Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker

Networking Platform

For transfer and collaboration

Nachrichten aus der Chemie, April 2024, S. 36-37, DOI, PDF. Login für Volltextzugriff.

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A forum for chemists, chemical and process engineers promotes the sustainable growth of the Swiss chemical industry. It aims to emphasize the importance of chemical production and process development in research, education, industry and politics. This portrait reveals how it does this.

Switzerland features a vivid and close collaboration between academia and industry. The Division of Industrial and Applied Chemistry (DIAC) of the Swiss Chemical Society (SCS) serves as a networking platform to promote sustainable industrial chemistry and chemical process technology to benefit society and the environment. Raising awareness of ongoing activities in European partner societies shall spark inspiration and collaborative opportunities.

Inspired by discussions with the Chemical Development leadership of European pharma companies during yearly pre-competitive gatherings (also known as “Erfahrungsaustausch Deutschsprachiger Pharmafirmen”), we deemed it worthwhile to showcase the Swiss chemical ecosystem, characterized by a close industry-academia collaboration.
Current board members of the Division of Industrial and Applied Chemistry (DIAC) at the yearly workshop in Murten in November 2023. From left: Urban Jenelten (DSM-Firmenich), Urs Brändli (Dottikon Exclusive Synthesis), Andrea Sting (Syngenta), Stefan Abele (Pharvaris), Maurus Marty (DSM-Firmenich), Stefan Hildbrand (Roche), Niklaus Künzli (Lonza), Roger Marti (HEIA Fribourg), Lucie Lovelle (Novartis). Foto: DIAC

The DIAC is a forum for chemists, chemical and process engineers with the strategic objective to drive sustainable growth of the Swiss chemical industry by highlighting the importance of chemical production and process development in research and education, industry and politics.1) Around 300 members come from the pharma, fine chemicals, agrochemicals, flavors and fragrances, animal health, and specialty food ingredients industries. The DIAC provides networking for knowledge transfer and interdisciplinary collaboration, using various channels and platforms as described below.

Swiss chemical industry-academia ecosystem

The Swiss chemical and pharma industry ranks No. 2 in the global competitive index published by BAK economics,2) and it accounts for half of Swiss goods exports with a 7 % contribution to the gross domestic product.3) In Europe, the pharma industry, for example, is the leading technology sector: pharmaceutical production amounted to Euro 324 bn in the EU with a Euro 60 bn contribution by Switzerland.4)

Driven by government programs (e. g. Inflation Reduction Act in US), faster growing markets and increasingly attractive R&D and healthcare ecosystems, this material added value is not a given constant. Efforts on several levels are required to maintain, nurture, and progress European chemical and pharma industries as local R&D and manufacturing are key ingredients for a resilient supply of life saving drugs.

Academia is a crucial part in sustaining competitive chemical and pharma industries by serving as a talent pool and producing breakthrough research. Knowhow transfer between industry and academia has a long tradition in Switzerland. In 1880, Robert Gnehm, professor at the ETH, moved to the expanding chemical industry in Basel, where he was later a board member of Ciba.5) Switzerland benefits from the excellence of its universities in teaching, research and innovation: about half of the 12 Swiss universities are in the top 200 universities worldwide. The universities of applied sciences (“Fachhochschulen”) are genuinely playing at the interface of industry and academia, and the traditional vocational education with apprenticeships performed with and in industry are established bridges between academia and industry.

Other ways of industry-academia collaboration are master theses and internships performed in industrial labs, public private partnerships, e.g., the Wyss Centers in Geneva and Zurich,6) or university technology transfer offices offering support and consulting for start-ups on licensing, funding and IP matters. Innosuisse, the federal Swiss Innovation Agency, promotes science-based innovation in the interest of the economy and society. All these elements turn the Swiss industry-academia relationship to a symbiosis.

Organized events and awards

Together with the School of Engineering and Architecture of Fribourg, the DIAC is the chair and organizer of the biannual traditional Freiburger Symposium, focusing on applied chemistry, process development and production, centered around a specific sustainability topic (next date is spring 2025).7) Established in 2016, the biannual Swiss Industrial Chemistry Symposium (SICS) held at the Basel university offers a unique platform for industrial scientists to present their latest results from research and process development (5th SICS is on 31 January 2025 at Biocenter in Basel).8) Moreover, the DIAC is the co-organizer of the ILMAC, the established trade fair for Laboratory and Process Chemistry in Basel and Lausanne.

The DIAC raises funds to finance the renowned Sandmeyer Prize, awarded to a person or group for outstanding work in industrial or applied chemistry. Since 2022, the DIAC grants the DIAC Fellowship Award to distinguished scientists from industry for significant contributions and innovations over many years in the field of industrial chemistry in Switzerland.


The yearly DIAC’s members’ assembly is combined with a company visit with presentations and site tour at a Swiss chemical manufacturer, also open to other members of the SCS. Profiting from the visibility in the SCS journal Chimia, members of DIAC organize special editions on industrial topics.9)

A recent initiative is geared towards sharing first-hand insight into the challenging activities of chemists in chemical development and production at Swiss academic institutions. These dedicated Process Chemistry Colloquia were presented by DIAC members at the Swiss universities Basel, Berne, Fribourg, Geneva, Zurich, and at the ETHZ and EPFL and received ample attention as this field is not broadly covered in present curricula.10)

Activities in neighboring countries

The French Chemical Society features a division called “Division de Chimie Industrielle” publishing a journal Actualités Chimiques, organizing the French Industrial Chemistry Symposium (FICS), and granting awards for science with the potential for an industrial application.11)

In Italy, the Division of Industrial Chemistry of the Italian Chemical Society bundles activities with industrial application and publishes Chimica e l’Industria.12)

Organizations in Germany covering this industry-academia interface are the GDCh Fachgruppe Wirtschaftschemiker (VCW), the Liebig-Vereinigung für Organische Chemie, as well as industry driven initiatives by local GDCh sections.13)

In this context, the DIAC board is open for exchanges and collaborations with communities in other countries which pursue common goals.

All links accessed 29 December 2023.

Der Autor

Stefan Abele is Chief Technical Operations Officer at Pharvaris. After a PhD at the ETH in 1999, he has been working in drug substance research & development and manufacturing at Carbogen-Amcis, Actelion and Idorsia, from preclinical phase to launch and commercialization. He is member of the board of DIAC and of the ACS journal Organic Process Research and Development.

Industrie + Technik

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