09.05.14 - This morning, the opening ceremony of the Microcity building in Neuchatel took place. The construction already hosts ten EPFL chairs as well as the Neode Science and Technology Park. It is located in the same neighborhood where the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM) is established as well as premises of the University of Neuchâtel and the Haute Ecole Arc (HE-Arc). This new structure constitutes the cornerstone of the new "Neuchatel Innovation Cluster."

In 2006, Neuchatel’s Council of State pledged its aim to develop the fields of micro and nano-technology. The following year, the Swiss Confederation and the Canton of Neuchatel formalized their cooperation through the signing of a joint declaration of intent. Thus, in May 2010 the Grand Council unanimously accepted to grant a credit of 71.4 million Swiss francs for the construction of the Microcity building.

Meanwhile, a new district layout was approved by the City of Neuchatel’s general Council. A significant investment loan was accepted so that the entire area would fit the design of this new micro-technology jewel in Neuchatel. In February 2010, the Microcity project was submitted by the general contractor ERNE and the urban design firm Bauart. It was chosen among several submissions within the framework of an architectural competition for the technology site.

The design of the building is inspired on integrated circuits. As desired, its structure provides maximum capacity for movement and functionality. In addition, much attention was paid to the building materials with the aim of reducing its ecological footprint. "For instance, the floors are made of prefabricated hybrid wood-concrete components. This allowed us to reduce the construction duration and make use of local materials," explained Emmanuel Rey, partner at Bauart and teacher at EPFL.

In October 2011, Microcity’s foundation stone was laid. Less than two years later, in September 2013, thanks to innovative construction procedures, the Council of State handed the building to EPFL, its future operator. Its inauguration took place this Thursday, 8 May 2014.

EPFL took up residence in these new premises during last fall. The building is also home to Neode, Neuchatel’s Science and Technology Park. However, this is not EPFL’s first site in Neuchatel as EPFL’s IMT had already settled there since the beginning of 2009. Since then, no less than four research chairs were created, leading the way for today’s 10 chairs – there will soon be an 11th chair in partnership with the Richemont watchmaker group - and about 180 employees. The idea is to host a total of 12 chairs in a near future. The list of these EPFL research chairs in Neuchatel can be found on:

Innovation up and running

In such a way, Microcity, together with its innovation cluster, hosts a thorough and effective skills hub. EPFL, CSEM, the University of Neuchatel, HE-Arc and Neode coexist within the heart of one the densest industrial regions of Europe with an exceptionally elevated concentration of high-tech factories.

"The establishment of EPFL in Neuchatel reinforces our network of micro-technology skills and contributes to the canton’s development at a national and international scope," said Laurent Kurth, chairman of the Council of State, adding: "Today, the Council of State wants to encourage innovation and creation. By exploiting its creative potential, Neuchatel ratifies its vocation of being a wealth producing canton and contributes to the strengthening of industrial Switzerland ".

For his part, EPFL’s President Patrick Aebischer stated: "An temple for innovation: that is Microcity, at the heart of Neuchatel. By hosting research teams of EPFL’s Institute of Microengineering and entrepreneurs of the Neode Science Park under one roof, right next to the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology, this building embodies progress as it is conceived in the 21st century. "

On May 10th, Microcity opens its doors to the public. See the full programme here.