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Zeiss gets agile with EPFL research deal

29 Nov 2016

Collaboration will see Swiss Federal Institute of Technology receive €1 million from the German optics giant.

Optics giant Zeiss is to provide €1 million in direct support for research projects at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL), after the company and university signed up to a long-term collaboration.

The cash will be made available for new research projects in key technology fields including biomedical research, medical diagnostics and visualization - as well as optical metrology and inspection.

“This is part of a partnership with the renowned EPFL which will take the existing connections between the company and the university to a whole new level,” announced Zeiss.

Student support
Starting next year, the support is set to include the presentation of student awards at EPFL to honor master's and doctoral theses in the fields of photonics, optoelectronics, computational imaging and data analysis.

Ulrich Simon, the head of corporate research and technology at Zeiss, said of the arrangement: “This contract spans several years and will enable more agile and dynamic collaboration than with the traditional collaborative projects between academia and industry.”

“We have defined key research areas and are giving the university free rein in its research. By working together we will achieve new insights and want to more strongly support innovations.”

EPFL president Patrick Aebischer added in a Zeiss statement: “EPFL has state-of-the-art laboratories capable of providing innovative solutions in areas such as biomedical research, medical diagnostics, visualization and optical metrology - which are of particular interest to Zeiss.”

More specifically, the collaboration will focus on key technologies like multidimensional imaging and data processing, multidimensional visualization, human-machine interaction and intelligent automation.

Cash prizes
A joint scientific committee that will steer and oversee the projects is also set to organize and present the Zeiss awards for outstanding student research.

Each winner will receive CHF 3,000 (currently around €2800) for a PhD dissertation and CHF 1500 for a master's thesis, and the three finalists in each category will also get to visit the Zeiss headquarters in Oberkochen for a day.

Zeiss and EPFL say that their partnership is aiming to elevate relationships between researchers, students and employees to “new heights”, with workshops and other forms of direct contact.

The collaboration represents an extension of EPFL’s goal to establish closer links with large multinational companies, with Nestlé, IBM and Logitech among its other corporate partners.

The Lausanne university's expertise in the field of optics and photonics includes numerous recent breakthroughs in novel photovoltaic materials and devices - including some record-breaking perovskite cells - and groundbreaking work on mid-infrared sensors, micro-optics and near-field microscopy.

The optics and photonics laboratory at EPFL's site in Neuchâtel is headed up by Hans Peter Herzig, and its work on micro-fabrication technologies like photolithography, resist processing, and reactive ion etching have been used to manufacture refractive and diffractive micro-optical elements, as well as birefringent optics.

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