Information and communication technologies are going from revolution to revolution. From the importance of social networks in people’s everyday lives, which was inconceivable just ten years ago, to the transformation of our methods of production and consumption, more and more people – both young and old – and objects are now interconnected at all times and in all places. This digital revolution is fundamentally transforming our economy and society. What are the digital applications of the future and how will things stand ten years from now? Two organisations primarily concerned with such issues have today announced the signature of a strategic partnership.
The agreements signed between the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) and Swisscom, Switzerland’s original telecommunications provider, cover the two key areas of interconnected people and homes. They will enable the study of a wide range of areas of application that are opening up thanks to digitalisation – new user interfaces, professional and household robotics, intelligent towns and buildings, biological sensors and artificial intelligence.
Today, the networks are primarily used for communication tools. In the future, they will be the cornerstone of a system permanently connecting billions of networked objects and people. They will provide new functions that will redefine home life, mobility services and medical devices, among other things. “The digital revolution is on its way. To maintain their competitiveness and innovative capability, Switzerland and its companies have to be pioneers in this revolution and Swisscom a key player. In EPFL, in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, we’re seekingleading-edge expertise and multidisciplinary innovation that will enable us to further strengthen our position through our commitment,” explained Urs Schaeppi, CEO of Swisscom.
“Dozens of our laboratories are working on the increased connectivity of people and objects and infrastructure, including data protection issues,” added Patrick Aebischer, President of EPFL. The arrival of Swisscom on our campus will inspire creativity among our students and researchers by providing them with access to the immediate requirements of a leading company with a large customer base.”
Swisscom and EPFL will cooperate closely within three key areas. Their partnership entails the setup of a call-for-proposals fund financed by the operator, worth a million Swiss francs a year for a seven-year period, for applied research projects focusing on its customers needs . The projects, which could involve software or infrastructure solutions as well as objects for the public, will focus on a multidisciplinary approach and cooperation between various laboratories and research facilities. Swisscom will also establish a permanent presence on campus starting in 2016 through its “Digital Lab”. This 428 m2 site in the EPFL Innovation Park will be providing a unique environment to implement and develop pilot projects by pursuing an “open innovation” strategy. Finally, Swisscom is committed to lending fresh impetus to the campus ecosystem by organising events related to the challenges of digitalisation, supporting the ecosystem of start-ups and, more generally, by stimulating exchanges between the operator’s staff and students and researchers. The projects implemented as part of the partnership will be developed on the Lausanne campus as well as on other EPFL sites in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, especially in Fribourg in relation with the project Smart Living Lab.
The agreement signed on Wednesday, 16 December 2015, allows the two major players to combine their efforts in a field offering enormous potential for innovation, on both a large and small scale. This partnership is set to make Switzerland a model at the European level in terms of access to digital solutions.
Swisscom is the leading telecommunications provider and one of the key ICT players in Switzerland. Its headquarters are located in Ittigen near to Berne. Outside of Switzerland, Swisscom provides broadband internet access in Italy via Fastweb. Almost 21,500 employees generate annual revenues of around CHF 11.5 billion (2014) with CHF 8.65 billion posted in the 3rd quarter 2015. Swisscom is one of the most sustainable companies in Switzerland and Europe.
EPFL is one of two Federal Institutes of Technology in Switzerland. Its main campus on the shores of Lake Geneva and its various research facilities in Switzerland and abroad bring together almost 10,000 students and 5,500 researchers and staff from 120 countries. EPFL provides a comprehensive range of courses in engineering, the sciences, architecture, life sciences and management. Research covers both fundamental scientific subjects as well as topics related to society in the fields of the environment, construction, energy and mobility. With its state-of-the-art technological facilities, its commitment to distance learning (MOOCs) and its flagship projects, EPFL has become one of the most prestigious scientific institutions in Europe and in the top 15 worldwide. The institution set up in 1853 and made federal in 1969 has focused heavily on the culture of innovation and technology transfer from the outset. The Swiss Innovation Park hosts over 120 start-ups and research centres of companies conducting cutting-edge research at the EPFL site.
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