounding natural environment, but must also offer the occupants a peaceful working environment, with common spaces and "village square" areas for brainstorming and ideation.
It should also encourage people from different backgrounds to join forces in finding innovative solutions. Much of the new design aims to promote this type of informal conversation and interaction.

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The logo of the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)
The logo of the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)

Thanks to the support of the city of Ecublens, a "clean" transport system is in the pipeline

In the first phase of construction work on the new site, which is scheduled to start in 2023, approximately 25.000 square meters of office, laboratory and collaborative space will be built by an architectural firm selected in early June through a competitive tender .
Ecotope will be located just one kilometer away from the Innovation Park, which is a key part of the project.
With the support of the city of Ecublens, a clean transport system will also be implemented which will allow people to move easily between the two research and development poles.

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Philippe Leuba is the Head of the Department of Economy, Innovation and Sport of the Canton of Vaud
Philippe Leuba is the Head of the Department of Economy, Innovation and Sport of the Canton of Vaud

Philippe Leuba: “We will develop answers to our main economic and social obstacles”

Ecotope is intended to serve as a hotbed of innovation and to support the strategy of the ETH Lausanne of tackling today's major societal challenges, such as sustainability, the environment, ageing, artificial intelligence and healthcare, through a interdisciplinary.
The scale of these challenges is so vast that solutions can only be found by drawing on many different fields.
These challenges are also top priorities for public officials.
“EPFL's strategic focus areas and the sectors in which the resulting startups operate are completely in line with our priorities”Leuba says.
“With Ecotope, our Canton has the unique opportunity to create a forum where businesses, engineers, scientists and society at large can join their efforts to develop answers to the main economic and social obstacles we face”.

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Martin Vetterli is the President of the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) (Photo: Francois Wavre)
Martin Vetterli is the President of the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) (Photo: Francois Wavre)

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The President of the ETH Lausanne, Martin Vetterli, believes that the Innovation Park is central to these efforts.
Our school pioneered XNUMX years ago when it physically brought university researchers and businesses together in one location and forged close links with the Swiss economy and society,” he says.
“We started supporting startups very early on, and this has proved to be a winning strategy. Personally, when I am called upon to advise young researchers, I encourage them to pursue a career in industry as much as in academia. We can make a difference in both sectors”.
And yet: “Ecotope marks a key step forward in this journey and will help ensure EPFL remains a key player in the local economy and a major driver of our dynamic region”.

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The campus of the ETH Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva
The campus of the ETH Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva

A decisive contribution to the affirmation of the area overlooking Lake Geneva

Ecotope will also help the ETH Lausanne, and more generally the Lake Geneva area, to consolidate its leadership position in innovation and new business creation.
The new headquarters will confirm the long tradition of close cooperation between partner organizations in the area, such as the University of Lausanne, the University of Art and Design Lausanne (ECAL), the School of Economics and Engineering (HEIG), the for Management Development (IMD), La Source and the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL).
This approach has proven its worth: between 2013 and 2021, for example, companies on the shores of Lake Geneva raised around SFr3,6 billion in venture capital, equivalent to 30 percent of the Swiss total (the Zurich area collected 36 per cent).
The number of startups born out of EPFL increased from 5 in 2005 to 33 last year. These young companies raised a total of CHF 25 million in 2005 and CHF 779 million in 2021.

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The presentation of the project "EPFL Ecotope - Futures we create"

A rendering of Ecotope, the additional innovation hub of the ETH Lausanne to be built in Ecublens (Illustration: GXN and Itten+Brechbühl)
A rendering of Ecotope, the additional innovation hub of the ETH Lausanne to be built in Ecublens (Illustration: GXN and Itten+Brechbühl)