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ILMAC 2016: clean rooms and the military as an innovation driver

Published on 9/15/2016 by Christoph Spangenberg

Experts from more than 45 countries at four events: next week, Messe Basel is set to be the centre of the life science industry. And the specialist ILMAC trade fair will be presenting process and laboratory technology in all its different facets. ILMAC Director, Michael Bonenberger, speaks about clean rooms, the military as an innovation driver in the kitchen and the importance of knowledge transfer at trade fairs.


Everything is centred on process and laboratory technology at ILMAC. What then is the military doing at the trade fair?

Cooking! The armed forces have frequently been pioneers in the development and use of new technologies. In the field of catering too, a number of fundamental achievements and inventions can be ascribed to armies. In the laboratory, as in the kitchen, physical and chemical changes come about which have a major influence on the ingredients and their aggregate state. And, precisely in molecular cuisine, use is made of a large number of appliances that originated in the laboratory, such as rotary evaporators and tempering baths, and also liquid nitrogen. At ILMAC, the "Cooks' Training Corps" of the Swiss Armed Forces Culinary Team will be demonstrating the history of catering in the army in a simple manner.

And, with regard to cooking: when you were young, you nearly became a cook...

Yes, but then I looked at the working hours and opted to become a chemical lab technician instead. The jobs are basically similar. Different ingredients are mixed together to form a new product. My passion for chemistry, however, dates back to the time of my first communion. It was then that I received a gift of a chemistry set and a microscope.

ILMAC belongs to the life science industry in the same way as the parallel events of MipTec and the Basel Life Science Week. What is life science, actually?

The life sciences today take in a large number of disciplines, going way beyond classical medicine and pharmaceutics, and ranging from nutrition and movement through to the study of biochemical correlations in the body. At ILMAC, the pharmaceutical, chemical, biotechnology , cosmetics, and food and drinks sectors will all be meeting up. We are, by the way, the only trade fair in Switzerland that covers research and development on the one hand and production on the other. We're Switzerland's Achema, as it were - the equivalent of Germany's most important trade fair for the process industry held in Frankfurt am Main.

The focal themes at this year's ILMAC include clean room control and LabTec4.0 Why is this?

Since ever more demanding drugs and products are being produced, the requirements on production and the product are rising, making the topic of clean rooms increasingly important. Each individual particle is a potential vector for bacteria. At ILMAC, it is not only a matter of protecting products from outside influences but also of protecting people too. And to highlight the importance of this topic, we are staging a dedicated forum for the transfer of knowledge.

ILMAC-Leiter Michael Bonenberger (MCH Group)

Michael Bonenberger. (Foto: MCH Messe Schweiz Basel)

With LabTec 4.0, we wish to move laboratory appliances out of the realm of theory to a greater extent and into practice. The classic vocational occupations are being phased out, and the current educational system is very much focused on theory. In the LabTec4.0 section, exhibitors of laboratory appliances will be speaking on an innovative topic, presenting their product in practical use and highlighting its advantages in a specially created laboratory environment. In future, the plans are for LabTec4.0 to serve as a practical benchmark – as a test centre for new developments and innovations, as it were – where our visitors can find the best product for their particular needs.

Trade fairs are going through a process of change: alongside the exhibitors, the transfer of knowledge by experts is taking on an ever-greater importance, including at ILMAC.

Knowledge transfer is becoming increasingly important at trade fairs, because the degree of complexity is constantly rising. We are also a sector that is very much driven by innovations, with a large number of new products and ideas. We have a total of three areas in which content is imparted. In the ILMAC Forum, experts will be talking about the topic of Industry 4.0. This essentially relates to the capture and administration of data in research and development and in process technology in order to enhance communication between the individual components and boost effectiveness. In this way, components can communicate both with each other and with people, in order to minimise servicing intervals, for example. We also have the Cleanroom Control Forum and LabTec4.0 as a practical forum.

In addition to imparting knowledge, we also regard networking as highly important. This is why we have created our own networking event on Wednesday afternoon. The trade fair will be presenting itself in a different light during this event, with cooking shows, music and magicians. Business ought to be fun too.

In parallel to ILMAC, the Basel Life Science Week, and the MipTec and Medtech & Pharma* trade fairs are being held in the Congress Center Basel. All the different facets of the sector are thus being presented within just a few minutes' walking distance of each other. As Director of ILMAC, will you also have time to call in on the other events?

I will certainly be going to one or other of the events, such as to Professor Susan Glaser's lecture on "Life sciences today and tomorrow." That is also very much related to the topics being covered at ILMAC.

Messe Basel is naturally ideal for events of this type. Given that time is such a precious commodity nowadays, the short distances between the halls and the Congress Center are just what is needed. Public transport stops right in front of the door, and the railway stations and airport are also not far away. The distances are much greater at other big international exhibition sites. Basel is naturally also an eminently suitable venue for ILMAC and the other events being held in parallel, since the life sciences are extensively represented by the pharmaceutical industry that has its home there, as well as by the university and the industry in the region.

*Alongside ILMAC, which is mapping out the many different aspects of laboratory and process technology, the Congress Basel Life Science Week and the MipTec and Medtech&Pharma trade fairs are also being staged. Basel Life Science Week and MipTec are focusing on topics such as precision medicine, drug discovery, microfluidics, human health, synthetic biology, medicinal chemistry and synergy, while MedTech&Pharma is focusing on medical technology.

ILMAC is being staged at Messe Basel from 20 to 23 September 2016. More information at

Christoph Spangenberg

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