In 2022, ENAC celebrated its 20th anniversary in style. Some 700 people attended a major event to mark this important milestone, with an exciting program.
In 2022, ENAC celebrated its 20th anniversary in style. Some 700 people attended a major event to mark this important milestone, with an exciting program featuring keynote speakers, a 90-booth exhibition showcasing our research and innovation, and a panel discussion with all former ENAC Deans on the future challenges in education. I’m immensely grateful to everyone who attended the event, and to the team who worked hard behind the scenes to make it happen. Once again, our school demonstrated its unique ability to develop solutions that will help shape a more sustainable future.
Also last year, we welcomed no less than 13 new professors across our school’s three disciplines. Through their fresh ideas and new research interests, they’re strengthening our degree programs, research activities and capacity for innovation as well as contributing to the transition to a more sustainable natural and built environment.
In 2022, ENAC continued to support single- and interdisciplinary research at the cutting edge. Our scientists and engineers won a number of prestigious international distinctions for their work. Furthermore, our school continued to support forward-thinking, interdisciplinary research tackling key sustainability-oriented topics such as climate change, digitalization and urban development. We awarded grants to eight research groups that combine expertise from two or more disciplines.
It was also a busy year for the ENAC Diversity Office, which ran a series of initiatives throughout 2022. These included a survey on hiring practices for non-teaching staff, awareness-raising workshops on discrimination and harassment, film screenings with commentary from experts on the topic of discrimination, and the compilation of statistics on gender diversity at ENAC.
The Design Together program and the Student Kreativity and Innovation Laboratory (SKIL), which opened in 2018, testify to the fact that project-based learning is hardwired into our school’s DNA. This learning method is especially popular among students, with around 1,000 of them using SKIL’s facilities in 2022. Also last year, EPFL opened the Student Prototyping and Outreach Tank (SPOT), a new makerspace that builds on SKIL’s pioneering vision and is intended to run alongside it. SPOT has already served as a springboard for a number of ambitious student projects, such as rebuiLT, which focuses on sustainable building methods.
As in previous years, we continued to push ahead on open science. For instance, we held our first summer school to build awareness of the issue; the program was put together by PhD students, including several from ENAC. Another highlight was the hiring of an Open Science Catalyst – a new, strategically important role created to drive the implementation of our ambitious open science strategy. In 2022, our school obtained five grants through the ETH Domain open science call. Highlights of our work in this area are now published on our website as a way to raise the profile of open research within our school. Last but not least, we welcomed several new hires to our ENAC-IT4Research team, which provides a vital service at a time when the scientific community is increasingly recognizing the value of open-science practices.
In addition to making scientific breakthroughs, ENAC researchers pushed ahead in 2022 with implementing their innovative ideas in practice. They built bridges between the public and private sectors, facilitated technology transfer, and supported the incorporation of startups through Innosuisse funding programs. These programs are particularly beneficial for researchers who have discovered innovative ideas with significant market potential. And as further evidence of the breadth of our innovation capability, four startups were founded last year by ENAC researchers and students. Finally, also during our 20th anniversary year, the Future Sustainable Territories, Infrastructure, and Cities (FUSTIC) association held its first annual general meeting. FUSTIC was founded by EPFL, under the lead of ENAC. Its goal is to bring together change-makers and subject-matter experts working to shape sustainable cities, regions and infrastructure.
In 2022, our communications team again worked hard to support the various events and highlights described above. We also opened an Instagram account and filmed our first series of science videos, adopting a deliberately informal, humorous, social media-ready format as we looked to appeal to prospective students and explain our school’s role in building a more sustainable world. We think you’ll enjoy the videos too – turn to page 65 for more.
The Alpine and Polar Environmental Research Center (ALPOLE) was inaugurated in December 2022. ALPOLE is a new facility based at the EPFL Valais Wallis campus in Sion that brings together researchers from eight ENAC laboratories. The scientists and engineers at ALPOLE are working to better understand and predict climate-induced impacts on the environment, investigate environmental adaptation to climate change, and explore mitigation and adaptation strategies. My thanks go to Prof. Andrew Barry for driving the project to its completion, and to Prof. Jérôme Chappellaz for agreeing to serve as ALPOLE’s academic director.
My term of office as the Dean of ENAC will end in December 2023. Together with my Associate Deans, Katrin Beyer and Vincent Kaufmann, we have achieved the majority of the strategic objectives we set ourselves, despite the challenges caused by the pandemic. We have carried out our duties with conviction and enthusiasm, guided by the recommendations of the 2019 academic evaluation and by the needs of the ENAC community. In particular, we have sought to tackle the most pressing issues facing our school: addressing sustainability and climate change, strengthening interdisciplinary practices, boosting diversity, promoting data science, building closer ties with outside stakeholders, and championing innovation and communication.
Going forward, we hope that ENAC continues to thrive, and that the school remains as determined and steadfast as ever in contributing to the transition to a sustainable natural and built environment.
Claudia R. Binder