Annual report 2020

Which researchers excelled? What were the milestones in the development of our teaching? And what was the most innovative research? The annual report 2020 describes ETH’s achievements and performance in a challenging year.

2020 has been a turbulent year for ETH. It has highlighted our own vulnerability and our exposure to the wider interconnected world. The pandemic has affected every area of society, including educational and research institutions. The switch to online teaching, the temporary suspension of experimental research and the transfer of administrative staff to working from home all placed serious demands on the entire ETH community. Many ETH members went above and beyond, despite the circumstances: students volunteered to work in overstretched hospitals, while researchers launched projects to combat the pandemic and joined the scientific task force to contribute their expertise to the public good. Much of this year’s annual report documents the incredible commitment university members have shown in these unprecedented times.

In a united response to the pandemic, scientists from many different disciplines have come together to form an advisory group for Switzerland. Twelve ETH researchers have prominent roles in this national body. Read the article on the Scientific Task Force in the annual report.

Martin Ackermann, Annette Oxenius Sebastian Bonhoeffer, Thomas Van Boeckel, Tanja Stadler Eleonora Secchi, Mirko Meboldt, Roman Stocker Jan-Egbert Sturm, Manfred Kopf Markus Stoffel, Effy Vayena

Even if the COVID pandemic may have dominated the past year, 2020 was more than trying to master a healthcare crisis. The situation also led to many innovations in teaching and continuing education, while important markers were set for the future in key strategic areas. One example is the launch of the ETH AI Center, the university’s central hub for artificial intelligence, which draws on the skills of researchers from all academic departments. Another highlight has been the major investment in research into quantum technologies, which was boosted by a generous donation of 40 million Swiss francs.

The quality of the university’s basic research is partly reflected in the many prestigious awards received by ETH scientists, such as Ruedi Aebersold, winner of the Swiss Science Prize Marcel Benoist. In total, 24 of our researchers received one of the coveted ERC grants. ETH was equally successful at the other end of the scientific value chain - the transfer of knowledge to industry and society. There were 34 new spin-offs and 215 new industry partnerships in 2020.

Other infographics on important key figures of ETH Zurich can be found in the annual report and online.

The university pressed ahead with the rETHink project for restructuring its organisation. Amongst other things, this led to the creation of two new Executive Board domains, with the appointment of Julia Dannath-Schuh as the new Vice President for Personnel Development and Leadership, and Vanessa Wood as Vice President for Knowledge Transfer and Corporate Relations.

«In 2020 the new SwissCovid app and the development of vaccines in record time showed that science is an essential force in the fight against the pandemic. We can only master this and many other global challenges by working together - with Europe and with the international community. My sincere thanks go to all representatives from political circles, public authorities and industry, as well as our benefactors, whose belief in education and research has given us valuable support in these especially demanding times. »