Recently the National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) Digital Fabrication hosted its Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Review Panel for the Annual Review at the Empa Akademie in Dübendorf and at ETH Hönggerberg in Zurich. The progress of the research projects and programmes was presented along with an exhibition of physical work and process demonstrations.

Each year, the NCCR is evaluated by an international Review Panel composed of renowned scientific experts from related academic disciplines. Panel members evaluate the innovativeness and the scientific quality of research, and the progress made by the NCCR.

The Review Panel of the NCCR Digital Fabrication consists of the following experts:

  • Prof. Dr. Petra von Both, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Dr. Oliver Brock, Robotics and Biology Laboratory, TU Berlin
  • Prof. Mark Burry, Professor of Urban Futures, University of Melbourne
  • Prof. Rüdiger Dillmann, Institute for Anthropomatics and Robotics, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology
  • Prof. Gregor Engels, Department of Computer Science, University of Paderborn
  • Prof. Dr. Gerti Kappel, Technical University of Vienna
  • Prof. Hanif Kara, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University
  • Prof. Wojciech Matusik, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, MIT
  • Prof. Mette Ramsgaard Thomsen, Centre for Information Technology and Architecture, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts

In addition, the Review Panel is supported by three SNSF representatives:

  • Prof. Dr. Friedrich Eisenbrand, SNSF Panel Chair, Professor of Mathematics and Discreet Optimization, EPF Lausanne
  • Prof. Dr. Stefanie Hellweg, SNSF Panel Deputy Chair, Professor for Ecological Systems Design, ETH Zurich
  • Prof. Dr. Oscar Nierstrasz, SNSF Panel Observer, Professor of Computer Science, University of Bern

Successful Reorganisation of Research
Research was the focus of the first day of the Annual Review. Six collaborative project teams and four new investigators presented the challenges and innovations of their work. These presentations were complimented by a poster exhibition where each individual PhD or Postdoc work was represented by a research poster, and where joint demonstrations and prototypes were exhibited for individual review. Both the presentations and the exhibition were proof of the NCCR’s successful reorganisation of research over the course of last year. The two defined research Grand Challenges: “On site Digital Fabrication” and “Bespoke Digital Prefabrication” were used to structure the wide range of projects, and to illustrate how the interdisciplinary collaboration within the NCCR is redefining research in architecture and construction.

Strong Action Plans
The focus of the second days presentations was the NCCR’s management and its four action plans. In the past year the NCCR has significantly ramped up activities in the areas of Knowledge and Technology Transfer, Communications, Equal Opportunities and Education. The major achievements in each area were presented with specific mention of the planning for upcoming actions.

To conclude the programme presentations, Detlef Günther, ETH Vice President Research and Corporate Relations, reiterated the fundamental commitment of ETH Zurich to the NCCR Digital Fabrication and presented the importance of this NCCR within the long-term planning of the home institution.

Well Positioned for the Upcoming Years
After a full two days of review the panel expressed their appreciation and fascination with the NCCR’s ongoing research and their high expectations for future work. Their report will now be submitted to the SNSF Research Council and official feedback will be reported in the summer.

The SNSF review of the NCCR Digital Fabrication is a significant annual milestone. It may be a significant stress for researchers, but it represents both a validation point for external feedback and a day of exchange within the NCCR where all members and projects are exhibited for the larger team. The benefits of these days for collaboration and exchange cannot be understated.

In conclusion panel member Prof. Dr. Oliver Brock stated: “We feel that you are on a promising trajectory and we are very much looking forward to coming back next year to see what has happened then.”