NCCR "MICS – Mobile Information and Communication Systems"

NCCR Director: Prof. Martin Vetterli (2001 - 2004), Prof. Karl Aberer (2005 - 2012)

Home Institution: EPF Lausanne

Research of the NCCR and major results

With its research focus on wireless communication, self-organizing networks and sensor data, NCCR MICS anticipated the developments of mobile platforms, social networks and large datasets which dominate today's IT world.

It has provided fundamental insights in the capacity of wireless networks, translated this into energy-efficient wireless systems, explored and defined the area of wireless security and devised innovative concepts for intelligent processing of the data produced by the wireless platforms.

Initially strongly focused on the study of fundamental theoretical questions, NCCR MICS subsequently increased the emphasis on systems and application-oriented research. In the final stage, the focus was on technology transfer activities and the creation of new research collaborations and programmes.

  • Funding

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    NCCR MICS was awarded CHF 38 million by the SNSF. About the same amount was contributed by the participating institutions and an even greater amount by external funders. In total, the initial investment more than tripled and this calculation does not even include the significant impact on industry through start-ups, industrial collaborations and placement of graduates.

    Funding 2001 – 2012​ (Swiss francs)

    Funding sources






    SNSF funding






    Self-funding by the EPF Lausanne






    Self-funding by project participants






    Third party funding












  • International standing of Swiss research

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    ​NCCR MICS has played an important role in making Swiss research institutions leaders in the field of computer science and communications. The NCCR disseminated its research results at international events as well as through over 1700 peer-reviewed publications, of which more than 45 received awards.




    Peer-reviewed conference papers


    Peer-reviewed journal papers




    Technical reports




    Researchers of the NCCR participated actively in EU programmes with 80 projects in total. In addition, the NCCR reported 150 collaborations with research institutes abroad, mainly in Europe and North America. Three researchers of the NCCR obtained an ERC Advanced Grant.

  • Structural development – Perspectives for the research domain

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    ​NCCR MICS strongly influenced the development of the “School of Computer and Communication Sciences” (IC) at EPFL, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, and was instrumental in attracting key partners to the EPFL Technology Park. At ETHZ, a new institute and master’s programme were developed around MICS topics. The NCCR could attract over 15 new top faculty members to the country.

    The MICS legacy lives on in numerous new programmes (of educational nature as well as with a research focus, such as the initiative, and numerous European projects), and stable inter-organizational and inter-disciplinary collaborations, within the participating institutions as well as between EPFL and ETH Zurich. Thanks to the know-how created in MICS, Switzerland is ready for the challenges of the next decade: the ubiquitous role that cyber-technical and socio-technical systems based on mobile computing platforms will play in everyone's life.

    Structural measures

    Number of created professorships

    15 new full professors14 new assistant professorsNo replacements

    Junior group leaders (young associated scientists)

    5 junior group leaders (supported within NCCR)

    Infrastructure / platforms

    New BC building at EPFLCCES Swiss Experiment Platform

    NCCR network

    EPFL, ETH Zürich, University Lausanne, University Neuchatel, HEIG-VD, CSEM, University Basel, University Bern, University Della Svizzera ItalianaMicrosoft Research, IBM, Siemens, SwissCom, Nokia, Whitestein Technologies, Qualcomm, shockfish, ST Microelectronics, NTT Docomo, Deutsche Telekom, Intel, Nagra, Kudelski

    More than thirty former PhD students and postdocs of NCCR MICS obtained chairs at prestigious universities abroad such as Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, TU Munich etc. Some also hold positions at Swiss universities or the EPFL and ETHZ.

  • Knowledge and technology transfer to society and industry

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    NCCR MICS significantly contributed to the transfer of its knowledge and technology into industrial activity. It was a key factor in attracting a significant number of key companies in its field to university campuses, including Nokia, Swisscom, SAP and Cisco. The NCCR boasts around 120 cooperation projects with around 80 companies and secured CHF 6.4 million in third-party funding from industry.

    It initiated an extremely successful start-up programme (“Spin-fund”) that already resulted in the creation of 12 new companies (Bmob, Geosatis, Kandou Technologies, Koubachi, Pix4D, Scala Solutions, Sensorscope, StreamForge, Vidinoti, Evrythng, Hello Slides, routeRank). It also contributed to a new generation of systems produced by collaborating industries - such as new fire detection systems, easily deployable in existing buildings through the use of wireless self-organizing technology.

    Knowledge and technology transfer



    Filed patents




    Start-up companies


    Prototypes, demonstrators


    Processes, products




    Of the 36 patents which were applied for, 22 were granted in May 2013 and a further 8 are still being evaluated. The 16 start-ups created around 60 new jobs and attracted over CHF 14 million in venture capital. The 120 prototypes have led to the creation of new products which are now being commercialised and to improvements in existing products. Finally, the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) approved nine industrial projects with an overall budget of CHF 9.8 million.

    After completing their studies, 22% of PhD students and postdocs have found jobs in the private or public sector. By moving into the private or public sector, these young researchers contribute to the direct transfer of knowledge.

    NCCR MICS showed that a National Centre of Competence in Research focusing on fundamental research can produce significant economic impact with innovative instruments (e.g. spin fund) and modest financial means.

  • Promotion of young scientists and female academic careers

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    ​NCCR MICS pushed boundaries both structurally as well as academically in terms of promoting young researchers. In the first few years, the NCCR was one of the driving forces in developing existing courses at all levels (bachelor, master, PhD) in communication and information technology both at EPFL and ETHZ. Initiatives such as “Summer Internships”, "Summer Schools" and “Scientific Bus” helped to motivate prospective students and encouraged advanced students to pursue their studies in communication and information technology.

    NCCR MICS has been connecting students to industry through more than 1500 projects and has made female students and researchers more familiar with the field. The programme "Internet pour les Filles" attracted close to 2000 young girls, putting them in contact with information technology in an early stage of their education. The NCCR has been a key factor in educating over 210 PhD students which are now working in 20 countries all over the world in industry and prestigious academic institutions. NCCR MICS was an ideal partner in establishing and financing the activities mentioned above, mainly because of its size and its funding, which it could use in a targeted way.

    PhD training

    154 PhD theses have been completed as per June 2012.