Strategic Focus Areas and Strategic Areas

The three Strategic Focus Areas defined for the ERI period 2021–2024 are Personalized Health and Related Technologies, Data Science, and Advanced Manufacturing. In the Strategic Plan 2025–2028, published in July 2022, the ETH Board defines five Strategic Areas.

Strategic Focus Areas 2021–2024

The three Strategic Focus Areas identified by the ETH Board as priority fields address the challenges facing society (see also Strategic Planning 2021–2024). They enable the expertise present within the ETH Domain to be shared in a coordinated manner. The areas in question are:

The purpose of the “personalized medicine” approach is to enable the huge volume of health- and illness-related data that we have at our disposal nowadays to be used to improve patient treatment. Personalized health is synonymous with the efforts to enable the population as a whole to benefit from the findings, such as in the area of prevention.

In addition to the necessary infrastructure, most notably in the area of medical informatics, and the networking of the existing data, this also requires specific research into interdependencies of medical relevance, for instance between genotypic variants and the characteristics of a disease in a specific person. One of the key aspects envisaged in the Strategic Focus Area Personalized Health and Related Technologies is to create platforms which enable different molecular data from clinical samples to be linked and to be made available systematically with a view towards being used further in research.

In addition, there is a focus in different areas on the analysis of certain data types and on understanding their health-related significance, including in terms of the optimised effect of therapeutic approaches by personalising them on the basis of data. It is hoped that this will culminate in the development of devices which provide enhanced support for research and practice in the area of personalized health. The Strategic Focus Area of Personalized Health and Related Technologies seeks to engage closely with the nationwide Swiss Personalized Health Network initiative. As the secure handling and analysis of large volumes of data is essential in all research activities, use is also made of synergies with the Strategic Focus Area Data Science (see below).

Data Science is concerned with the scientific use and secure handling of huge volumes of data. Intensified research and teaching in this area help to deal with the global challenges facing society, such as health, energy and food supply, as well as the use of resources.

With this in mind, EPFL and ETH Zurich are working together on establishing the Swiss Data Science Center (SDSC), which will be at the disposal of researchers from all around Switzerland. The center will facilitate innovative research by bringing together data scientists and experts from the application areas. It will offer the services, such as software, methodology or memory and computer capacities, which researchers of different disciplines require in order to discover ways of using their scientific data efficiently. The SDSC supplements and uses existing research infrastructure such as ETH Zurich’s Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) to enable users from a broad range of disciplines to obtain the best possible support in data science.

In addition to research, infrastructure and services in the area of data science, this strategic focus area is also geared towards training specialists; they are in great demand. This has prompted both ETH Zurich and EPFL to each launch a Master’s degree in Data Science.

The manufacturing industry is currently undergoing radical change. Increasing digitalisation and a more intensive interlinkage between IT systems, machines and products are creating completely new opportunities in the field of production processes and manufacturing technologies, too. These advances are of great significance for Swiss industry since they pave the way for extremely innovative developments in goods manufacturing.

Through their strategic focus area Advanced Manufacturing, the institutions of the ETH Domain are seeking to contribute towards ensuring that Switzerland will remain a world leader in this area and be able to counteract any further de-industrialisation of the country. This strategic focus area is also intended to promote cooperation among the ETH Domain’s research institutions and to enable them to conduct joint research projects in the field of Advanced Manufacturing.

The programme of the strategic focus area Advanced Manufacturing covers five aspects: precision free-form manufacturing, printed electronics, sustainable digital manufacturing and design, sensing technologies and advanced automation.

For Advanced Manufacturing to deliver the greatest practical benefits possible, cooperation with industry will occupy a prominent position. In addition, representatives of industrial partners have significant roles to play in the steering committee of the focus area.

These three Strategic Focus Areas are models of cooperation that have been forged not only between the various institutions within the ETH Domain and other partners within the Swiss university landscape, but also with the federal administration, industry and hospitals. They enable the ETH Domain – and Switzerland as a whole – to position itself as a leader in these crucial areas of research.

Strategic Areas 2025–2028

In the Strategic Plan 2025–2028, published in July 2022, the ETH Board defines five Strategic Areas that it is focusing on in the quest to remain internationally competitive and respond to the most important global challenges. A set of measures were identified in the context of the Domain’s core tasks and key transversal tasks in order to continue achieving excellence in education, research, and knowledge and technology transfer.

Human Health
The institutions of the ETH Domain institutions should build on their expertise and existing competencies in the fields of epidemiology, personalised health, molecular biology, neurosciences, environmental and agricultural sciences, and information sciences.

Energy, Climate and Environmental Sustainability
The ETH Domain aims to address the challenges associated with the energy transition, climate change and the impact of anthropogenic resource and energy consumption on the environment. The ETH Domain institutions intend to focus their efforts along three axes: energy transition; net zero emissions; and biodiversity, climate change, and sustainable construction, mobility and land use.

Responsible Digital Transformation
This Strategic Area seeks to put technological advances linked to digitalisation into a broader context. The development and deployment of state-of-the-art algorithms for machine learning and artificial intelligence are to be expanded, especially in the areas of energy and transportation, the building and infrastructure sector, agriculture, environmental monitoring and health. This will involve data science, software engineering, image processing, computer architecture, computer networking, computer graphics, and cryptography and security.

Advanced Materials and Key Technologies
The ETH Domain aims to spearhead the development of advanced and sustainable materials. Data science, particularly artificial intelligence and machine learning, are of key importance here. They contribute to digital production and advanced manufacturing, and thus to Swiss industry generally. Another key aspect is quantum technology, which promises to revolutionise computing technology and sensor technology.

Engagement and Dialogue with Society
The ETH Domain aims to foster a proactive and open dialogue with society, industry and politics. Such dialogue helps to translate research into concrete solutions and policies, promote science and research, and attract the younger generation into STEM fields.

In addition, basic research is a cornerstone of all institutions of the ETH Domain and an essential element that encompasses all Strategic Areas.