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EPFL: fostering innovation for 25 years

Fritz Schiesser, Martin Vetterli, Marc Gruber, Etienne Marclay and Jean-Philippe Lallement © 2018 EPFL / Alain Herzog

Fritz Schiesser, Martin Vetterli, Marc Gruber, Etienne Marclay and Jean-Philippe Lallement © 2018 EPFL / Alain Herzog

EPFL Innovation Park is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and its track record speaks for itself. Building A was officially opened in 1993 and has since been joined by 12 others. That building is today being renamed to honor the memory of Claudine and Bernard Vittoz, who founded EPFL Science Park and were generous benefactors.

EPFL Innovation Park is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and its track record speaks for itself. Building A was officially opened in 1993 and has since been joined by 12 others. That building is today being renamed to honor the memory of Claudine and Bernard Vittoz, who founded EPFL Science Park and were generous benefactors.

EPFL Innovation Park (EIP) currently houses more than 2,250 employees, 26 large companies, 116 start-ups and more than 75 entrepreneurial projects at the incubator stage – all this on the edge of a campus containing some 340 laboratories. These are impressive figures given that the science park's first seed was planted only 25 years ago.

In 1991, when EPFL President Bernard Vittoz launched the Science Park Foundation, he was a pioneer. His ambition was to create a space that would stimulate innovation and the transfer of technology by bringing start-ups and companies close to the university campus, its researchers and students. In 1993, there was the official opening of Building A, the first in a blossoming complex that now features 13 buildings. That marked the creation of Switzerland's first science park, which was renamed EPFL Innovation Park in 2014.

A new name

Over its 25-year history, Building A has housed more than 100 start-ups. Today, after an impressive refurbishment, it is celebrating its anniversary by adopting a new name. As a tribute to Bernard Vittoz, as well as his wife Claudine who recently left part of her estate to the Foundation, the building now bears their names. “Professor Vittoz was a visionary who understood very early on the importance of physical proximity between researchers and entrepreneurs,” remembers Jean-Philippe Lallement, CEO of the EPFL Innovation Park Foundation. “His drive and charisma allowed the plan to take shape and develop. Mrs. Vittoz also gave the plan her wholehearted support.”

The anniversary is also an opportunity for EIP to continue its development, in order to maintain its appeal and address the needs of its various user communities as effectively as possible. “EPFL Innovation Park is now almost full, so it’s important that we foster the innovative spirit of the companies we have here. A key part of our efforts is to create spaces that encourage interaction and provide opportunities to meet,” explains Marc Gruber, chairman of the EPFL Innovation Park Foundation.

The aim is to foster contact between entrepreneurs and researchers, both formally and informally, by creating meeting areas and organizing events. The Foundation plans to create a walkway that shows how scientific ideas born in EPFL’s laboratories have made their way to market. It also wants to encourage members of EIP and the broader campus, as well as visitors, to spend time in the park’s green spaces by installing innovative and attractive furniture there.


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