Conversion work is currently underway in Hall 4 at the Zurich Innovation Park. From 2024, the University of Zurich and its UZH Space Hub will have a permanent home here. We asked the director of the UZH Space Hub about the possibilities of space research, the benefits of the Space Hub in the Innovation Park Zurich, and his faith.
Dear Oliver, why is space biotechnology research necessary? What are its benefits?
Oliver Ullrich: We have been involved in fundamental research for decades. Now we are finally ready to use the space environment as a tool. In space, we are able to generate products that – due to the prevailing gravity – we cannot manufacture here on earth or only with great difficulties and high costs. In biotechnology, these are protein crystals for drug development on the one hand, and on the other, we can create 3D tissues with which to test drugs, replacing animal testing. We are only at the very beginning. Pharma and biotech in space will become a multi-billion dollar industry.
Why is the Innovation Park Zurich (IPZ) ideal for this?
At the IPZ, research location and airfield are combined in an environment of world-class universities and research institutions. This is a unique feature throughout Europe and a significant plus for the competitiveness of the greater Zurich area and Switzerland.
How can you imagine the hub at the IPZ?
Hall 4 of the UZH Space Hub is a "multi-user facility" with access to the airfield and shared workshops, offices and life science laboratories. It is intended to become a vibrant place for new things to happen, a place for aerospace to work and meet. Our presence at the IPZ builds on both the competencies of the UZH Space Hub and the already tested and established UZH Space Hub research flights at the Dübendorf airfield site.
What will the UZH Space Hub offer in the future?
We see aerospace as a fundamental driver of research, technology and innovation in the future. In the New Space Economy, low-Earth orbit will become an economic space, a place for innovation and production. In the coming decades, space will fundamentally change the way we live and work - just as aviation did a good 100 years ago when it began in Dübendorf, Switzerland. We are at the beginning of a new era. The UZH Space Hub intends to make a substantial contribution to this. The triple use of the airfield site by the Air Force, the Innovation Park and the civilian airfield operator is unique in Europe and can and will unleash tremendous synergies.
Finally, a personal question: You are a scientist, a doctor and have also studied theology. What do you believe in?
Man is richly endowed. He has the spirit and the mind. Spirit and mind guide our creative power, our tools, our technology, our planning determine the goal. We are empowered to understand, to judge, to be responsible and to know the limits of knowledge. In the end, it is always about one thing: serving the human being and the dignity that resides in every human being.