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Industrial companies are challenged to incorporate new technologies. A gigantic task. The Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research (Empa) is therefore launching a MedTech technology transition center in the Greater Zurich Area based on the Public Private Partnership model. This center connects research and industry and offers companies a 3D printing test environment. The small- and medium-sized enterprises in our region will benefit the most.

Digitalization in the healthcare sector is progressing. It results in personalized MedTech products. So what could be more obvious than printing customized implants? With the help of 3D printing technology, complex shapes can be realized and individual pieces can be cost-efficiently produced. But the implementation of additive manufacturing is a complex task. It requires a great deal of in-depth knowledge about the materials that can be used, the manufacturing process, the post-processing, the human body and the surgical procedures. In addition, there are legal and regulatory issues. Not to mention the high costs of such a system. For many Swiss small and medium-sized MedTech companies, the obstacle to entering this new world is high.

Image: Jaw implant from the 3D printer
Image: Jaw implant from the 3D printer, Source: Empa

Easy accessible for companies

The "Swiss m4m Center" for the transition of new manufacturing technologies in medical applications to the MedTech industry is now being built in Bettlach in the canton of Solothurn. The center gives companies easy access to new technologies. It is addressed mainly to future users of additive manufacturing - whether manufacturers or suppliers of MedTech products. Industry experience on the one hand and new materials and research findings on the other are necessary for a successful transition. The challenge is to combine both. With the "Swiss m4m Center", this should now become easier.

"In the new center, MedTech companies can benefit from best practices without taking the risk of investing in the wrong technology," says Robert Frigg, Chairman of the Board of 41medical AG and co-initiator of the "Swiss m4m Center". The project has received a positive response from local companies. "Existing and potential MedTech users of additive manufacturing see the advantage in evaluating the entire process chain in a MedTech environment or being able to test new technologies," adds Frigg.

Partnership with research institutions, hospitals and private partners

The new center will have facilities for manufacturing implants and other medical devices using the same manufacturing processes as industrial production. This closes the gap between research and industry. Both companies and research institutions can book and use the center's infrastructure and services. The center will be built on the principles of a public-private partnership. Numerous partners from research, hospitals and the private sector are involved.

The choice of location deliberately fell on Southern Jura. In this region, the density of MedTech companies is particularly high. The technology center is supported both by the Canton of Solothurn Economic Development Department and the Canton of Berne Location Development Department.

About the author

Sarah Koch is Head of the Economic Development Department of the Canton of Solothurn. The Economic Development Department is the first point of contact for Solothurn companies and those who want to become one. In this function, the Department accompanies settlement projects - quickly, competently and goal-oriented. www.standortsolothurn.ch.

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