Research and know-how for SMEs

Presented themselves at the Thurgau Technology Day: The three new experts of the

Presented themselves at the Thurgau Technology Day: The three new experts of the Thurgau Technology Forum Lothar Ritter, Empa scientist René Rossi and Thomas C. Ahlburg. Image: Martin Sinzig

Making more targeted use of digital technologies, advancing industrial projects with the new OST Ostschweizer Fachhochschule (Eastern Switzerland University of Applied Sciences) and building a bridge to basic research thanks to Empa in St. Gallen. These aspects were conveyed by the Thurgau Technology Day.

125 people followed the online event on Friday, 26 March 2021, hosted by the Thurgau Technology Forum. The expert commission, supported by the Thurgau business associations as well as the cantonal offices for economics and labor and for middle and higher education, wants to network Thurgau companies with education and research in all of eastern Switzerland.

Practical impulses and suggestions were provided by three new experts who have strengthened the expert committee, which has been active for over 20 years, with examples from their work. Thomas C. Ahlburg, Senior Advisor Stadler Rail and active in the company for many years in a leading position, encouraged the use of digital technologies in SMEs. A lot of potential already lies in better designing individual products and production steps or supplementing services, he said.

A plant engineering company, for example, has made spare parts data available on a customer-friendly platform, thus creating considerable customer benefits. A sewer cleaning company has linked a robot to a geodata system and thus created an additional service. At Stadler AG, thanks to a laser scanning system, larger components could be measured with high precision without taking them out of the production process.

Finding the way to new solutions and innovations together with industry: This is the mission of the newly formed OST Ostschweizer Fachhochschule, which was created by merging the previously independent universities in St. Gallen, Buchs and Rapperswil. The competences of the three locations are now overlapping and directly available, the potential has become richer, announced Lothar Ritter, professor and head of the department of technology of the OST.

This department alone, with its 520 employees, carries out research projects worth around 55 million Swiss francs annually. An improved earth probe, electrotechnical hardware for a payment processing system, an autonomous single-axis mower, an extremely realistic helicopter flight simulator, a system for the traceability of plastic parts or, for example, a power-to-gas plant were cited by Ritter as examples, and successful spin-offs had resulted from two of these cases.

René Rossi sees his work as building bridges to basic research. He heads Empa’s Laboratory for Biomimetic Membranes and Textiles in St. Gallen and is also a lecturer at ETH Zurich’s Department of Health Sciences and Technology. As part of the federal government’s COVID-19 Science Task Force, Rossi is involved in the further development of protective and respiratory masks.

In St. Gallen, the focus is primarily on the interactions between materials and the human body. For example, models are being developed to help in the development of pain therapies for cancer. Together with the Cantonal Hospital of St. Gallen, for example, an app has been developed that helps to optimize such therapies. The research also extends to simulations that will provide insights into how fruit can be transported more gently.

For many years, the Thurgau Technology Forum has not only been active as a network between research, education and industry, but it also offers concrete services. Newly launched is an innovation coaching with cantonal funding. After an initial discussion, the possible course of action is formulated and an application is submitted. Subsequently, consultants of the Thurgau Technology Forum accompany the implementation process. You can find more detailed information here.


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