Switzerland set to be a leader in nanotechnology

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Switzerland

Highly developed research and development institutions and good protection of intellectual property will help make Switzerland a leader in nanotechnology, according to a recent report.

The report, published by IBM and a number of Swiss organisations including the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property and the Swiss Centre of Electronics and Microtechnics, is an attempt to present an overview of the country’s activity and potential in the nanotechnology domain.

Aimed at informing international players in administration, business and politics about Switzerland as a location for nanotechnology research, the report claims the country is a research and development leader, particularly when it comes to applying research to commercial opportunities.

High number of patents per capita

According to figures from the European Patent Office, the country deposed more nanotechnology-related patents per head of population than Germany, Japan and the US in 2005 (more recent data was not used due to potential data skewing relating to patent prosecution).

In 2005 the country deposed 10 patents in the domain per million habitants, compared to just over 6 in Japan, and approximately 4 in Germany and the US.

“This figure confirms the intensive innovation activity undertaken by the Swiss research organisations, which has grown significantly in the last few years,”​ said Professor Heinz Müller of the Federal Intellectual Property Institute.

In addition, in the few years before 2005, the number of patents filed per capita actually dropped slightly in the US, Japan, Germany and the UK, yet continued to grow in Switzerland.

Although it is difficult to say exactly why Switzerland’s number of nanotechnology patents has remained high, Dr Christian Soltmann from the Federal Institute of Intellectual Property said it could be related to the country’s industrial structure.

“It is too early to know the reason behind the observed effects, but it could be related to different industrial structures of the countries in question. Switzerland has a strong chemicals and pharmaceutical industry,”​ he told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.

Big R&D investment

Furthermore, Switzerland invests significantly in research and development, according to the report, and can therefore offer well developed facilities.

Currently, 3 per cent of the country’s GDP is invested in research and development by public institutions and companies, which the report claims is one of the highest per capita.

In addition to significant investment in the domain, the country also claims to be one of the leaders in the regulation of the new technology.

Publishing in 2006 a concrete list of recommendations relating to nanoparticle exposure at work, the country claimd to be at the forefront of worker protection.

In April 2008, the country also adopted the ‘Action Plan on Synthetic Nanomaterials’. With four main objectives the plan aims to ensure the responsible manufacturing, handling and disposal of synthetic nanomaterials, to promote the research into their possible harmful effects, to foster a public dialogue on benefits and risks, and to intensify the partnership between industry and academia.

Combining these specific features with a stable political and juristic environment, the report concludes the country offers significant benefits to international investors in the domain.

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