Biotechnology is a technology for the 21st century. Fundamental molecular genetic technologies were created in the last decades of the 20th century; significant commercialization did not begin in Germany until the turn of the millennium.
This means, we are dealing with a really young industry. Nevertheless there are intensive efforts to further it everywhere in the world. The reason is that biotechnology is the basis for innovations in the fields of health and nourishment, which are of great importance for the well-being, and that the high potential it also has in the fields of chemistry and energy is recognized by more and more people. That is why life sciences have been one of the main focuses of the innovation policy in Berlin-Brandenburg for more than ten years. The conditions for building up a productive biotech cluster with international influence were better here than in many other regions of Germany. The high number of research facilities concentrated in our area leads to an almost inexhaustible pool of resources from which many young, innovative companies have emerged. Today more than 190 biotech companies work in this region. Many of them are spin-offs of the nine universities and 15 research facilities of the Max Planck and Fraunhofer Societies as well as the Helmholtz and Leibniz Associations, where approximately 350 work groups are engaged in research regarding life sciences. Thanks to the great commitment of the states’ governments, six biotechnology parks were created, providing ideal starting conditions to young companies in particular.
Efficient networks. Nowadays research and development in high technology segments are furthered by a worldwide flow of know-how and by international co-operation. A cluster can never be self-sufficient. It is rather a point marking a hub on the international roadmap. When you look closer, you will find out that this point is a dense network itself. The biotech region of Berlin-Brandenburg is a very good example of such a place.
The concentration of expertise in core areas of biological basic research, biotechnology and biomedicine is a special characteristic of the region. In these areas great and efficient potentials have come up, forming the basis of the internationally recognized status of life sciences in Berlin-Brandenburg.
Owing to these potentials, many stimuli from outside can be integrated.
The close relationship of strong partners from science and industry within the networks ensures an efficient transfer of technology and thus the fast implementation of results in basic research into widespread use.
Networks in the region dedicate themselves among others to the development of medicine, the combination of microsystems technology and biotechnology, bioinformatics, functional genomics, glycobiotechnology, molecular diagnostics, nutrition and plant genome research, structural biology, regenerative medicine, RNA technologies as well as industrial biotechnology.
The close interlocking of basic research with clinical is another great strength of the region. The Charité, being one of the biggest university hospitals in Europe with more than 2,000 scientists, provides the research facilities as a competent partner for clinical research covering all indication areas. Clinicians and basic research scientists work together under one roof in special centres like the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), the Berlin Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies (BCRT) or the NEUROCURE excellence cluster.
On a growth curve. About ten new biotech companies are founded in Berlin-Brandenburg every year. Due to this, there are now almost 200 companies and the industry is well represented. The companies are young and innovative, but often they are also still very small. Many of them focus on research and development, their business concepts primarily aim at co-operation with big pharmaceutical and chemical enterprises. They only plan to introduce their own products in the medium term. Companies like this do not represent fast growth but sustainable growth with an annual increase in jobs of about five per cent over the past ten years. And they attract the attention of international life science corporations and bring them into the region. This way companies like Sanofi- Aventis, Pfizer, Shire, DSM, STRATEC and Thermo Fisher Scientific have come to the region in recent years. The internationally leading contract research organization Parexel also has a branch in Berlin, employing 1,500 people.
Together with the companies in medical technology, the biotech companies are the technological basis of and thus a driving force behind the altogether well positioned health industry in Berlin and Brandenburg.
The author studied chemistry and worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Ciba-Geigy AG in Basle. In 1994 he joined AnalytiCon AG in Berlin and in 2000 he founded AnalytiCon Discovery GmbH in Potsdam. Dr. Bindseil has headed the “Aktionszentrum BioTOP Berlin-Brandenburg” since 2001. He is spokesman of the Arbeitskreis Deutscher Bioregionen.