André Hofmann: Thinking outside the box

15 years after launching the Saxon biotechnology offensive, the industry relies on interdisciplinary networking.

Biotechnology in Saxony. Over the last years, an agile and innovative cluster has developed in Saxony, run by biosaxony e. V., which focusses on all aspects of life sciences. As a network for all of Saxony, biosaxony e. V. represents biotechnology and related areas ranging from engineering sciences to materials science up to medical technology. As a cross-sectional technology, biotechnology is very important for various high-tech industries and an increasing number of industries use bio­tech­nological procedures.

Over the last 15 years, Saxony and the municipalities have pursued a systematic establishment of life sciences and contributed substantially to the establishment of Saxony as a location for biotechnology. With the so-called biotechnology offensive, a specific support of the publicly funded sciences in this sector took place. Through this, a strong uni­versity and non-university research landscape of international repute developed, which also provided the basis for an industrial sector originating from life sciences.

Meanwhile, there are 45 biotechnology companies in Saxony, which primarily deal with red biotechnology. How­­ever, biotechnology is also closely related to other industries, thereby creating new application options. For instance, you can find more than 200 associated companies in Saxony, who do not work in the biotechnology sector directly, but play a major role in the added value of biotechnology. Compared to the previous years, a noticeable development of this young in­dustry could be witnessed. The amount of economically independent, dedicated biotech companies rose notably compared to 2012. Furthermore, an increase in the num­ber of employees could be recorded.

Life sciences, with biotechnology serving as their drawing card, have gained scientific and economic import­ance and provide an important pillar for the high-tech location with huge future potential.

The strategic development of the high-tech location. Saxony, and Dresden in particular, have a long tradition as pharmaceuticals locations, which dates back to the end of the 19th century. Friedrich von Heyden developed the first industrial process for producing salicylic acid, the base substance for aspirin, and founded a factory in Radebeul in 1874. The factory for salicylic acid provided the foundation for an important pharmaceutical location, which became part of the VEB Arzneimittelwerk Dresden and is still in use today as the headquarters of Arevipharma GmbH. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Arzneimittelwerk Dresden collapsed, which marked the end of the biggest pharmaceuticals factory of the German Democratic Republic.

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In 2000, Saxony decided to invest in biotechnology strategically and establish a high-tech pillar. More than 200 million euros were invested into infrastructure and science over the course of five years to establish the necessary framework conditions for developing a new industry. Since then subsequent investments have been made valued at many times this amount.

The development of the offensive was initially managed by the Sächsischen Koordinierungsstelle für Biotechno­logie (Saxon coordination centre for biotechnology), but in 2009, biosaxony e.V., as the industry association, took on this role and replaced the coordination centre. In the meantime, the number of members – commencing with 22 founding members from science, economy and administration – has quintupled.

A major accomplishment of the biotechnology offensive was building two new business centres, the BioInnovations­Zentrum Dresden and the BIO CITY Leipzig. Further­more, the relocation of Max-Planck institutes and Fraun­hofer institutes followed, such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI in Leipzig. The IZI has contributed substantially to strengthening the regional economy. Ten years of business resulted in the relocation and spin-off of 13 companies. Since then, life sciences have developed dynamically and Saxony has achieved an internationally competitive position in research. Today, life sciences are regarded as one of the five Saxon core skills.

biosaxony e. V. – network of Saxon biotechnology. biosaxony’s primary goal is to further increase the performance of Saxony’s life sciences with active participation by players from all regions of the Free State. The industry’s growth can only be achieved through the active support and constant stimulation of innovation and technology transfer.

Stimulation of innovation acts as starting point for new ideas and inventions of economic importance. This requires breaking new ground, for example through interdisciplinary cooperation. biosaxony supports this by enabling Saxon stakeholders to communicate with other regions and industries, for example in the project “Aktionsplan Medizintechnik” (action plan for medical technology) together with the BioRegio STERN Manage­ment GmbH from the region around Stuttgart. Network­ing on a regional and national level provides an opportunity to explore new paths and thus create new fields of application, new products and new markets. The co­operation between biosaxony and Silicon Saxony under the C3-Saxony project funded by the EU, combines the key technologies biotechnology and information and com­munication technology. C3-Saxony is a cross-cluster project between biosaxony, Silicon Saxony, the Agil GmbH and the Laboratory of Knowledge Architecture at the TU Dresden and is coordinated by the SMWA (Saxon Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Transport). The work programme includes the specific support of interdiscip­linary projects through awarding innovation vouchers, visits of other clusters as well as creating an incubator concept. The initiation of new ideas is decisive for the industry’s innovative strength, however, its economic success is equally determined by the support of existing projects up to the point where they are ready for the market. This knowledge and technology transfer is another area of responsibility of biosaxony: turning scientific potential into economic success. To this end, the technology transfer trade show bionection was developed together with the state capitol Dresden. After the première in Dresden with more than 200 par­ticipants from ten countries, the bionection took place in Leipzig this year. Projects of scientists were presented to the general public in form of a technology display window, designed to market know-how from Saxony on a regional, national and international level. In partnering, cooperation projects were initiated and contacts were established. With the bionection, biosaxony has established a successful technology transfer, which brings together science and industry.

Outlook. The biosaxony e.V. was founded to represent the interests of Saxon biotechnology industry. But since the various interdisciplinary links to other technology fields are becoming increasingly important, biosaxony will seek to establish even closer ties with other industries. The focus currently lies on medical technology and the health sector, which can open up new application options and markets for the cluster stakeholders in biotechnology.


01_Hofmann2André Hofmann
As CEO of the biosaxony e.V., the author heads the Saxon Life-Sciences-Cluster biosaxony. He is also the managing director of the biosaxony Management GmbH and the BIO-NET LEIPZIG Technologietransfergesellschaft mbH. After studying medical engineering/biotechnology, he worked as a researcher at the Max-Bergmann Center of Biomaterials Dresden. From 2007 to 2012, he worked as a competence field manager Life Sciences/Biotechnology for the city of Dresden.