innesota links to Switzerland on the Internet

by Mike Oakes

Two clusters of medical companies, universities and research facilities from both ends of the earth will, for the first time ever, combine medical biotech expertise and offer products and services on one Internet site.
Zurich MedNet, the largest virtual community of medical biotech companies and universities in Europe, recently linked with the University’s MBBNet, Minnesota’s equivalent to the Swiss cluster.
The virtual link not only offers the potential for research collaboration in the biomedical field on both the university and business levels, but also offers those interested in biomedical products and services a chance to receive cooperative information with a click of the mouse.
Phil Kennedy, a representative of Zurich MedNet, sees a growing trend toward individuals who research medical companies and supplies on their own, using the Internet as a facet.
He said the link is beneficial because “people in Europe interested in products and services in our companies have the opportunity to take a look at products and services in Minnesota companies.”
Created five years ago, MBBNet’s initial goal was to use the Internet to bring the University together with other Minnesota companies.
A mere 60 months later, the idea globalized, and the result received praise from Swiss Nobel Laureate Richard Ernst.
“With the linking of our region to yours through Zurich MedNet and MBBNet, we have the opportunity to learn from each other and extend the traditions of academic excellence and business innovation that have enabled our regions to prosper,” said Ernst in a conference video.
For the University, the partnership promotes a student exchange with Swiss universities in the cluster.
“A large number of our students come from this country, and it’s impossible to obtain a more global view,” said Robert Elde, University neuroscience professor.
The Institute of Technology program plans to offer a three-week seminar in May at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences in Winterthur, Switzerland.
The seminar will offer a concise course in “mechatronics,” the combination of mechanical systems and digital technology. It will also give students a look at leading Swiss and German production and service enterprises.
Two Swiss engineering students are already taking advantage of the exchange.
Klaus Isler and Marco Parilli came to the University last month to research NPDBD, a new product design program based in Minnesota.
The students plan to take advantage of the University’s engineering program and learn as much as they can about the product before returning to Switzerland.
“This research takes the place of a paper we need to write,” Isler said.
Delighted with the project and its initial progress, MBBNet founder William Hoffman said he feels a partnership with Zurich MedNet has room to grow beyond medical biotech, but the field was the perfect starting point.
“We think this will be a model to other regions looking to partner. I’m excited,” he said.