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CSEM launches ‘postdoc for industry’ initiative

13 Apr 2012

Swiss institution with a strong focus on technology transfer aims to turn scientists and engineers into entrepreneurs.

Ambitious young scientists and engineers who want to start their own companies are the target of a new initiative launched by the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM).

Based at various locations around the Alpine country, notably Zurich and Neuchâtel in terms of its optics and photonics expertise, CSEM has an extremely strong reputation for technology transfer – and wants to encourage young entrepreneurs to develop practical experience of the business world through its “postdoc for industry” scheme.

The new program is aimed at any researcher holding a doctorate from a relevant Swiss institution. They will be able to spend up to two years working as scientific collaborators within CSEM’s multi-disciplinary teams while acquiring the personal and entrepreneurial skills necessary to lead large-scale industry projects or launch a start-up.

“Candidates who already have in mind the outline of a product or service are preferred,” says CSEM. “Participants, driven by the desire to work closely with high-tech industry or to create a start-up based on a new technology will learn to lead, manage and direct a project planned autonomously – but in a close collaboration with the world of applied technology.”

CSEM has wide experience of technology transfer across many fields of science and engineering, including more than 30 start-ups, and in the optics and photonics sector examples of its spin-outs include the VCSEL manufacturer Avalon (now part of Oclaro) and the optical coherence tomography (OCT) company Heliotis, which has focused largely on industrial imaging applications. It also works closely with a large number of industrial collaborators based in Switzerland - including the high-performance CMOS imaging specialist ESPROS Photonics, whose efforts to build a wafer fab inside a Swiss mountain featured in a recent optics.org article.

Industry links
Among CSEM’s other photonics-related areas of expertise are highly miniaturized cameras, thin-film optics and sensors. Founded in 1984, the center is set up more like a company than an academic establishment – to the extent that it even has its own corporate culture and CEO, in the form of Mario El-Khoury.

“We want to offer talented young researchers the opportunity to experience innovation dynamics,” said El-Khoury in CSEM’s statement announcing the initiative. “We invite them to get acquainted with the industrial world and the world of venture creation, so that they can contribute to academic, social and scientific development in Switzerland through a career based on technology transfer.”

CSEM told optics.org that although the program will be aimed at domestic researchers with a doctorate from a relevant Swiss institute initially, in the future there is the possibility of international participation.

The program is already up and running, with CSEM saying that it expects up to 10% of its current staff to take part in the initiative, which will take advantage of existing strong links in the industrial and financial sectors.

“CSEM works very closely with industrial partners already and works actively within several European projects,” a spokesman added. “In doing so, CSEM has developed a vast network of specialists and experts. In addition, representatives of the industry and of the venture capital world are part of our Scientific Committee, providing their expertise and know-how. This will all contribute to accelerate the technology transfer process.”

• Any budding entrepreneurs interested in taking part in the "postdoc for industry" scheme are invited to contact CSEM's human resources department directly, via jobs@csem.ch. Applications are being accepted year-round, on an ongoing basis.

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