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 Cebit 2018: Saarbrücken Start-up combines Tinkering and Programming for Elementary School Kids
05.06.2018 | Universität des Saarlandes

nachricht The classroom of tomorrow – DFKI and TUK open lab for new digital teaching and learning methods
03.05.2018 | Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz GmbH, DFKI

All articles from Science Education >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Future electronic components to be printed like newspapers

A new manufacturing technique uses a process similar to newspaper printing to form smoother and more flexible metals for making ultrafast electronic devices.

The low-cost process, developed by Purdue University researchers, combines tools already used in industry for manufacturing metals on a large scale, but uses...

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

A smart safe rechargeable zinc ion battery based on sol-gel transition electrolytes

20.07.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Reversing cause and effect is no trouble for quantum computers

20.07.2018 | Information Technology

Princeton-UPenn research team finds physics treasure hidden in a wallpaper pattern

20.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>