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The ace up the sleeve of PARK INNOVAARE

The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) operates a worldwide unique complex of large research facilities. Photo: ©Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI)
The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) operates a worldwide unique complex of large research facilities. Photo: ©Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI)

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As part of the Swiss innovation park with its international operations, PARK INNOVAARE is contributing to the sustainability of the Swiss federal economy. In the immediate vicinity of the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI), PARK INNOVAARE is making use of the opportunities offered by the large research facilities of the Institute, the particle accelerators. On this basis, the new technology site is initiating innovations in the fields of accelerator technology, advanced materials and processes, humans and health, and energy. The site is designed to help bring new products and services to the market more quickly.

The Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) is the ace up the sleeve of PARK INNOVAARE. PSI’s large research facilities are also enabling Swiss federal innovation funding to overcome Switzerland's current disadvantages as a location: the monetary policy of the European Central Bank and the role of the Swiss franc as a "safe haven" on the international money market are giving rise to unfavorable – export-inhibiting – exchange rates. This, in turn, has led to threats of deindustrialization and downsizing.

Having behind it PSI as an internationally acclaimed research center for natural sciences and engineering, PARK INNOVAARE is playing its trump card in the transfer of technology. PSI presently operates the following large research facilities:

as well as the X-Ray Free-Electron Laser “SwissFEL”, which was inaugurated in December 2016 and is already being used to conduct the first pilot experiments. This research structure is unparalleled worldwide.

PSI also liaises internationally with all the relevant research institutions. Numerous scientific publications, based on research work done at PSI, document the outstanding scientific expertise of the Institute. More than 10,000 such works have been published since 2002. In 2016 alone, about 900 scientific articles were based on experiments conducted in the facilities.

Even if sufficient financial resources were available, such a complex could hardly be set up elsewhere. In addition to the necessary capital, there would also have to be enough skilled staff to work in such a sophisticated research environment. This is why the site is unique. At PSI in Villigen, not only are there 2,000 permanent employees, including scientists who are among the world's research elite in their field, as well as highly qualified engineers and technical specialists. The Institute also has 2,400 industrial users per year and permanently offers more than 800 visiting researchers from abroad the opportunity to pursue their field of science. Finally, there are several hundred doctoral students and post-doctoral students conducting research at PSI. About 150 of these young scientists leave PSI every year to continue working at other institutions or to continue their career in industry. More than 1,000 contracts with industrial companies bear witness to PSI's tremendous experience with application-oriented research, which is key expertise when it comes to building an innovation park. This, by the way, is where the other partners of PARK INNOVAARE come into play. There is also a close relationship with the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW), the country’s largest university of applied sciences to boast outstanding achievements in engineering and materials sciences; a number of cooperations are also being initiated with FHNW.

The specific, scientific qualities of PSI form the foundation of the innovation strategy of PARK INNOVAARE. This sort of structure, featuring large research facilities and having this variety of scientists and professionals, is hardly possible to emulate. It is a talent which PARK INNOVAARE can put to good account. It will the key to mastering the challenges faced by every location development effort.

This is the second part of a four-part series of articles about the site development at PARK INNOVAARE. The first and third parts of the series deal with the starting situation and strategy. An interview with the author on current developments will conclude the series.