Underground solutions for global challenges

Continued population growth and the accompanying urbanization and densification pose a challenge to sustainable energy supply, an intact biodiverse landscape, functioning transport systems and coexistence. Climate change is accelerating this challenge, as more extreme and highly variable climate exacerbate these phenomena explicitly in urban environments. Therefore, also several of the UN‘s Sustainable Development Goals address urban sustainability in some or all aspects: clean water and sanitation, affordable and clean energy, industry innovation and infrastructure, and, of course, sustainable cities and communities.

Underground space offers much untapped potential to address these development goals in general and to provide innovative, long-term solutions. Examples include underground energy, heat and water storage, agricultural and industrial production, supply logistics, ICT edge computing data storage, but also clean and resilient infrastructure for smaller and larger cities. Research and innovation for exploring further, not yet eminent possibilities of the use of the underground space offers an additional dimension to a regenerative living on earth. Swiss government has thus launched a strategy for the exploration and development of the Swiss underground space.



In Switzerland, there is no versatile infrastructure available for underground real-scale experiments for energy solutions in an urban context, underground space habitats and safety, and underground and heavy construction. VSH offers the ideal platform for ideation, prototyping and implementation of experiments and new technologies that exploit the unique possibilities of underground space usage in the context of the UN sustainable development goals.

A cooperation with tertiary research institutions (ETH, Uni, FH, HF) is a unique opportunity to develop solutions together with the industry which will boost Switzerland’s innovation potential in a globally unique manner, and which will ultimately benefit the population for a regenerative living. The VSH is therefore applying to SERI for recognition as a research infrastructure of national importance.

The impact model of the VSH foresees that the VSH provides the underground test, training and dissemination infrastructure, and expands, enhances and maintains the tunnels and caverns user-oriented with a provision of support in staff, machinery and material. Through the existing international network, VSH also seeks and bring together partners for interdisciplinary research projects.

Hagerbach Test Gallery is a non-profit limited company

It was founded in 1970 with the aim of building a research, test, training and dissemination infrastructure for Switzerland‘s pioneering engineering activities in underground space use.

Hagerbach always offered companies and educational institutions the opportunity to test innovations for the construction and operation of infrastructure systems on a large scale before they are applied in reality. This is done on a total length of more than 5 km of tunnels. The connected caverns vary in dimensions and provide in total more than 25.000 m2 of test and lab-area.

Thanks to the legal security provided by integration in the zoning plan, Hagerbach Test Gallery can continue to grow, flexibly and purposefully.

Research - strategic focus

VSH has four strategic pillars for research themes but is open to

include new topics of strategic relevance for the Swiss society.


The infrastructure is open to all academic institutions in Switzerland. The industrial partners and current shareholders will match the public financial contribution. Partial funding from SERI will foster the integration of universities into research and education projects and to exploit synergies with industry. Together, the researchers and developers will manage to run a lighthouse infrastructure unique to Switzerland with impactful projects that address some of the most pressing global challenges in urban sustainability and beyond.

Energy Solutions

This includes circular and renewable production, transformation, on-site storage, distribution of energy / heat and in the focus areas “City” and “Construction Sites”


Smart City

This includes food and industrial engineering and production, water capture and storage and usage (‚sponge city’), ICT / IOT edge computing


Space Habitats & Safety

This includes all research and prototyping to evaluate, test and engineer underground or extra-terrestrial living and mobility spaces


Underground and heavy construction

This includes all research on how infrastructures of the future can be constructed and operated in a circular way with low energy use and minimum emission from the design over construction to de-commissioning.