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Plans to create climate change institute delayed

Aletsch glacier with hiker
Switzerland wants to be known as a leading research centre for the environment and sustainability. Keystone / Anthony Anex

A proposal to merge two leading research institutes into one body has been put on ice. The move met with internal resistance from within the federal technology and research institutes (collectively known as the ETH domain).

The plan to merge the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL) was presented last year. It was intended to “develop Switzerland further as a leading research centre for the environment and sustainability”.

But the ETH Board, the domain’s governing body, on Friday said it was postponingExternal link its formal request for parliament to approve the creation of the new unit. It cited “reservations” that had raised “questions in particular about the cost-benefit ratio and the value added by the proposed merger”.  

Some departments of the ETH DomainExternal link also felt left out of the proposed new research unit.

A new working group has been set up to address the objections and to decide how to proceed. No firm date had been set for the creation of the new research body, only that it was a “medium-term” project.

The federal ETH Domain comprises the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) and Lausanne (EPFL) – both of which are top-ranked in international surveys – as well as the four research institutes: the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), and the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag). 

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