National technology markets often show quite specific dynamics.
Dr. Thomas R. Dietrich, CEO of IVAM Microtechnology Network, is spotlighting the situation of nanotechnology players in Germany.

The following Interview transcript was translated from German into English.

Nanobay: What are the most important nanotechnology issues in Germany?

Dr. Dietrich: Nanotechnology is an evolving technology, some promising applications exist but the technology is in development. The most important components are the research projects; we need to develop nanotechnology so it will be market-ready and research is supporting this. Small and medium companies are well supported in Germany, but nanotechnology needs support from various sides.

Nanobay: Which sides in general are these?

Dr. Dietrich: As both a representative of IVAM Microtechnology Network and as an individual who wants to support new technologies, the first thing that comes to my mind is public funding - and there are a lot options for public funding. In general, new developments emerge from the middle class. But the small and medium enterprises alone cannot bear all the risks and must of course be supported. This support is necessary, not only from the public purse, but also from partners and user companies who might want to integrate nanotechnology into their future products.

Nanobay: Are there any differences between the markets in Europe, the USA, Japan and China?

Dr. Dietrich: Regarding development activities, there are differences. In centrally controlled countries such as China for example, public money supports research. In the Nanopolis, near Suzhou, the Chinese government is investing heavily in research, research institutes and institutions. But there are also other markets, such as those in the USA where everything is driven by private companies who recognize that nanotechnology products are promising. New products have emerged and continue to emerge from them. In Europe, especially in Germany, the market is a mixture of these approaches. On the one hand, the free market drives the development of promising applications, and on the other hand, many nanotechnology programs, are driven by publically funded scientific research.

Nanobay: How do you see the international interaction between the market players?

Dr. Dietrich: We live in a global world. You can see it at trade fairs such as Nanotech in Japan, which always takes place early in the year. Here the international community gathers, talks to each other and develops ideas for new products. It does not matter what the approach is in the home country. Cooperation is the necessary and must happen even across national borders!

Nanobay: As a member of IVAM, do you have a special message that you want to give the national or international nanotechnology community?

Dr. Dietrich: A new technology only spreads with innovative applications and products. Further, the technology and the overall market will develop more rapidly through them. In Germany, people always talk about flagship projects, which is quite reasonable. You need to have something that says, "Here is a field where nanotechnology really matters, here you have to invest". In this way, the important border areas that may not have a flagship character will receive spinoff attention and investment and will also develop. For instance, in the field of power generation the first thing that crosses my mind is hydrogen energy storage that operates much better with nanostructured surfaces. Or, in medical technology for cancer treatment there are some promising applications where nanotechnology plays an important role. If these things received more publicity, the entire nanotechnology market would be stimulated!

Nanobay: What vision should trendsetters hold for nanotechnology?

Dr. Dietrich: In Germany, we talk about the digitalization of the economy, about particular products and new products with special properties. Nevertheless, production costs should be low and therefore the products must be produced in novel ways. When someone thinks of cost-effective production, he thinks of large series and millions of product units, but in the future this will no longer be the case. Nanotechnology needs to be prepared for this. New methods that foster cost-effective nanotechnology products, tailored to an application and an individual user must be developed. In this direction, some are already developing and more will follow.

Nanobay: Would the 3D printing technology that plays a growing role in micro -and nanotechnology be an example for this development?

Dr. Dietrich: 3D technology can produce individual products cheaply, without long lead times and can create nanostructured surfaces. This is a typical example of the direction the industry is going in and should be going in.

Nanobay: For SMEs and start-ups, access to markets is usually difficult. What do you see as the obstacles?

Dr. Dietrich: SMEs in particular tend to develop products or technologies that are highly specialized. They need to pinpoint their customers and this needs various approaches. It can be done via internet platforms, at fairs, and through conferences or events. Another thing is that companies have to make their products appealing to customers. This means you need applications and products that showcase the effect of nanotechnology. There are companies that are very good at this, for example, a company that not only manufactures a hydrogen storage system, but also demonstrates its successful use on a fully functional car. Following such paths is imperative!

Nanobay: What do you see as the future methods of publicity or attention generation in the area of new technologies?

Dr. Dietrich: We are in the digital age and you have to make yourself known through social media and other internet platforms. In many cases, personal contact is important, especially for complex products or developments in their infancy. You have to build trust among potential customers who may have produced a product in a certain way for the last fifty years and do not see the benefits of change. They need to be convinced that this new technology will improve their product and will thus generate more customers. For this, a personal relationship of trust has to be established, which can start, for example at a trade fair. The internet is all well and good, but personal contact also has to happen!

Nanobay: Thank you for the Interview, Dr. Dietrich.


About Dr. Thomas Roland DeitrichDr Thomas Roland Dietrich

PhD chemist Dr. Thomas Roland Dietrich is since 1st January 2014 the Managing Director of the IVAM Microtechnology Network. After his studies and doctorate at the Goethe University Frankfurt, Dietrich worked as head of the group "photolithography and etching processes" at the prestigious Institute of Microtechnology Mainz (IMM) before he founded the mikroglas GmbH in 1996. Dietrich worked for many years as the CEO of mikroglas GmbH / AG. Since 2003 he has a lectureship for micro process engineering at the Fachhochschule Kaiserslautern. Next to that is he an active volunteer of various committees and interest groups (for example, DIN, DECHEMA).

Information about IVAMIVAM Logo RGB small

IVAM is an international association consisting of companies and institutes from the fields microtechnology, nanotechnology, new materials, MEMS, optics and photonics. The association was founded 1995. Currently the IVAM has more than 200 companies and institutes as members, mainly small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The central mission of the association is to create synergies and to support its members in exchanging knowledge, initiating joint projects and networking with each other and potential customers. IVAM organizes workshops, business round tables and networking events. In addition, business platforms are organized in trade shows for example at the COMPAMED in Dusseldorf. IVAM helps with extensive press and public relations and supports its members abroad.

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Dr. Thomas Roland Dietrich (CEO IVAM e.V. Microtechnology Network) was interviewed by Silke Schäfers (Nanobay - NB GmbH) during the Hannover Fair 2016, Germany.