Dr. Kathrin Adlkofer: Life science in the North on course for success

Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein are home to the cluster Life Science Nord. It closely interlinks the medical, medical engineering, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. The region between the North and Baltic Seas has become a significant life science location, where private companies and public research facilities go hand in hand.


Many of the upwards of 500 players of Life Science Nord, Germany’s second-largest medical technology cluster, are modern companies. For the most, they are active as global players – but there are also internationally recognized scientific facilities such as the research centre in Borstel, the Bernhard Nocht Institute for tropical medicine and the university hospitals of the states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg. Over decades, they all have laid the foundation for today’s success: the direct connection between science, research and industry as well as the broad clinical application of the results obtained.

Medical technology – deeply rooted in the North Traditionally, medical technology is well-positioned in Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg. Hardly any other region offers a comparably strong concentration of research and development in medical technology: A workforce of about 11,500 people generates a yearly turnover of approximately 3.9 billion euros. Companies such as Dräger Medical, Stryker, Olympus Surgical Technologies Europe, Johnson & Johnson Medical, and Philips Medizin Systeme locally develop and create solutions for the global healthcare market. Small and medium-sized enterprises, which represent the majority of the 300 or so companies in that branch, as well as medical research are also widely represented and well networked in the region.

The close cooperation between universities research facilities and industry contributes considerably to their success. Research subsists on developments from private companies reaching market maturity, and conversely, companies subsist on good ideas from research being directly implemented. This strengthens the competitiveness of the companies.


Amongst others, the project Molecular Imaging North Competence Center (MOIN CC), set up in Kiel, represents a research and service platform for mo­­le­cular imaging that is unique in all of Germany. It provides an efficient infrastructure, which, on the one hand, serves science and, on the other hand, offers businesses ideal opportunities for the development of new medications, therapies and diagnoses.

A key focus of medical technology lies in advanced surgical technologies, such as the so-called minimally invasive surgical procedures. With those, the use of new technology causes considerably smaller openings or wounds during surgery. Smaller scars result, wounds are less likely to become infected, healing and recovery are successful within shorter periods, and expensive hospital stays are reduced significantly as a result. The region is playing a leading part when it comes to high-tech solutions for operating theatres and surgical methods.


New concepts in biomedical research and biomedicine The biotechnology of Life Science Nord is supported by a wide base of about 160 companies. This in­­dustry employs approximately 9,500 researchers and workers in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. The focus lies on the fields of modern active-agent research, molecular diagnosis and enabling technologies.

The biggest provider in Hamburg is Eppendorf AG, which together with its subsidiary Eppendorf Instrumente GmbH employs 1,200 people. The listed Evotec AG and Sequenom AG enjoy an international reputation.


Innovative founders versus differentiated research landscape Numerous companies that have turned research results into competitive products are found in the region between the seas. Furthermore, the region of the cluster Life Science Nord features a differentiated life science research landscape. In addition to six universities with studies in the field of life sciences and numerous institutes, there are also prominent research facilities whose reputation reaches beyond the state. A nationally significant bioscience field with integrated special research areas, post-graduate programmes and ge­­nome research network projects has established itself at the Christian Albrecht University of Kiel. With computer science, natural sciences and technology, the spectrum of courses at the University of Lübeck goes far beyond medicine, and it is their intersections that give the college its focus on life science. In Germany, the centre for molecular neurobiology of the University of Hamburg is counted among the leading facilities in its speciality.


A particular contribution to interdisciplinary research is made by the German particle physics research centre DESY. The radiation produced there is used to decode the structure of biomolecules on an atomic level of resolution. The planned X-ray laser European XFEL will create unique research conditions here for the life science field.

Pharmaceutical research sector Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg are the location of significant pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors.

Some of the large international pharmaceutical companies operate re­­search, production and distribution facilities here.
The focus of their pharmaceutical production is on neurology, allergology, oncology and dermatology. In the field of hygiene as well, the companies in the region develop and manufacture globally successful products. Sterilium – one of the best-known disinfectants – is produced by Bode Chemie of Hamburg. As international players, companies like Desitin Arzneimittel GmbH (neurology) and ALK-SCHERAX Arzneimittel GmbH (im­­munotherapy) operate their own re­­search and development departments here. Ferring Pharmaceuticals, another globally active group based in Kiel, develops and distributes biopharmaceutical products for reproductive medicine, urology, endocrinology and obstetrics. With its staff of 360, Nordmark in Uetersen researches and develops biological agents and pharmaceuticals. AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline are another two international pharmaceutical companies that have settled in the North. Conaris Research Institute AG, Proteo Biotech AG and Planton GmbH are further prominent biopharmaceutical and bioanalytical companies established in the region.
Application fields with a future Blue bio­­technology represents a still young, but well-positioned field in Schleswig-Holstein. It utilizes the ocean as a re­­source for the production of pharmaceuticals. Cur­­rently, this discipline is still in the beginning stages of its possibilities. In order to exploit this potential to the fullest, networks are being woven and, most importantly, the marine infrastructure is expanded: Besides the active agent centre of Kiel (KIWIZ) set up at the Institute for marine science at the Uni­­versity of Kiel (IFM-Geomar), the Fraunhofer Institute for marine biotech­­nology (EMB) in Lübeck is meanwhile also devoting itself to the potential of the oceans.



Life Science Nord has grown well in recent years – thanks also to proven funding from the states, the federal government and European research programmes. A strong network, favourable political support and close cooperation between science and business help the branch achieve success in the region and well beyond. The attractiveness of the location, contingent on a high quality of life and the availability of skilled staff, has led to the emergence of an economic sector that is internationally competitive and leading in its field.

The North German Life Science Agency Norgenta GmbH is the project and
service company for the life science
cluster of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg. It is meant to coordinate existing life science activities and
promote new projects. Under the
umbrella of Life Science Nord, the
private companies and public research facilities of the sector are united into an internationally competitive cluster. The main objectives are the initiation of projects with the aim of building the economic and scientific image of the location as well as better marketing of the location. Through the participation of Bay to Bio
Förderverein Life Science Nord e.V.,
Norgenta has turned into a public-
private partnership.

Further information:

LV0P3665The author studied molecular biology. After research work in USA, she was in charge of, amongst others, strategic alliances at the biotech company Evotec AG before she took over the management of the technology transfer company MediGate GmbH. Since 2005, she has been CEO of Norgenta GmbH.