Five Swiss institutions have made it into the Reuters ranking of Europe’s most innovative universities. EPFL was ranked fifth.

Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology made it into the top ten of the 2019 Reuters ranking of the most innovative universities in Europe, which “identifies and thanks the educational institutions doing the most to advance science, invent new technologies and power new markets and industries”.

The Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL) was ranked fifth, and the University of Zurich and the Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH Zurich) came in ninth and tenth, respectively.

50 years of innovation

Researchers at EPFL have developed an advanced composite material that can easily heal itself after being damaged – and which could help businesses save billions in repair costs. The substance is a fiberglass-reinforced resin that has a repair agent incorporated into the composite material; when it cracks, repair crews can simply heat up the material, which activates the repair agent, causing it to flow into the crack and repair the damage without any change to the material’s original properties. Researchers says it could be particularly useful in the construction of wind turbines, which have an estimated annual total global maintenance cost in excess of $13 billion.

Other EPFL researchers are working with multinational automobile manufacturer Nissan, also located in the canton of Vaud, to develop technology that will allow smart cars to read brain signals and facilitate the driving process. As part of the joint project, the team managed to read brain signals that indicated when a driver was about to accelerate, brake or change lanes – information that a vehicle could use to anticipate the movements and make ensuing maneuvers easier. EPFL researchers established 245 startups between 2000 and 2017 (more than one per month, on average), and filed 140 invention disclosures and 95 priority patents in 2017.