In view of the ETH Domain’s announced budget cuts, lack of compensation for inflation and exclusion from the EU’s “Horizon Europe” framework programme, the institutions of the ETH Domain face major challenges. At its meeting on 24/25 May, the ETH Board stated that the disadvantages of non-association with Horizon Europe cannot be compensated by means of national funding. The ETH Board awarded Thomas Zurbuchen, former Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, a professorship at ETH Zurich. The ETH Board launched the procedure for appointing the successor to the President of EPFL, Martin Vetterli.
Difficult financial outlook for the ETH Domain
Against a backdrop of skills shortages, the institutions of the ETH Domain train key specialist staff needed by Switzerland as a centre for science and enterprise. Some 4,000 people gained a Master’s degree and 1500 a doctorate in 2022, while 54 spin-offs were created in the ETH Domain.
The ETH Domain faces financial challenges in a number of respects. At its March meeting, the ETH Board had already given consideration to the cuts of 2% planned by the Federal Council in the 2024 budget when allocating resources to the institutions of the ETH Domain. Unlike the federal administration, the ETH Domain can not receive an inflation adjustment; the combination of inflation running at 2 to 3% and the budget cuts is equivalent to a reduction in funding of up to 5% compared with the Financial Plan for 2024. The fact that Swiss research continues to be excluded from Horizon Europe is also having a negative impact on the ETH Domain. The financial resources provided at national level cannot make up for these disadvantages.
Thomas Zurbuchen, former head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, becomes a professor at ETH Zurich and Head of the Space initiative at ETH Zurich
The ETH Board has appointed Thomas Zurbuchen as Full Professor of Space Science and Technology in the Department of Earth Sciences. Thomas Zurbuchen was head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate from 2016 to 2022, a role in which he was often described as one of the most influential researchers in the world. He has built up a global network of contacts and has considerable experience of collaborations between science and industry. One of his greatest achievements is the James Webb Telescope, which has raised space research to a whole new level. In November 2022, the Department of Earth Sciences at ETH Zurich awarded him an honorary doctorate for his accomplishments.
He will head the ETH Zurich Space initiative in his new role. His aim is to connect and expand space research and teaching – not only at ETH Zurich and throughout Switzerland, but also in Europe. This is intended to be achieved through closer collaboration with the other institutions of the ETH Domain, including EPFL, the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) and Empa, as well as with other partners from science and industry.
Continuation of Bachelor’s degree in Human Medicine at ETH Zurich
Following the success of the pilot phase, ETH Zurich has strengthened the Bachelor’s degree in Human Medicine introduced in 2017. The course is attracting a great deal of interest and the number of applications received is many times the number of places available. At the request of ETH Zurich, the ETH Board has therefore decided to continue restricting matriculations for the Bachelor’s degree up to and including the autumn semester 2028. A maximum of 100 students per year will be accepted. As before, the suitability of candidates is the deciding factor when applications are considered.
Launch of the procedure for appointing a new President of EPFL
The second and last term of office of the President of EPFL, Martin Vetterli, who has served in this post since January 2017, continues to run until the end of 2024. The ETH Board has launched the procedure for appointing a new President of EPFL and has decided on the composition of the appointment committee. First of all the job profile is being defined, and then the call for applications will go out nationally and internationally in the second half of the year. Martin Vetterli’s successor will be appointed by the Federal Council.
Federal Council elects Pascale Bruderer as Vice President of the ETH Board
The ETH Board has acknowledged the election of Pascale Bruderer as Vice President of the ETH Board and looks forward to working with her in future. She will take up her position on 1 January 2024, replacing Barbara Haering, the current Vice President of the ETH Board, who will be stepping down at the end of 2023. Pascale Bruderer is an independent entrepreneur and member of several boards of directors. Prior to this she was a long-standing National Councillor and Councillor of States. She has a great deal of experience and a wide network in business and politics, and is an ideal addition to the ETH Board.