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Dutch firm to back Swiss fuel cell breakthrough

PSI fuel cell projects are close to being marketed (PSI)

The Paul Scherrer Institute, the Swiss national energy research centre, has reached agreement with a venture capital firm from the Netherlands on commercializing new energy technologies developed at PSI.

The deal gives Planet Capital Management the right to assess new patents and technologies developed for sustainable energy.

At least two types of fuel cell projects are close to market. A portable “power pack” cell won a Location: Switzerland Technology Award last year.

It could be used to power wheelchairs or replace small combustion engines in lawn mowers, for example.

The other fuel cell technology is targeted at the automotive industry. It was tested in the Simplon Pass by Volkswagen. Now a number of other automobile manufacturers are assessing it.

Technology transfer

Over the past few years PSI has been building up its know-how on transferring technology, says spokesman Beat Gerber.

It now has a dedicated team of two full-time people, plus the individuals in each research group responsible for tech transfer. Spinoffs include Effcel, SustainServ, Mednetix, and SwissNeutronics.

Planet Capital is a venture capital fund manager established to provide equity capital to sustainable energy ventures, including early stages of commercialization of energy technology and services.

Gerber said the decision to work with Planet Capital was carefully considered.

Its track record with other research institutes, its industry specialization, and the network of industry contacts in the US and Europe convinced the Swiss institute. And a similar partner based in Switzerland could not be found, he said.

PSI has a staff of over 1,200 people and an annual budget of €170 million (SFr264 million).

by Valerie Thompson

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR