Germany's micro- and nanotechnology companies in upbeat mood


German micro and nanotechnology companies are decidedly bullish on 2014. They are "more optimistic than they have been in a long time," according to IVAM, an association that represents companies and institutes involved in microtechnology, nanotechnology, advanced materials, and optics & photonics. It's a nice turnaround from the survey that IVAM published this time last year, when the mood was, shall we say, sour. Medical technology is a core market for one-fifth of the companies surveyed.

IVAM surveyGross domestic product grew a scant 0.4% in Germany in 2013, according to the German Federal Statistic Office. Robust growth in the overall economy and exports is predicted this year, however, in line with expectations for the companies surveyed by IVAM, which is headquartered in Dortmund, Germany. In the current survey, "more than two-thirds of companies expect their situation to improve during 2014," notes the report. "More than 60% of companies expect orders, production, and sales to increase. The mood has not been that positive since the financial and economic crisis in 2009."

Medical technology continues to be a target market for the largest percentage of Germany's micro and nanotechnology sector. Mobile and point-of-care diagnostics, health monitoring systems, and 3D printing for medical applications are helping to drive this growth, says IVAM.

Suppliers of advanced and high-tech materials, which constitute one segment of the companies surveyed, also point to automotive applications as a positive going into 2014. Enabling lightweighting and fuel efficiency is cited as a particularly promising endeavor for these companies.

The vast majority of companies surveyed have an international scope, as the EU market is "becoming too small for IVAM member companies." Almost 90% of those companies either already access markets outside Europe or plan to do so. Seventy percent of them expect to increase their exports to non-EU countries in 2014.

Corporate financing remains a challenge, and this is especially problematic for small, innovative companies, which make up a large percentage of IVAM's membership. A rebounding economy might free up some investment money, notes IVAM, and a new EU-wide public program, Horizon 2020, holds some potential. Especially promising is an effort to make EU funding more accessible to small and medium sized businesses.

In light of revelations about NSA surveillance, cyber security has become a concern for micro and nanotechnology companies, and IVAM asked them to assess the safety of their data. More than half would not even hazard a guess as to how secure their data is. Only a quarter of respondents said that they felt sufficiently safe from industrial and other espionage. Ninety percent of respondents demanded that governments and the European Commission should intervene and impose stricter regulations of data security.

The survey was conducted in January and February 2014. It was distributed to 1485 companies in Germany, of which approximately 75 participated.

The full survey report is published on the IVAM website.

Norbert Sparrow

Norbert Sparrow is Senior Editor at PlasticsToday. Follow him on twitter @norbertcsparrow and Google+.

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