Five new research facilities of national importance

In the period 2021-2024, the Confederation will provide funding for a total of thirty-one research facilities of national importance under Art. 15 of the Federal Act on the Promotion of Research and Innovation (RIPA). These include two technology transfer centres and three research infrastructures that will receive federal funding for the first time. These infrastructures complement the federal government's funding portfolio in key areas.

Five new names appear among the research facilities funded under Article 15 RIPA in the 2021-2024 budgetary period: the technology transfer centres ANAXAM and Swiss m4m Center as well as the research infrastructures EuroTube Foundation, Gosteli Foundation and Swiss Polar Institute. Funding for these facilities is aligned with the Confederation's order of priorities for research facilities of national importance and is based on the results of a review conducted by the Swiss Science Council (SSC). These five research facilities are illustrative of the broad spectrum of federally funded areas of expertise and remits, including medical technology, humanities and social sciences, environmental research and engineering sciences.


ANAXAM allows companies to use neutron and X-ray radiation to analyse surface structures. Photo: ANAXAM/Christian Grünzweig

‘ANAXAM’ stands for Analytics with Neutrons and X-Rays for Advanced Manufacturing. The ANAXAM facility uses neutrons and X-rays to analyse the structure of materials and provides advisory services to clients in this area. In particular, ANAXAM facilitates client access to the services and infrastructure of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). ANAXAM is one of the two technology transfer centres established as part of the AM-TTC initiative (see infbox).

‘For ANAXAM, securing federal funding is the equivalent of obtaining knighthood,’ says Prof. Dr. Frithjof Nolting, who chairs ANAXAM’s Board of Directors. ‘Previously, we had made it through selection in various calls for tenders, but often funding could only be released if we could also obtain federal funding under Art. 15 RIPA. Now we can devote our attention entirely on impressing clients with our problem-solving expertise, offering them material analysis that goes far beyond laboratory test results.’

The ANAXAM centre is located at Park Innovaare in Villingen, Aargau, which is part of the Switzerland Innovation site. It is supported by the Canton of Aargau, the PSI, the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (NSI) at the University of Basel.

Swiss m4m Center

The Swiss m4m Center provides Swiss SMEs with access to 3D printing technologies, which allows them to produce innovative medical implants. Photo: Swiss m4m Center AG, Pat Lerch, LERCHDESIGN AG

The Swiss Center of Manufacturing Technologies for Medical Applications (Swiss m4m Center) provides SMEs from the medtech sector with access to 3D printers that can be used to produce patient-specific implants or run small-series production of innovative implants. Their main offering includes a certified pilot manufacturing line as well as corresponding consulting and support services and training. The Swiss m4m Center is the second technology transfer centre created under the AM-TTC initiative to have received federal funding under Art. 15 RIPA.

Thomas Wahl, Chairman of the Board of Directors, emphasises the importance of federal funding for the Swiss m4m Center: ‘We give Swiss SMEs industry-related access to 3D printing technology for the production of medical implants and instruments. Without federal funding, it would not be possible to build and operate the 3D printing manufacturing line nor develop the skills needed for consulting and training at the Swissm4mcenter.’

The Swiss m4m Center is located in Bettlach in the Canton of Solothurn. In addition to private individuals, the sponsors of this public-private partnership include the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA), the Bern University of Applied Sciences and the Ticino University of Applied Sciences as well as the Cantons of Bern and Solothurn.

EuroTube Foundation

Among other things, the EuroTube Foundation intends to build a test track to develop vacuum transport technology. Photo: EuroTube Foundation

The EuroTube Foundation conducts research on vacuum transport technology, which offers the promise of more sustainable long-distance travel in the future. To explore this technology, EuroTube intends to build a three-kilometre test track in Collombey-Muraz (Canton of Valais) to test specific aspects such as the transport capsules. EuroTube plans to carry out projects and tests with researchers and to offer expertise and services to industry, thus contributing to knowledge and technology transfer. EuroTube is also involved in teaching activities, e.g. in the supervision of Master's theses.

‘By awarding federal funding, the Confederation recognises the efforts made by our team and partners to create a Swiss research cluster for vacuum transport technologies. These fundamental research infrastructures are designed for a completely new industry. Our work is accelerating the development and training of an entire generation of young innovators in Switzerland,’ says Doré de Morsier, President of the EuroTube Foundation.

The EuroTube Foundation maintains ties with the ETH Domain and various Swiss universities of applied sciences, as well as with leading European universities.

Gosteli Foundation

The Gosteli Foundation archive contains a wide variety of reference materials on the history of the Swiss women's movement. Photo: Gosteli Foundation

The Gosteli Foundation was founded by Marthe Gosteli, who championed the cause of women's suffrage in Switzerland. By creating an archive, Marthe Gosteli sought to document the history of the Swiss women's movement and women's rights organisations. Today the archive is run by the Gosteli Foundation. The archive materials include books, newspaper articles and brochures as well as photographs, films, sound recordings and increasingly digital content. These archival records and documentation are important for researchers in various fields.

Kathrin Bertschy, President of the Foundation Board, is pleased that the Gosteli Foundation is recognised as a research facility of national importance: ‘With federal funding, we are able to continue developing our foundation further, making it an important place of remembrance of Swiss women's history as well as a centre of excellence enjoying considerable renown. In addition, we will soon be able to properly digitalise archive materials and make them available online, thereby encouraging teachers and researchers to make more extensive use of these important archival records on democracy and women's history.’

The foundation, which is now federally funded as a research facility of national importance, is based in Worblaufen in the Canton of Bern. Thanks to funding from both the Confederation and the Canton of Bern, the archive can continue to operate and reach a broader user base, particularly by digitalising its archival records.

Swiss Polar Institute

SPI-backed researchers monitor the calving glacier Eqip Sermia in West Greenland. Photo: E. van Dongen

As a research facility, the Swiss Polar Institute (SPI) serves the Swiss scientific community involved in Antarctic, Arctic and high-altitude research. The SPI pursues a wide range of different activities: it facilitates access to the field and to international research infrastructures, for instance, and is involved in organising international expeditions. The SPI also helps Swiss researchers cover the costs of travel and equipment for such expeditions and offers courses on health and safety or provides assistance with data management.

Prof. Dr. Martin Vetterli, President of the Swiss Polar Institute, feels that federal funding shows recognition of the important contributions that the SPI makes in this area and opens the way for Swiss researchers to take part in international expeditions: "Federal support for the Swiss Polar Institute shows recognition of the importance of Swiss research on polar and high-altitude environments and its crucial contribution to our knowledge of climate change. This status will enable us to not only offer researchers unique opportunities to gain access to international infrastructures and expeditions, but also to increase the visibility and impact of their work.’

The SPI is supported by various universities, namely the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETHZ), the universities of Lausanne, Bern and Zurich, as well as the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). SPI headquarters will be in Sion in the Canton of Valais.