Without a doubt: If nanotechnology in Germany is mentioned abroad today the term “Nano-Valley-Saar” is heard on a regular basis. Thus the appreciation is expressed, which is now paid to Saarland’s nanotechnology.
The basic idea behind this success story was simple: “The research of today is our source of a good standard of living for tomorrow”. The Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM) was founded in Saarland in 1987. Here, investigating the world of small particles started sooner than in other regions.
Twenty years after this decision, Saarland can count itself as one of the leading nano- and nanobioregions in Europe. Eleven spin-off companies work successfully and can compete in the global market. More than 1,000 sustainable jobs have been created by the spin-off companies developed since 1995.
Successful networking of research and development
In order to promote cooperation between research, business, politics and society, the non-profit association NanoBioNet was founded in 2002 with financial support from the Saarland Ministry of Economics and Science. This association moderates an efficient network of universities, research institutes, hospitals, businesses and experts from the fields of technology transfer, patenting, economy and financing. The members come from different industries, their common interest is in research and development and the practical applications of nano- and biotechnology.
Another important network with headquarters in Saarland is the competence centre cc-NanoChem, which is equally active nationwide and located at the Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM).
NanoBioNet and cc-NanoChem cooperate closely with each other.
The players of the network support a variety of projects with the aim to further expand on the leading role in the area of nano- and biotechnology and to strengthen the region nationally and internationally as a competitive location. Main responsibilities include assisting and training, promoting research and development and active public relations. Whether it is through their presence at a shared booth or in a brochure – NanoBioNet and cc-NanoChem provide for members on different platforms the opportunity to communicate competencies.
Since 2006 the collaboration of the business players has been intensified with the platform Saarland Empowering Nano, to actively promote Saarland’s competencies.
Together with the Economic Development (gwSaar) and the Leibniz Institute for New Materials (INM), “Nano made in Saarland” is advertised throughout the world.
Its customer base is international and encompasses all possible sectors.
Dwarfs with gigantic potential
The substantive foci of research and development in Saarland are in chemical nanotechnology and nanobiotechnology. One concern lies in the antimicrobial, also known as antiseptic effect caused by several nano-coatings. In addition to the food industry, nanotechnology also opens new perspectives in medicine and pharmacology, both in analysis and therapy. Researchers hope for quicker diagnoses in order to detect diseases at an early stage – such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases or viral infections – and they hope for innovative therapies by new molecules.
A world market
The job market for nano- and biotechnologists is currently located mainly in the large industrial research institutions. In Germany there are about 150 companies with a main area of business in nanotechnology, and approximately 600 establishments which touch on nanotechnology.
In Saarland, currently about 40 companies can be counted working in the field of nanotechnology and pharmaceutical biotechnology. A value of up to 18 billion euros is estimated worldwide by the year 2015, with 160,000 jobs in the field of nanotechnology alone.
Fill young professionals with enthusiasm early on
NanoBioNet and cc-NanoChem are engaged in particular to inspire students for nano- and biotechnology. To achieve that, NanoBioNet developed the NanoSchoolBox, an experimental kit for physics, chemistry or biology lessons, which could be distributed to secondary schools and vocational schools thanks to the support of the state. However, also internationally the student experimental kit is a major export success and contributes to the reputation of the research location.
But not only students are in the focus when it comes to demonstrating and explaining a promising future in technology such as nanotechnology.
Another focus, in addition to the academic training, is the training of skilled workers and technicians. Here NanoBioNet developed and organized its own training modules and workshops.
Experts predict that big breakthroughs yet lie ahead in nano- and biotechnology. They will revolutionize computer technology, open up completely new possibilities in medical diagnosis and therapy as well as produce materials with entirely new qualities that allow for new kinds of products. So far it is still not foreseeable how many of the optimistic expectations actually can be realized.
But what can already be said today: These technologies offer very good growth opportunities today and in the near future. And Saarland will profit from this.