The visionaries of the ecosystem

The federalization of EPFL in 1969 embodies an old ambition to create an ecosystem conducive to innovation in the canton of Vaud. Especially since it is being carried out in parallel with the move of the University of Lausanne to the neighbouring site of Dorigny to form the largest campus in Switzerland.

The first three presidents of the establishment (Maurice Cosandey, Bernard Vittoz and Jean-Claude Badoux) then multiply initiatives aimed at promoting both cutting-edge scientific research (including the construction of a Tokamak, prototype of a controlled thermonuclear fusion reactor or the establishment of a computer centre allowing supercomputer simulations), but also its applications that can be transferred to the economy (clean rooms for microelectronics, Science Park or Foundation for Technological Innovation (FIT) for hosting or providing financial support to companies with an innovative character).

During the period 1995-2015, several prominent figures from French-speaking Switzerland will accelerate this strategy. First, Jean-Claude Badoux is negotiating with Bernard Fulpius (Rector of the University of Geneva) and Eric Jornod (Rector of UNIL) a so-called triangular project that will transfer (among other things) the physics and chemistry of UNIL to EPFL. Supported by State Secretary for Research Charles Kleiber, Federal Councillor Ruth Dreifuss and ETH Board President Francis Waldvogel, this project, which begins in 2001 with the support of the Vaud authorities, opens a period of strong growth during which EPFL triples in size.

The same people then choose to entrust the presidency of the school to Patrick Aebischer from 2000. This "axis of French-speaking Switzerland" (continuing through the replacement of Ruth Dreifuss by Pascal Couchepin) will facilitate structuring projects for the ecosystem. In particular, the creation of the Faculty of Life Sciences at EPFL opens up a new field of innovation for engineering in medtechs, which are one of the flagships of the Vaud economy.