Outside the business box – Visiting EMPA in St.Gallen

During the WI conference in February I participated in an excursion to EMPA, which is not an obvious thing to do for a student of information systems.


The EMPA – Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology – are not well known of, but a fascinating place in St.Gallen and they are producing high-class research. For me personally, this visit was one perfect example how inspiring it can be when you get outside your “business innovation box” and start looking into research that is happening outside of your discipline, especially how you innovate in other disciplines.

Leonie, for example, is doing research on the placenta barrier. From what I understood, her work is focused on the question how to use nanoparticles to carry medication through the placenta barrier, so you can control whether medication should only affect the fetus. (more information on the EMPA research on drug release systems can be found here)


Prof. Francis Schwarze has demonstrated his impressive research on how to apply fungi to wood for violin production, in order to have it age faster and create the sound of a 200 year Stradivari.


A blind test showed that the sound is actually perceived as “better” and more pleasant than the one of a Stradivari. This video shows some more background on his research.

While business innovation is closely connected to social sciences and a lot of questions in our “innovation” research are connected to topics such as adoption, leadership, organizational change, at the EMPA, innovation is done in a different way, from a technological perspective. But they are also trying to apply solutions from one field to another, such as what Prof. Schwarze did, when he applied his knowledge on fungi to violin making. This basically sums up the inspiration that I took from this visit and I was happy I joined and learned about other research fields – because maybe one day I can apply this experience and knowledge to another domain to create an innovative solution.

Thank you to the EMPA for hosting this excursion!

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