Three new CROSS projects chosen to address issues facing society

© iStock Image, credits: hanohiki

© iStock Image, credits: hanohiki

The 2024 edition of the CROSS (Collaborative Research on Science and Society) program invited researchers from EPFL and the University of Lausanne to submit proposals for joint projects that bring together the natural sciences and engineering with social sciences and humanities to address some of the most pressing societal challenges.

CROSS encourages interdisciplinary projects from joint UNIL-EPFL teams that deal with current issues in society and technology. The program provides competitive grants to support new seed research endeavors that have the potential to grow into full–scale interdisciplinary research projects.

Unlike in years past, there was no specific theme for 2024, so researchers could propose a project addressing any issue or research question they found pertinent. Each project will receive up to CHF 60,000 to be shared between the two institutions.

2024 CROSS projects

LOCAL: Lifestyles and Carbon emissions in the Arc Lemanique territory

  • Claudia R. Binder, EPFL (ENAC)
  • Julia Steinberger, UNIL (IGD)

In order to support transition policies at the level of the Arc lemanique territory, “LOCAL: Lifestyles and Carbon impact in the Arc Lemanique territory” is a project aiming to quantify the energy and carbon footprint of its inhabitants’ lifestyle and their socio-economic determinants by jointly analyzing the different spheres of activity and their interactions. The project is based on an interdisciplinary methodology at the interface of environmental economics, urban metabolism, urban sociology, and industrial ecology and is part of a broader study based on the survey “Panel lemanique de suivi de la durabilite des pratiques” lead by EPFL’s ENAC School for a period of 5 years. Hence, LOCAL is an important step for local authorities towards a contextual understanding of regional carbon emissions and for the advancement of research on the interrelated dynamics of individual change and territorial policies in the face of climate change.

Disruptive virtual agent for ideation

  • Denis Gillet, EPFL (STI)
  • Samuel Bendahan, UNIL (HEC)

Our project proposes to investigate a new way to use artificial agents by introducing a disruptive virtual agent to enrich collaborative ideation processes. The virtual agent will bring new perspectives to these activities in the form of a “productive bias” towards novel ideas. This could in turn counterbalance the cognitive effect of fixation, which prevents participants from generating alternative ideas due to the fixation initially proposed ideas. Our research on the effect of such agent will be instrumental to the design of integrated and interactive digital systems for collaborative ideation.

Making it Together: Interfacing Human-Robot Teams for Collaborative Construction

  • Stefana Parascho, EPFL (ENAC)
  • Marc Audetat, UNIL (ISS)

The construction of buildings is a process with several pain points of concern, including carbon emissions and high risks to workers. There is an industry potential to mitigate these challenges with robotics. Prior to being fully implemented in construction, robotic processes must be collaborative with humans. Borrowing from principles of semiotics and ongoing research in anthropomorphic machines, the project explores how sensing and signaling technology could be leveraged to establish communication, including recognition, categorization, association, coexistence, prediction. The project is designed as a technology assessment, documenting its impact on collaboration and workflow adaptability between the agents. By conducting interdisciplinary analysis of the human-robot interaction based on current CRCL work, the project aims at achieving a technology foresight in order to better inform further decisions in funding research and innovation in construction robotics.