École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne

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Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne
École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne
Logo EPFL.svg
Established 1853
Type Public
Budget 803 million CHF[1]
President Patrick Aebischer
Undergraduates 4,891 (2012)[2]
Postgraduates 4,267 (2012)
Location Écublens (near Lausanne), Vaud, Switzerland
46°31′13″N 6°33′56″E / 46.52028°N 6.56556°E / 46.52028; 6.56556Coordinates: 46°31′13″N 6°33′56″E / 46.52028°N 6.56556°E / 46.52028; 6.56556
Campus Urban
Nationalities 125+
Affiliations AUF, EUA, Eurotech, CLUSTER, RESCIF and TIME
Website www.epfl.ch
EPFL is located in Switzerland
Location: Lausanne, Switzerland

The École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, English: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne) is a university specialising in engineering and technology located in Lausanne, Switzerland.[3] It is one of the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.

The school was founded by the Swiss Federal Government with the stated mission to:

  • Educate engineers and scientists
  • Be a national center of excellence in science and technology
  • Provide a hub for interaction between the scientific community and industry

EPFL is located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland; the sister institution in the German-speaking part of Switzerland is the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich). Associated with several specialised research institutes, the two universities form the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain (ETH Domain), which is directly dependent on the Federal Department of Home Affairs.[4] In connection with research and teaching activities, EPFL operates a nuclear reactor CROCUS,[5] a Tokamak Fusion reactor,[6] a Blue Gene/Q Supercomputer[7] and P3 bio-hazard facilities.


The school was founded in 1853 as a private school under the name École spéciale de Lausanne at the initiative of Lois Rivier, a graduate of École Centrale Paris and John Gay, the then professor and rector of the Académie de Lausanne. At its inception it had only eleven students and the offices was located at Rue du Valentin in Lausanne. In 1869, it became the technical department of the public Académie de Lausanne. When the Académie was reorganised and acquired the status of a university in 1890, the technical faculty changed its name to École d'ingénieurs de l'Université de Lausanne. In 1946, it was renamed the École polytechnique de l'Université de Lausanne (EPUL). In 1969, the EPUL was separated from the rest of the University of Lausanne and became a federal institute under its current name. EPFL, like ETH Zurich, is thus directly controlled by the Swiss federal government. In contrast, all other universities in Switzerland are controlled by their respective cantonal governments.[8]

In 1946, there were 360 students. In 1969, EPFL had 1,400 students and 55 professors. In the past two decades the university has grown rapidly and as of 2012 roughly 14,000 people study or work on campus, about 9,300 of these beings Bachelor, Master or PhD students. As EPFL first became a federal institute under its current name in 1969, with a student body of then less than 1500, the university is included in the Times Higher Education list of top 100 universities under 50 years old. The environment at modern day EPFL is highly international with the school now attracting top students and researchers from all over the world. More than 125 countries are represented on the campus and the university has two official languages, French and English.

Following the nomination of Patrick Aebischer as president in 2000, EPFL has started to develop into the field of life sciences. It absorbed the Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research (ISREC) in 2008.[9]


EPFL is considered to be among the world's most prestigious universities in technology. The three most influential and widely observed international university rankings, QS World University Rankings, Academic Ranking of World Universities and Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranks EPFL No. 2, No. 1 and No. 2 respectively in the field of Engineering and Technology on continental Europe in their 2014–2015 rankings. In the rankings EPFL competes with Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London and its sister institution, ETH Zurich, for the European top five spots in Engineering and Technology.

QS World University Ranking 2014 ranks EPFL world No. 17, reaching world No. 10 in Engineering and world No. 16 in the Natural Sciences subcategories.[10] Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014 ranks EPFL world No. 19 and Europe No. 3 in the Engineering, Technology and Computer Sciences category, behind Cambridge and notably ahead of ETH Zurich and American namebrand universities such as Caltech and Princeton.[11] THE World University Rankings 2014–2015 ranks EPFL world No. 34 and world No. 12 in the Engineering and Technology subcategory.[12]

EPFL typically scores high on faculty to student ratio, international outlook and scientific impact. The specialised CWTS Leiden Ranking[13] that "aims to provide highly accurate measurements of the scientific impact of universities" ranks EPFL world No. 13 and No. 1 in Europe in the 2013 rankings for all the sciences. Similarly, in the THE World University Rankings 2014-2015, EPFL ranks 15th in the world and 2nd in Europe on the citation index score.

