Grinding rail tracks as efficiently as possible or preventing bacteria in salmon farms from producing molecules that cause unpleasant odours – these were among the innovations that ETH Zurich researchers worked on with partners from industry during 2019. They were supported by Innosuisse, the Swiss Innovation Agency. The successor to the Swiss Federal Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI), Innosuisse finances science-based innovation projects carried out by research institutions and companies.
“Innosuisse is an important partner for ETH Zurich,” says Silvio Bonaccio, Head of ETH transfer. In 2019, the Innovation Agency approved 25 applications from ETH, resulting in a success rate of around 61 percent. Applications are assessed by experts from Innosuisse.
If the assessment is positive and the Innovation Council approves the project, the agency pays half the project amount to the research partner, with the rest being paid by the participating company itself.
Industry Relations Manager Jan Zimmermann is also a fan of Innosuisse: “Our researchers are keen users of Innosuisse’s services," he says. This is particularly true of established researchers who have a broad network of contacts with industry. Innosuisse is particularly involved in promoting innovation in SMEs, a goal that ETH Zurich is also pursuing. “Over 30 percent of ETH Zurich’s projects with industry involve SMEs," says Zimmermann, emphasising the importance of research cooperation with small and medium-sized enterprises.
From rail transport to salmon farming
In the rail grinding project mentioned earlier, ETH Zurich’s Institute of Machine Tools and Manufacturing works with Scheuchzer Ltd, which manufactures track-laying machines and “grinding trains”. The background to the innovation project is that many lines of the Swiss rail network are exposed to heavy use, which means that the rails have to be ground regularly. The work has to be carried out as quickly and efficiently as possible so as not to impede railway operations. A grinding train currently has to make several passes over the rail when carrying out this re-
profiling work. In future, grinding trains will only have to pass over the track once, thanks to the improved grinding process developed by ETH and Scheuchzer Ltd.