Science City aims to fuel world-class research: the Federal Institute of Technology is targeted for sweeping change beginning in November 2005. Swiss News looks at plans for the new 'Science City.'.

AuteurMeen, Elizabeth
Fonction Education

Despite top marks in continental Europe, officials say the university (ETH) will not continue to attract the world's best scientific minds, and research projects, without a 400-million CHF expansion.

Gerhard Schmitt, ETH vice-president of planning and logistics, said the university is pursuing partnerships with industry in Switzerland and abroad, "especially in biotechnology and life sciences." In one initiative, ETH and Zurich University are approaching investors and partners in the United Arab Emirates.

Closer to home, ETH's Honggerberg campus, the centre of university research, is in line for a makeover by 2010, with new science labs, neighbourhoods, shops, restaurants, a sports centre and a congress centre.

"To stay competitive with big league universities, world wide, you have to offer the opportunity to live on campus with access to all the amenities," Schmitt tells Swiss News. "We don't offer that now. We intend to attract young talented scientists from around the world ... and we're hoping bright minds will give the campus a special charisma."

The Plans

In November, ETH Zurich placed 10th in the world, leading continental Europe in world university rankings sponsored by The Times newspaper in London. And with its utilitarian buildings, labs and lecture halls, the Honggerberg campus looks like an academic think-tank.

But in the past month, plans for a "Science City" on the site, located 12 km northwest of the sister campus in Zurich City, have leapt off the proverbial drawing board to capture public imagination.

Funding is in place for a November start on phase one, a state-of-the-art "e-science laboratory" to open in 2006. The laboratory will serve as a centre for computer simulation and the information sciences, and provide work places for 480 scientists and space for 750 students.

Half the construction budget for the laboratory was donated by Zurich entrepreneur Branco Weiss, 75, a chemical engineer from the class of 51 who gave 23 million CHF to "do something useful," for his alma mater.

ETH says 250 million CHF will be spent on the construction of the "city" pm of science city, while 150 million CHF is invested in the "science" part. About 225 million CHF has yet to be raised privately.

Challenges at Home

The next challenge is to persuade the Municipal Council of Zurich to amend zoning restrictions to allow housing for 1,000 students on the university property, Schmitt says.

Last year, about 1,000 neighbours attended a series of...

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