The reputation of EPFL as a strong research institution has been further strengthened by a number of high-profile projects, the most notable of these being the Blue Brain Project that in 2013 secured a 0.5 Billion Euro Flagship Grant from the European Commission.[14]


See also: Lausanne campus
Aerial view of the EPFL, which forms a large campus with the University of Lausanne (UNIL) at the shores of Lake Geneva.
The MX buildings.

The École d'ingénieurs de l'Université de Lausanne, from which EPFL in its modern day form originates, was located in the center of Lausanne. In 1974, 5 years after EPFL was separated from University of Lausanne and became a federal institute under its current name, the construction of a new campus at Dorigny in Écublens, a suburb south-west of Lausanne on the shores of Lake Geneva, began. The inauguration of the first EPFL buildings of the new campus took place in 1978.

The EPFL campus has been evolving ever since. The first stage of the development plans, with a total budget of 462 million Swiss francs, was completed in 1984 and in 1990 the second stage was completed. The construction of the northern parts of campus began in 1995 with the construction of the Microtechnology building, completed in 1998, and the architecture building, completed in 2000. In 2002, the department of architecture also moved to the campus in Écublens, uniting all departments of EPFL on the same site. The latest addition to the EPFL campus is the Rolex Learning Center completed February 2010. The Rolex Learning Center includes areas for work, leisure and services and is located at the center of the campus. The EPFL campus is now being expanded with the construction of the Swiss Tech Convention Center to be completed in 2014.

Together with the University of Lausanne, also located in Écublens, the EPFL forms a vast campus, welcoming about 20,000 students, at the shores of Lake Geneva. The campus is served by the Lausanne Metro Line 1 (M1) and is equipped with an electric bicycle sharing system.[15] The EPFL campus was the first campus to receive the International Sustainable Campus Excellence Award by the International Sustainable Campus Network.[16]

Of the 14,000 people that work and study at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne campus, roughly 9.300 are students in either Bachelor, Master or Doctoral programs, the remaining 4,700 being administrative staff, scientists, technical staff, professors and the entrepreneurs located in the Science Park EPFL7. More than 125 nationalities are present on campus with 48% of the student population being foreign nationals.[17]

Almost all of the structures of the EPFL are located on its main campus. However, it also has branches in Neuchâtel ("Microcity"), in Sion ("Pôle EPFL Valais"),[18] in Geneva (Campus Biotech, including the Wyss Center for Bio- and Neuro-engineering) and in Fribourg ("Smart Living Lab").

The EPFL also has a project of research centre in Ras al-Khaimah (United Arab Emirates), EPFL Middle East.[19]


The campus consists of about 65 buildings on 136 acres (55 ha). Built according to the growth of the school, the campus includes different types of architectures:

  • Late 1970s–1980s: modularised building, used today by the Schools of Basic Sciences and Architecture, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering
  • 1990s: buildings with institutes from the Schools of Engineering Sciences and Techniques, Computer and Communication Sciences, and the Scientific Park (PSE)
  • Modern: new buildings (2002–2004) with Microengineering, Communications and Architecture institutes, the School of Life Sciences and the College of Management.
  • The Learning Center, a new library (2010)

The EPFL and the University of Lausanne also share an active sports centre five minutes away from EPFL, on the shores of Lake Geneva.[20]


Facilities are available on the campus for the students and staff:

Students and traditions[edit]

The Festival Balélec is a music festival organised annually at the EPFL campus.

The school encourages the formation of associations and sports activities on campus. As of 2012 more than 79 associations exist on campus for recreational and social purposes. In addition, the school has its own monthly newspaper, Flash. Included in the 79 associations are

  • AGEPoly is the Student's Association of the EPFL. The purpose of AGEPoly is to represent the EPFL's students, defend the general interests of the students and inform and consult its members on decisions of the EPFL Direction that concern them.[21]
  • The Forum is an EPFL student association responsible for organisation of the Forum EPFL. The Forum was founded in 1982 as a platform for exchange and meeting between the academic and professional communities. Today, the Forum EPFL is one of the largest recrouting events in Europe.[22]

Several music festivals are held yearly at EPFL. The most important one is the Balélec Festival, organised in May. The festival wellcomes 15,000 visitors to around 30 concerts. Other smaller festivals include Sysmic organised in April by the students of the Department of Microengineering, hosting two stages for local and national bands, and Artiphys, organised by the students of the Physics Department.

