An artist's impression of the future IBM-ETHZ research centre

An artist’s impression of the future IBM-ETHZ research centre
© Keystone
by Tom Armitage
Zurich – 25 June 2008 | 15:30

The Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich has announced a major new joint venture with information technology giant IBM to share a 90-million dollar research facility on the shores of Lake Zurich. The project to build joint infrastructure for nanotechnology research is the first public-private partnership of its kind in Switzerland.

IBM will pay 60 million dollars to build the new 6,000 square metres facility at a site in Rüschlikon, south-west of the city, which will then be leased back to the Federal Insitute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ) in a deal that makes the new building affordable for the university. IBM and ETHZ will share the 30 million dollars cost of equipping the research centre. This is the first time that industry and academia have cooperated in Switzerland to create and share a facility.

The novelty of the agreement lies in the fact that the ETH can use the facility and its technology to collaborate with other companies, without IBM’s involvement. The freedom to practice with other small and medium-sized Swiss companies guarantees the ETH’s independence and should ensure that the regional economy continues to benefit from the returns generated from innovative, nano-technology-based solutions to problems posed by fields as diverse as technology and healthcare.

“The future of small and medium sized companies in Switzerland, Western Europe and North America depends on innovation,” said Peter Chen, Vice President Research ETH Zurich. “They can’t build these facilities alone and therefore this new facility will serve as a magnet for innovation in the Zurich area. It fits our mandate, it is good business for IBM and so it’s a win-win for all concerned.”