Giving innovation a major boost

Cover Image: Empa researcher Francis Schwarze has developed a process for produc
Cover Image: Empa researcher Francis Schwarze has developed a process for producing bioluminescent wood using fungi. The fungal filaments of a white rot fungus penetrate the wood and feed on wood components, producing the light-generating substance luciferin. Similar to fireflies, the functionalized wood emits a greenish light in the dark thanks to the glowing fungal filaments. Image: Empa
We hope to lead you on a gripping journey through the world of research and innovation; you may be surprised at how broad the term "applied research" is defined at Empa.

The past year was characterized by major progress and some groundbreaking initiatives that we launched, in many cases in close cooperation with our partners. I would like to give you an overview of the latest developments and an insight into the many exciting prospects that lie ahead.

Our aim to boost innovation has inspired us to introduce new internal tools and processes to help us develop groundbreaking ideas faster and initiate new, forward-looking research activities. The first two of our newly launched "Research Boosters", this time in the fields of biomedicine and 2D materials, are a case in point. We are concentrating on new institute-wide initiatives such as Mining the Atmosphere, which enable us to focus our interdisciplinary research even more on a clear objective.

Interdisciplinarity, which is at the heart of our research philosophy, is also reflected in our partly renewed senior management team. Over the past 18 months, four new department heads with extremely diverse backgrounds - from large corporations to start-ups and application-oriented, translational research - have taken on their roles at Empa. This diversity fuels creativity and strengthens our ability to find innovative solutions to the complex challenges of our time.

The close partnership with our sister institute Eawag focuses on pooling our strengths. Under the heading of Climate Solutions, we are working together on solutions for dealing with and counteracting climate change; we will, for instance, be chipping in our Mining the Atmosphere activities. More specifically and in the context of Beyond Zero and circularity, we are already planning several NEST units that will demonstrate solutions for a sustainable, resource-conserving future. Our new Empa-Eawag campus co-operate, which will go into operation later this year, will support us with various innovative approaches such as a large geothermal probe field to take us a significant step closer to our on-campus goal of net zero.

Of course, the challenges we face are enormous. We are convinced that we can only master them successfully through comprehensive cooperation across the entire ETH Domain and beyond. We are therefore actively involved in various joint initiatives within the ETH Domain, whether in the field of energy or other topics. Our goal is clear-cut: We want to achieve maximum impact by further advancing our research through an increased focus and a joining of forces - both internally and in collaboration with our numerous partners from research and industry.