EPFL maintains several long-standing student exchange programs, such as the junior year engineering and science program with Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, as well as a graduate Aeronautics and Aerospace program with the ISAE in France.

The EPFL was the birthplace of the Archimedean Oath, proposed by students in 1990.[24]

Scientific partners[edit]

Alinghi SUI100 during a training session in Valencia.
  • EPFL is the official scientific advisor of Alinghi, twice winners of the America's cup 2003 and 2007.
  • Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range solar powered aircraft project developed at EPFL, the project eventual hopes to achieve the first circumnavigation of the world using only solar power.
  • The Hydroptère, is an experimental sailing hydrofoil that in 2009 broke the world speed sailing record, sustaining a speed of 52.86 knots (97.90 km/h; 60.83 mph) for 500m in 30 knots of wind[25]
  • EPFL contributed to the construction of SwissCube-1.[26] It is the first satellite entirely built in Switzerland. It was put into orbit on 23 September 2009 by the Indian launcher PSLV.
  • To better understand the relationship between nutrition and the brain, EPFL and the Nestlé research center has signed a five-year agreement providing 5 million CHF each year for the creation of two new chairs at the EPFL Brain Mind Institute.
  • Logitech and EPFL has announced the creation of the EPFL Logitech Incubator that will provide financial, educational and operational support in entrepreneurship to researchers and students.
  • Breitling Orbiter became the first balloon to circumnavigate the earth non-stop in March 1999. The balloon was piloted by Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones.
  • The Human Brain Project is the successor of the EPFL Blue Brain Project. The project is directed by EPFL and involves 86 institutions across Europe. The total cost is estimated at 1.190 billion euros.[27]

Associated institutions[edit]


The Tokamak (TCV): inner view, with the graphite-clad torus. Courtesy of CRPP-EPFL, Association Suisse-Euratom
Outside view of the Tokamak at the EPFL.
Henry Markram,the coordinator of the Human Brain Project.
CROCUS, the only nuclear reactor of the French-speaking part of Switzerland

EPFL is organised into seven schools, themselves formed of institutes that group research units (laboratories or chairs) around common themes. The seven schools at EPFL:

Notable affiliates[edit]

Astronaut Claude Nicollier, mission specialist representing the European Space Agency


Doctorates honoris causa[edit]

The EPFL has awarded a doctorate honoris causa to several people:



Buildings and campus[edit]

Projects and partnerships[edit]

Partner universities[edit]

The EPFL has 179 partner universities around the globe.[28]




Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "EPFL Annual Report 2012". EPFL. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  2. ^ "EPFL en ciffres". EPFL. Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  3. ^ "Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)". http://www.studyinginswitzerland.ch. 
  4. ^ "École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL". http://academicpositions.eu. 
  5. ^ "Crocus – Forschungsreaktor der Eidgenössischen Technischen Hochschule Lausanne (EPFL)". http://www.energienucleaire.ch. 
  6. ^ "Shaping the Future of Fusion". https://www.efda.org. 27 May 2013. 
  7. ^ "IBM BlueGene supercomputer". http://www.neuronano.net. 
  8. ^ "École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne". https://www.princeton.edu. 
  9. ^ "About École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne". http://www.flammaedu.com. 
  10. ^ "QS University World University Rankings 2014". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "Academic Ranking of World Universities 2014". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  12. ^ "Times Higher Education Ranking". Retrieved 3 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "Leiden ranking". Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  14. ^ "Blue Brain Project". Retrieved 4 October 2013. 
  15. ^ Campus roule, www.publibike.ch (page visited on 15 May 2013).
  16. ^ "Quarante ans de campus durable". http://actualites.epfl.ch. 
  17. ^ "présentation epfl". www.epfl.ch. 
  18. ^ EPFL Valais (page visited on 23 August 2013).
  19. ^ About EPFL Middle East , www.epfl.ae (page visited on 9 May 2013).
  20. ^ Service des sports UNIL-EPFL, sport.unil.ch (page visited on 10 May 2013).
  21. ^ "AGEPoly at EPFL". 
  22. ^ "Forum at EPFL". 
  23. ^ "UNIPoly at EPFL". 
  24. ^ Serment d'Archimèdes
  25. ^ "EPFL-Hydroptère". 
  26. ^ "SwissCube Website". 
  27. ^ "Human brain project". Retrieved 5 October 2013. 
  28. ^ – partner institutions

See also[edit]

External links[edit]