Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Smart materials, smart researchers

19.03.2015

Targeted drug delivery, medical devices and new electronic components: in the past five years, the National Research Programme “Smart Materials” (NRP 62) has explored the potential of a new generation of materials that react to external stimuli. The emphasis was on future applications.

Twenty-three industrial collaborations, twelve patents and two start-ups: the National Research Programme “Smart Materials” (NRP 62) has succeeded in encouraging an entrepreneurial spirit among scientists active in basic research.


For the first time, the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) officially collaborated in a research programme with the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) to encourage researchers to take their discoveries out of their labs and develop concrete applications. The lessons learned during the last five years will help in planning new types of collaboration between the two institutions. The goal is to accelerate the transfer of scientific results into practical applications that are sufficiently advanced to awaken the interest of various industries.

Many medical applications

The 21 projects of the programme fabricated – and used – new types of smart materials, new kinds of responsive materials that can change their properties when exposed to different stimuli. For instance, they become porous when heated, change shape when illuminated or twist like a spiral when immersed in water.

A number of projects looked at potential engineering applications, ranging from energy-harvesting devices to radically new types of electronics (see “Project highlights”).

The majority of the proposals submitted by the researchers deal with medical applications, in particular targeted drug delivery, where therapeutic molecules are precisely unloaded where and when desired, with the benefit of greatly reducing the required doses and thereby the side effects. Other researchers invented new medical devices, such as a sugar sensor for premature babies or elastic scaffolds for bone regrowth.

“We were surprised to see so many good medtech project applications,” says Louis Schlapbach, President of the Steering Committee of NRP 62. “Smart materials have a lot of potential in various disciplines. Fascination in science originates in the fact that you can never predict what you’ll find. In retrospect, our experience has shown that both medtech SMEs and larger companies are very open to original approaches coming from basic research.”

A recipe for innovation

NRP 62 was the first official collaboration programme of the SNSF with the CTI aimed at boosting technology transfer. “The idea was to create the right environment to inspire researchers to think from the start about possible applications,” says Louis Schlapbach.

CTI experts, who maintain close links to the industry, were included in the Steering Committee of the programme. Training and networking events helped young researchers to consider the practical potential of their discoveries and familiarised them with entrepreneurship issues, such as intellectual property and launching start-ups.

In the middle of the five-year programme, the Committee selected eleven projects for further funding (from the original 21) that had made good progress both scientifically and in developing industry contacts. At least seven projects will continue after the closure of NRP 62 as CTI projects.

“The focus on knowledge and technology transfer within NRP 62 was very profitable for the young researchers in my team,” says Dominique Pioletti from EPFL, who developed a targeted drug delivery system for damaged knee cartilage. “To transform my research into something directly useful is what drives me in science,” adds Martin Wolf from University Hospital Zurich, the inventor of a portable glucose sensor for premature babies. “Helping others can be an incredible motivation.”

Based on the experience gained from NRP 62, the SNSF and the CTI are jointly developing new instruments to boost innovation in Switzerland by filling the gap between basic research and prototypes.

National Research Programme “Smart Materials”

NRP 62 was launched in 2010 with a budget of CHF 11 million to support research in smart materials. This new generation of materials can modify their properties (such as mechanical, thermal, electrical or magnetic) when exposed to different stimuli. Their responsiveness could give rise to applications in many domains, from medicine to electronic sensors and energy efficiency.

A second goal of the programme was to encourage technology transfer from basic science into prototypes advanced enough for industrial or medical application. It is the first National Research Programme, an instrument of the Swiss National Science Foundation, to be conducted in collaboration with the Commission for Technology and Innovation.

NRP 62 in numbers:

- 174 scientific publications
- 79 PhD students and postdocs
- 73 industrial contacts
- 23 industrial collaborations
- 21 projects
- 14 videos
- 12 patents
- 7 CTI projects
- 2 start-ups

Closing event of NRP 62: Berne, 19 March 2015

On 19 March 2015, the closing event of NRP 62 in Berne will bring together researchers of the programme and high-level speakers: Mauro Dell’Ambrogio (State Secretary for Education, Research and Innovation), Walter Steinlin (President of CTI), Martin Vetterli (President of the SNSF Research Council) and Louis Schlapbach (President of the Steering Committee of NRP 62).
www.nfp62.ch

Additional information

Project highlights of NRP 62: http://www.snf.ch/docs/projecthighlights_e.pdf

Contact

Louis Schlapbach
President of the Steering Committee NRP 62
Phone: 079 337 33 60
E-mail: louis.schlapbach@emeritus.ethz.ch

Daniel Saraga
Head of Science Communication
Swiss National Science Foundation
Wildhainweg 3
CH-3001 Berne
Phone: 076 465 21 72
E-mail: daniel.saraga@snf.ch

The text of this press release as well as a press picture for downloading can be found on the web-site of the Swiss National Science Foundation: http://www.snf.ch > Research in Focus > Media > Press releases

Weitere Informationen:

http://www.snf.ch/en/researchinFocus/newsroom/Pages/news-150319-press-release-nr...

Daniel Saraga | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Science Education:

nachricht Starting school boosts development
11.05.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung

nachricht New Master’s programme: University of Kaiserslautern educates experts in quantum technology
15.03.2017 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

Im Focus: Scientists improve forecast of increasing hazard on Ecuadorian volcano

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Italian Space Agency (ASI), and the Instituto Geofisico--Escuela Politecnica Nacional (IGEPN) of Ecuador, showed an increasing volcanic danger on Cotopaxi in Ecuador using a powerful technique known as Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR).

The Andes region in which Cotopaxi volcano is located is known to contain some of the world's most serious volcanic hazard. A mid- to large-size eruption has...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cancer detection with sugar molecules

15.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Smarter robot vacuum cleaners for automated office cleaning

15.08.2017 | Information Technology

How protein islands form

15.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>