Institutions and bodies within the ETH Domain

Rolex Learning Center, EPFL Lausanne

ETH Board


The ETH Board is the strategic management and supervisory body of the Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain). Basing itself on the strategic objectives set by the Federal Council as well as on its own strategic planning, the ETH Board establishes objectives for each of the institutions and allocates federal funding accordingly. With this aim, it signs four-year target agreements with the two federal institutes of technology and four research institutes. It supervises these institutions and is responsible for preparing and implementing legislation governing the ETH Domain.

Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich)

Founded back in 1855, the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) is now among the world’s top universities specialised in science and technology. In 2016, it had just under 20,000 undergraduate, graduate and PhD students from 110 different countries. Each year, the Confederation pays nearly CHF 1.3 billion in support of this federal institute.

Around 500 professors teach and conduct research at ETH Zurich in the fields of engineering, architecture, mathematics, natural sciences, system-oriented sciences, management and social sciences.

ETH Zurich considers the transfer of knowledge and technology to the private sector and society as an important endeavour. The numerous spin-off companies (around 300 over the past twenty years) as well as a comprehensive range of CAS, DAS and MAS programmes in various job-related fields are illustrations of this.

ETH Zurich also maintains the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre in Lugano (CSCS), which is among Europe’s top research facilities in this field.

Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)


The Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) was initially founded in 1853 as the Ecole Spéciale de Lausanne. It was renamed the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne when it joined the ETH Domain in 1969. Like ETH Zurich, the EPFL is among the world’s most prominent universities specialised in science and technology. In 2016, it had over 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and PhD students. Each year, the Confederation pays nearly CHF 700 million in support of this federal institute.

The EPFL is comprised of five schools: School of Basic Sciences (SB), School of Engineering (STI), School of Computer and Communication Sciences (IC); School of Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering (ENAC); School of Life Sciences (SV). The offer is completed by the College of Humanities (CDH) and the College of Management of Technology (CDM).

The EPFL is one of the most international higher education institutions in the world. People from over 125 different countries interact with one another on the main campus in Lausanne as well as at the extended campuses in the cantons Fribourg, Geneva, Neuchatel and Valais. The Lausanne campus also has an innovation park, which brings together hundreds of start-up companies and research centres of well-known companies. In recent years, construction of the Rolex Learning Center, the SwissTech Convention Center and the Artlab have given the EPFL an internationally recognised architectonic flair.

Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI)


Based in Villigen (AG), the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) is the largest research facility for natural sciences and engineering in Switzerland. It employs around 2,000 people and receives roughly CHF 320 million (2016) from the Confederation.

Its research activities are concentrated in three main areas: the structure of matter, energy and the environment, people and health. The research facilities run by the PSI – i.e. large-sized SINQ Neutron Source, Swiss Light Source (SLS), SμS Muon Source and the X-ray free-electron laser SwissFEL – are unique in Switzerland, and some can be found nowhere else in the world. The PSI provides the Swiss and international research community as well as industry with access to these facilities. The PSI also has the only facility in Switzerland that enables proton treatment for specific types of cancer.

The PSI provides important services such as the disposal of radioactive waste falling under the authority of the Confederation and manages a school for radiation protection. In addition the PSI is involved in teaching activities at both federal institutes of technology, at cantonal universities and universities of applied sciences and in particular in the supervision of PhD students.

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL)


The Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) is present at various locations in Switzerland: in Birmensdorf, Davos (Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF), Bellinzona (Sottostazione sud delle Alpi), Lausanne and Sion where research is focussed on forestry, ecology and agriculture as well as snow and avalanches. The WSL has over 500 FTEs and receives CHF 50 million (2016) from the Confederation each year.

The WSL is a research facility devoted to the use, management and protection of natural and urban habitats as well as on the handling of natural hazards. In these research fields, it is among the world’s top research facilities. Research findings are used to prepare presentations and offer solutions to decision-makers on the careful and responsible use of Swiss landscapes and forests. Through its implementation and pragmatic programmes, the WSL contributes to a sustainable environmental policy in Switzerland.

The WSL staff supervise PhD theses, teach at higher education institutions and provide services of national interest. Examples include the avalanche forecasting service and the plant protection lab, which is jointly managed with the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) and the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH). The latter enables diagnosis of harmful organisms affecting wood and shrubs as well as safe testing of pest control measures.

Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa)


Based in Dubendorf, Saint Gallen and Thun, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) is an interdisciplinary research institute and service provider specialised in materials science and technology. The Empa employs around 1,000 FTEs and receives around CHF 120 million (2016) from the Confederation each year.

Like the rest of the institutions of the ETH Domain, the Empa is required to pursue scientific excellence. It develops solutions for major industrial and social challenges in the following research focus areas: ‘Nanostructured Materials’, ‘Sustainable Built Environment’, ‘Health and Performance’, ‘Natural Resources and Pollutants’ and ‘Energy’. It works with partners from the private sector and uses spin-off companies as a means of transforming research findings into marketable innovations. This enables the Empa to act as a bridge between research and practice. In addition, the Empa provides numerous scientific and technological services aimed at improving human safety and protecting nature. It also provides guidance and support for young researchers.

Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag)


Based in Dubendorf and Kastanienbaum, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) is one of the world’s top water research institutes. It employs around 500 FTEs and receives around CHF 60 million (2016) from the Confederation each year.

The combination of expertise in natural sciences, engineering and social sciences enables Eawag to carry out interdisciplinary and comprehensive research into aquatic ecosystems. Eawag develops concepts and technologies for the sustainable use of waterways and water resources in general. Working with numerous partner institutions from both the public and private sector, Eawag helps to align potentially conflicting environmental, economic and social interests in relation to water. In this respect, it serves as a bridge between fundamental research and practical applications.

Eawag also takes on many different service and advisory mandates for public and private institutions. It carries out extensive teaching activities at higher education institutions, supervises Bachelor’s and Master’s degree essays and PhD theses and offers a broad range of advanced studies programmes (CAS, DAS and MAS). These teaching activities help to ensure initial and ongoing training of specialists.