Our Member Spotlight series is back with a new interview. This month we spoke with Jiří Kůs, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Czech Nanotechnology Industries Association.


Welcome, Jiří. Could you start by giving us a brief introduction to the Czech Nanotechnology Industries Association? 

Our Association was founded on November 27, 2014. At present we bring together 41 Czech companies from different industries, from textile and biotechnology through environmental applications, medicine and optics to power generation. Most of our members have nanotechnology as their core business. Some of them are nanomaterial manufacturers, while others focus on the development and production of nano products or their applications. There is a database of Czech nanotechnology products on our website since this year.

You once described your dream for the Czech nano sector as becoming “a pearl” in the tech world, and it seems it is shining already. Can you give us a few examples? 

According to Wikipedia, the first nanotechnology firm was founded in the US in 1997, but only seven years later Professor Jirsák’s team at Liberec Technical University came up with the Nanospider, a device for the industrial production of nanofibers – with “industrial” being the key word – demonstrating that, alongside the US, the Czech Republic was among the first to move nanotechnology from the lab to the industry. For this reason we are very strong in nanofiber technology, applicable to the textile industry, filtration, and biotechnology. The COVID-19 pandemic proved that the development and application of nanotechnologies represents a strategic investment: the large capacities of nanofiber production in the Czech Republic facilitated a rapid launch of mass production of nanofiber face masks and respirators that protect against viruses a lot more effectively than common protective equipment. Of course the Czech nanotech industry is not only about nanofibers. One of the very advanced and promising technologies we have is the nano optics or a super fast 3D nano-printer. Imagine that, in the future, production processes may look like in Star Trek, using the Czech technology of the Holographic 3D Nanoprinting.

Czech Nanotechnology Industries Association is involved in a number of very interesting projects. Can you talk us through the concept of the nano-enabled smart city? 

You know that a smart city is a concept incorporating a range of state-of-the-art technologies to improve the quality of urban life. A lot of cities currently suffer from air pollution, blackout risks, and the ever-increasing costs of maintaining water and air quality. The combination of technology and modern planning can eliminate such negative factors and improve the quality of life in city centres and suburbs. 

Czech nanotechnology companies work intensively to find a solution to these problems, cooperating with universities and leading scientists to develop relevant technologies and products. A smart city using Czech nanotechnologies improves the quality of air and water and reduces the costs associated with electricity consumption and storage, thus improving the quality of life for everyone living in the city.

Another very interesting project of yours is “On the Path of Development", a training programme for your member companies’ staff. Could you tell us more about it? 

This is a program financially supported by the Czech government, with the main goal to enhance the professional knowledge base and skills of employees in the companies participating. We strive to ensure the prosperity and development of businesses via the professional education of members’ employees. We support people individual development, boost overall competences, and enhance teamwork as well as corporate culture.

One of your projects which I find very interesting and very much needed is Nano Day, aiming at presenting nanotechnology to the general public. What does a Nano Day looks like? 

Nano Day is an important tool for us how to promote nanotechnologies among the general public. We are gradually organizing this event in all main Czech cities and also abroad. It is actually a combination of an exhibition and a talk show featuring nanotechnology manufacturers and inventors. In front of visitors we make nanofibers, we demonstrate smart self-cleaning nanocoating, super skiddy and super hard surfaces of materials, nanomembranes for wine filtration, nanofiber respirators, functional antibacterial clothes, nanotextiles in fashion, nano cosmetics and biotechnologies, anti-mite nano beddings for people suffering from allergies, plasters containing silver nanoparticles, nano air purifiers, 3D batteries, and many more applications of Czech nanotechnologies.

And for our final, non-nano question… one of my favourite tech fun facts is that we owe the word “robot” to a Czech, the author Karel Čapek. If someone knowledgeable about technology but not so much about Czech literature asked for a book recommendation, where would you suggest they start from? 

I would like to recommend a young Czech writer, Jaroslav Kalfar, and his novel Spaceman of Bohemia which was published in 2017. It is one of the most interesting books I read, and now I am looking forward to the Netflix adaptation