Developing innovative products and protecting our health and the environment against potential risks posed by nanotechnology require a scientific and methodical approach. Here the federal government offers targeted support.
Switzerland attaches a great deal of importance to research into nanotechnology. Numerous programmes have been created for both basic and applied research.
Research in the fields of nanotechnology and nanomaterials is currently being supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation via a National Research Priority project. Furthermore, two National Research Programmes have been carried out in this area.
The aim of the “Nanosciences” National Research Priority project is to create impulses for “life sciences, sustainability and new information & communication technologies”. It also formed the basis for the establishment of the Swiss Nanoscience Institute (SNI) at the University of Basel.
“Smart Materials” – National Research Programme NRP 62
Smart materials have enormous innovation potential. Finding ways to use new smart materials could greatly benefit many companies in Switzerland, especially those in the watch making, mechanical engineering, medical technology, pharmaceuticals, energy and construction industries. The objectives of National Research Programme NRP 62, “Smart Materials” – which was initiated jointly by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) – were to promote the development of new smart materials and transfer promising findings into CTI research and development projects. NRP 62 was concluded in spring 2015.
National Research Programme NRP 64 – “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials”
The aim of National Research Programme NRP 64, “Opportunities and Risks of Nanomaterials”, was to identify and promote necessary areas of research in order to gain a better understanding of the main opportunities and potential risks associated with products based on synthetic nanoparticles.
The research carried out within the scope of this programme provided scientific bases for formulating recommendations and proposing suitable measures relating to the production, use and disposal of these nanoparticles. In this way, society can benefit from scientific progress in the field of synthetic nanoparticles and their applications, and consumers and the environment can be better protected against their potentially undesirable effects. NRP 64 was initiated in December 2010 and concluded 2017.
Innosuisse – Swiss Innovation Agency and the Environmental Technology Fund of the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) are supporting application-based research and development and promoting entrepreneurship. Innosuisse is supporting application-oriented projects in all areas of research-based innovation. Its support is divided into a variety of areas, including micro- and nano- technologies.Innosuisse - Swiss Innovation Agency
Intensive basic and applied research in the fields of nanosciences and nanomaterials is also being carried out in Switzerland outside the scope of the national priority and research programmes, namely at the two Federal Institutes of Technology, and at various universities and colleges of technology.
International research activities
The potentials of nanotechnology and nanomaterials are being researched all over the world. The objectives here are to identify potential risks for human beings and the environment, and to examine ethical, economic, regulatory and social issues. Below is an overview of some of the major EU research programmes in which researchers from Switzerland are involved.
Approximately 400 projects relating to nanotechnology and nanomaterials were supported in the period from 2002 to 2006 within the scope of the Sixth Framework Programme (RP6). And around 700 research projects are currently being carried out within the scope of the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme (RP7). These include projects aimed at studying toxic effects, and others that are focusing on the applications and processes that could be harmful to human beings and the environment. Various other projects are studying the development of test strategies for identifying the properties of nanomaterials and the preparation of risk assessment methods.
The FOEN, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) are participating in individual projects within the scope of the EU ERA-NET SIINN (Safe Implementation of Innovative Nanoscience and Nanotechnology) research programme. Here the FOEN was involved in the NanoHETER “Fate of Engineered Nanoparticles” project at the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, in which the interactions of synthetic nanoparticles with natural solids in surface bodies of water were modelled. Another SIINN project, “Assessment of individual exposure to engineered nanomaterials by means of personal monitors and samplers (nanoIndEx)”, was co-financed by the FOPH and SECO. This project studied the exposure of individuals to synthetic nanoparticles at the workplace with the aid of portable measuring devices. The North-West Switzerland University of Applied Sciences was a partner in this project. The SIINN projects were concluded in 2016.
The EU’s NANoREG (Regulatory Testing of Nanomaterials) research project focused on issues of relevance to legislation. The FOEN, FOPH and SECO were involved in this project together with various Swiss research partners, who participated in the development of models for assessing exposure at the workplace (IST, Lausanne), as well as in the identification of methods for characterising nanomaterials (Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne) and the development of high throughput screening methods (EMPA laboratories). NANoREG was concluded in 2017.
To continue its co-financing of EU projects, Switzerland is now participating in the Horizon 2020 PROSAFE project, which is to be concluded in 2017 and is focusing on the development of a “safe by design” methodology for nanomaterials.
Last modification 01.07.2019