Mission and Vision

The National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) Bio-Inspired Materials was launched in June 2014. Its vision is to establish an internationally recognized hub for smart materials research, education, and innovation. Its home institution is the University of Fribourg, with the Federal Institutes of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) and Zurich (ETHZ) joining as participating institutions. Since the start of Phase 3 in June 2022, the NCCR also counts CSEMEmpa, the University of Salzburg, and TU Darmstadt as associate institutions. The operations team of the NCCR is based at the Adolphe Merkle Institute, an interdisciplinary and independent center at the University of Fribourg that focuses on research and education in the domain of soft nanomaterials.

The overarching scientific goals of the NCCR are:

  • to take inspiration from natural materials to establish design rules and strategies for the creation of macromolecular and nanomaterial-based building blocks and their assembly into complex, hierarchically ordered stimuli-responsive materials with new and desirable properties;
  • develop a predictive understanding of the interactions of such materials with living cells;
  • and use the generated knowledge to develop innovative applications, particularly in the biomedical field.

Research is organized into three topical modules plus an additional module including translation-focused projects:

  • Module 1: Mechano-responsive materials
  • Module 2: Photonic materials
  • Module 3: Bio-interfaces across scales
  • Translation projects

Each of these modules tackles major unsolved problems, provides opportunities for significant scientific advances on its own, and requires an interdisciplinary research approach, reflected by 17 out of 19 projects being led by at least two PIs and involving at least two different disciplines. This has been possible thanks to the evolution of our scientific network over the last 8-year period, during which the NCCR served as a network platform and saw many collaborations within and across disciplines form. In Phase 3, it is expected that the interconnection of research themes through cross-cutting projects and the common goal of being technologically relevant will create substantial synergies, which can only be harnessed if addressed within a multidisciplinary Center.