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Swiss Innovation Advent Calendar

From 1 to 24 December 2018 we will introduce a well known Swiss innovation in our Advent calendar and use it to draw inspiration during the holiday season.

2018: Swiss Innovation – World Best

On the final day of our Advent Calendar, we congratulate Switzerland for being the world’s best in innovation. The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) carries out an annual study of worldwide innovation and calculates an index called the Global Innovation Index (GII). Switzerland has come out on top for the last 8 years.

2003: Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse is a Swiss long-range experimental solar-powered aircraft project, and also the name of the project's two operational aircraft. The privately financed project was led by Swiss engineer and businessman André Borschberg and Swiss psychiatrist and balloonist Bertrand Piccard. The Solar Impulse project's goals were to make the first circumnavigation of the Earth by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power and to bring attention to clean technologies.

2003: Scala

Scala, short for Scalable Language, is a hybrid functional programming language. It was created by Martin Odersky, professor of programming methods at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland. Scala smoothly integrates the features of object-oriented and functional languages. Scala is compiled to run on the Java Virtual Machine. Many existing companies, who depend on Java for business-critical applications, are turning to Scala to boost their development productivity, applications scalability and overall reliability.

1863: ICRC

Since its creation in 1863, the ICRC's sole objective has been to ensure protection and assistance for victims of armed conflict and strife. Its story is about the development of humanitarian action, the Geneva Conventions and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.

1986: High Temperature Superconductors

High-temperature superconductors (high-Tc or HTS) are materials that behave as superconductors at unusually high temperatures. The first high-Tc superconductor was discovered in 1986 by IBM researchers Georg Bednorz and K. Alex Müller, who were awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Physics "for their important break-through in the discovery of superconductivity in ceramic materials".

1970: The TN-Effect Liquid Crystal Display

In 1970, the physicists Martin Schadt and Wolfgang Helfrich invented the twisted nematic field effect (TN-effect) whilst working at Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, in Basel. This invention rapidly paved the way for commercial Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD), which are still in use today.

1905: Turbocharger

On the 13 November 1905 the patent of the turbocharger’s principle was granted to Alfred Büchi, a swiss engineer, and on the 16 November 1905 he received another patent for its application to internal combustion engines.

1929: Bloch Wave – Electron Waves in a Crystal

Named after Swiss physicist Felix Bloch, a Bloch wave (also called Bloch State; Bloch Function or Bloch Wave Function), is a type of wave function for a particle in a periodically-repeating environment, for example electrons moving in a semiconductor such as silicon (whose atoms form a crystal lattice). The application of Bloch’s theorem helps explain the formation of valence band and conduction bands in a semi-conductor.  A Bloch wave description also applies to any wave-like phenomenon in a periodic medium such as photonic crystals,phononic crystals and diffraction.

1977: Lilith computer

In fall 1977, Niklaus Wirth, from the Institut für Informatik of ETH, initiated the development of a personal computer after returning from a sabbatical at Xerox PARC. Being unable to bring back a Xerox Alto from Palo Alto, he decided to build a system from scratch. The DISER Lilith was a computer based on an AMD 2901 bit-slice processor and had four hardware components: the system unit, the video display, the keyboard and the mouse. The Lilith was one of the first computer workstations worldwide with a high-resolution graphical display and a mouse.

1908: Cellophane

Cellophane was invented in 1908 by Swiss chemist Jacques E. Brandenberger. Inspired by seeing a wine spill on a restaurant's tablecloth, he decided to create a cloth that could repel liquids rather than absorb them. In 1912 he built a machine to manufacture the film called Cellophane, from cellulose and diaphane (the French word for transparent). 

2017 : Cryo-microscopie électronique (Jacques Dubochet, Prix Nobel)

En 2017 Jacques Dubochet a reçu le prix Nobel de chimie pour avoir développé la technique de cryo-microscopie électronique utilisée pour déterminer la structure à haute résolution des protéines en solution. La cryo-microscopie électronique est une technique de préparation d’échantillons utilisée en microscopie électronique.

1999: Fehr & Schmidt introduced A Theory of Fairness, Competition, and Cooperation

When this work was published most economic models routinely assumed that material self-interest is the sole motivation of all people engaging in economic activities. In such models fairness considerations or preferences for cooperation don’t play a role when researchers analyze the outcome of economic interactions. However, there is evidence suggesting that some people care about fairness or have a preference for cooperation.

1941: Velcro

Hook-and-loop fasteners, hook-and-pile fasteners or touch fasteners, commonly known as Velcro, is the brainchild oftheSwiss engineer George de Mestral.

1981: The Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM)

The Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) images material surfaces at the atomic level. It was developed by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at the IBM Research Laboratory in Rüschlikon, Zürich in 1981. They were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this invention in 1986. For the STM to work, the measured sample must conduct electricity i.e. be a metal or semiconductor. The STM is particular useful for studies in the field of e.g. nanoelectronics.

1713: The Bernoulli Distribution and Probability Theory

Formulated by Jacob Bernoulli from Basel, the Bernoulli Distribution describes events having exactly two outcomes e.g. if a flipped coin will come up heads or not, if a rolled dice will be a 6 or another number, or whether you do or do not click the "Read more" link in this post!

1869: Friedrich Miescher discovers nucleic acid

Friedrich Miescher was a physician and professor of physiology at the University of Basel. He is known as the discoverer of nucleic acids as acidic components of the cell nucleus - the foundation stone for the discovery of DNA and thus for understanding inheritance in the 20th century.

1905: The Special Theory of Relativity

In 1905, Albert Einstein determined that the laws of physics are identical for all non-accelerating observers, and that the speed of light in a vacuum is independent of the motion of all observers. This is referred to as the Special Theory of Relativity. It introduced a new framework for all of physics and proposed an interweaving of space and time into spacetime. A building block of his theory is that of mass-energy equivalence, defined by the most famous equation in physics, E=mc2.

In 1915, Einstein added the effects of gravitation (acceleration) to form the General Theory of Relativity.

1738: Hydrodynamica and Bernoulli’s Principle

In fluid dynamics, Bernoulli's principle, a particular example of the conservation of energy, states that an increase in the speed of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure or a decrease in the fluid's potential energy. The principle is named after Basel based mathematician Daniel Bernoulli who published it in his book Hydrodynamica in 1738. Bernoulli is regarded as the founding father of fluid dynamics. A consequence of his principle is that if the velocity increases then the pressure falls. This is exploited by the wing of an aircraft, which is designed to create an area of fast flowing air above its surface. The pressure of this area is lower and so the wing is pulled upwards

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) and the Study of Proteins

Kurt Wüthrich, a biophysicist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH), Zürich was awarded the 2002 Nobel prize in Chemistry ”for his development of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy for determining the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules in solution”. He showed how to extend NMR to image biological molecules e.g. proteilns.

The Pascal Family of Programming Languages

The Pascal programming language

The computer programming language Pascal, was designed by Niklaus Wirth in 1968-69 while he was Professor of Informatics at the ETH in Zürich, Switzerland and was published in 1970. Pascal utlimately evolved to Oberon, the first version of which was created in 1986, as a successor to Modula-2, which had its roots in Pascal.

1989: http is developed at CERN in Geneva

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee and his team at CERN, the European nuclear research centre in Switzerland, started developing the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, along with the URL and HTML concepts, which laid the foundations for the World Wide Web. In 2018, the http protocol is still the basis of the world wide web (WWW). Sorry, this article is available in German only.