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EPFL Innovation Park to expand with a focus on co-creation

On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, the EPFL Innovation Park will expand with a new site, called Ecotope, where start-ups, researchers and outside companies will be able to pool their resources in order to explore groundbreaking ideas.

From 2023, new buildings will begin to be erected to form the Ecotope co-innovation ecosystem.
From 2023, new buildings will begin to be erected to form the Ecotope co-innovation ecosystem.

Some 30 years after the EPFL Innovation Park opened its doors, plans are under way to double its capacity. The new site will be called Ecotope.

The 30 or so spin-offs that come out of the EPFL labs every year are now struggling to find business premises, and the space allocated to large companies for pursuing innovative ideas is full. The Innovation Park is already home to over 150 start-ups and 30 large companies employing over 2,600 people.

In view of the need for more space, along with the Innovation Park’s appeal, the EPFL Innovation Park Foundation has teamed up with the EPFL, the canton of Vaud and the city of Ecublens to double the Park’s surface area, currently 592,000 square feet, within the next ten years.

“But it’s not just about adding surface area,” says Ursula Oesterle, EPFL’s Vice President for Innovation and the person behind the initiative. “Today, businesses interested in innovation – whether startups or established companies – need a place where they can meet on a daily basis to share ideas. That’s the kind of vibrant, stimulating environment we intend to create with Ecotope. ”

Ecotope is intended to be an ecosystem in its own right, where policymakers, researchers, investors, executives, entrepreneurs, students and citizens can come together for open dialogue and debate. Not only must the new site fit in seamlessly with its natural surroundings, it should also provide occupants with a peaceful work environment along with common spaces and “village square” areas for brainstorming and ideation.

Addressing strategic priorities

Ecotope is intended to serve as a hotbed of innovation and to support EPFL’s strategy of addressing key societal challenges – like sustainability, the environment, aging, artificial intelligence and healthcare – through a cross-disciplinary approach. The scope of these challenges is so vast that solutions can only be found by drawing on many different fields.

“Ecotope will be a major plus for our canton,” says Philippe Leuba, the head of Vaud’s Department of the Economy, Innovation and Sports. “It will spur innovation – and thus job creation – make EPFL a more competitive school and bolster our economy in general.”

In the first phase of construction work for the new site, slated to begin in 2023, some 269,000 square feet of offices, labs and collaborative spaces will be built by an architecture firm that was selected in early June through an RFP. Ecotope will be located just one kilometer away from Innovation Park, which is a key part of the project. A clean transportation system will also be put in place, with the support of the City of Ecublens, so that people can move easily between the two R&D hubs.

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