Cutting Edge Tumor Recognition – A Business Model for PETs

Sommersemester 2012 

Executive Summary 

Initial Situation 

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is fully funded by its 20 member states. The organization focuses on fundamental particle physics research with the help of particle accelerators. CERN develops a significant number of technologies that are also interesting for commercial use. CiS is a German industry-oriented research institution with a focus on micro sensors, microsystem technology and photovoltaic. The institute mainly provides application-oriented R&D and serves industrial companies as well as the public sector. CERN and CiS have a long-standing collaboration for the development and construction of silicon detectors. Both partners share knowledge in design, testing and prototyping of devices for research applications. Over recent decades, many important diagnostic and therapeutic techniques have been built on tools developed to conduct physics research. Notable examples are the technique of positron emission tomography (PET), which emerged in the medical community, but whose technology owes much to research in particle physics. The specific technology for this project is silicon photomultipliers (SiPM) used as integral detection part of a PET. A PET scan shows how organs and tissues are working, thus is it used in medicine to detect cancer in the human body. 

Project Target 

The main goal of this project was to develop a business model for the commercial use of the advanced SiPM technology in the PET market. The ideal model includes the expectations of both project partners: CiS aims for profitable commercial use and low-scale production and/or prototyping, which is one of CiS’ core competencies. CERN is interested in the successful use of its developed technology in other application fields. 

Procedure and Methodology 

Decision on Application Field At the beginning of the project we were faced with the decision on which of the two main application fields of PETs, namely animal experiments for the pharmaceutical industry or examinations in hospitals for the detection of human cancer, we should focus on. After doing a thorough online research in order to get an insight into PET and its applications, we conducted interviews with experts from pharmaceutical companies as well as nuclear medics. As a result we defined PETs for hospitals as our target application, because of both, a higher market volume and potential. Identification of Consumer Needs and Market Trends Having defined the application field, we took a closer look at hospitals, which are the end customers. In order to identify their needs and expectations towards a PET, as well as to find possible trends in the market, we conducted several qualitative interviews with many nuclear medics in Austrian hospitals. Afterwards, we created a questionnaire based on the findings of the qualitative analysis. This questionnaire was sent out to more than 400 hospitals and research institutes in Europe and Asia.

The distinct result of the quantitative analysis is the following: A sole PET is already seen as outdated, PET-CT (Computer Tomography) combinations are the standard product at the moment, and PET-MRT (Magnetic Resonance Tomography) combinations are the future trend. Analysis of Target Market Our target market consists of three multinational companies producing PETs. From online research and conducting qualitative interviews with companies’ representatives we derive that the three companies are all well established in the market and are producing PET components. The information that PET-MRT is the future trend, which was also a conclusion of our survey, was confirmed by the companies. PET-MRT is still in the development phase; hence PET producers are currently doing research in this field and are considering cooperation with research institutes.  


Based on the detailed technology and market analysis, and taking into account the needs of the target market as well as of our technology project partners, we built a final business model on contract research between the well-established multinational companies and CiS. Contract research allows CiS to focus on goal oriented research and development, working together with CERN as a partner for key aspects of the development phases. Additionally, as prototypes are needed in the development phase of a new technology, CiS is able to take advantage of one of its core competencies, namely fast, cheap and high-quality prototyping. Revenue streams will result from a fixed amount of money plus possible bonuses.  

Cooperation Partner 

  • European Organization for Nuclear Research

    Genève 23
    CERN CH-1211

  • Contact
    Heinz Pernegger
    Tel.: +41 76 487 2923
    Mar Capeans Garrido
    Tel.: +41 76 487 4590

  • CiS Forschungsinstitut für Mikrosensorik und
    Photovoltaik GmbH

    Konrad-Zuse-Straße 14
    99099 Erfurt

  • Contact
    Ralf Röder
    Tel.: +49 361 663 1461

Student Team

  • Andreas Brunauer
    Franziska Oberhauser
    Sergei Schaub
    Bettina Tomschitz