Dr. Rainer Waldschmidt: Closely connected – Clusters of the Hessian healthcare industry

Cluster networks are becoming more important in Hessen. Today, there are around 30 successful networks of expertise which bring companies and research institutions together in various promising sectors and technologies. In particular, the cluster partners of the Hessian healthcare industry are working together on increasing efficiency and innovative capability.

As a business location, Hessen is characterised by a vibrant cluster landscape. More than 30 cooperations with a total of 1100 participating companies are listed in the www.hessen-cluster.de portal which is operated by TechnologieTransferNetzwerk Hessen and sponsored by Hessen Trade & Invest (HTAI). HTAI is the state’s eco­nomic development company and the organisation posi­tions and supports Hessen as an economic and technology site, on behalf of the Hessian state government. This is in aid of strengthening its competitive position at a national as well as international level. In Hessen’s clus­ter landscape, HTAI works actively as a promoter, part­ner and co-initiator of future-oriented networks. Their spec­trum of Hessian strengths covers the areas of mobility and energy management as well as automotive, mechan­ical engineering, medicine and health. The clusters provide stimuli for research, technological progress, economic growth and employment in Hessen.

Especially for future-oriented sectors such as the health­care industry, corresponding conditions are of vital im­­portance to enable them to develop its economic power, and Hessen offers the industry an excellent climate for innovation and investment. Modern networks which successfully interconnect renowned research facilities, innovative businesses and administrative bodies have sprung up around traditional sites, such as Frankfurt and Marburg as well as in North Hessen. The “Cluster Integrierte Bioindustrie” (CIB) Frankfurt, the “rhein-main-­cluster chemie & pharma”, the medical technology cluster “timm – Technologie & Innovation Medizinregion Mittelhessen”, the leading cluster for “Individualized ImmunIntervention” (Ci3) as well as the “Initiative gesund­heitswirtschaft rhein-main” (healthcare industry initiative Rhine-Main) and the “Gesundheits­region Nordhessen” (health region of North Hessen) – all support the networking between companies and institutions within the healthcare industry.

Each of the cluster partners stands for excellence – the interaction with others creates synergies that facilitate the breakthrough of developed innovative technologies and products more effectively. The active interconnection of technological and medical advancements promoted in the clusters strengthens Hessen not only as an economic and technology site but also directly con­­tributes to a better quality of life by transforming re­­search findings into new diagnostics and therapeutics.

Unlocking the future. In addition to chemistry and phar­­maceutics, the cross-sectoral clusters of the healthcare industry include two other key industries: medical tech­­nol­ogy and biotechnology. One of the lighthouse projects in the area of biotechnology is the „Cluster Inte­grierte Biotechnologie“ (CIB) Frankfurt which is sponsored by Hessen Trade & Invest and unlocks the technology and potential of the „white biotechnology“ (see pg. ).

Innovative and strong in the area of research. Person­alised medicine is a good example. The „Cluster Individu­alized ImmuneIntervention“ (Ci3) does an outstanding job in this field. It bundles the expertise present in the Rhine-Main region in the areas of medicine, methods of treatment and diagnostics with the aim of placing immune intervention at the international forefront. In 2012, Ci3 took a major step forward when the network of more than 120 partners won the leading-cluster competition initiated by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

The associated funding amounting to around 40 million euros will be used to work on tailor-made therapies for treating cancer, autoimmune diseases and dangerous infections. To fight these diseases, immune intervention uses the genetic and immunological characteristics of the patient to allow for an individualised, more accurate and gentler method of treatment. At the same time, the innovative forms of therapy reduce the time it takes to develop medication as well as the treatment costs.

Ci3, which is supported by Hessen and Rhineland-Palat­inate, integrates players from the industrial, scientific and political sector. Moreover, partners such as Hessen-Biotech, which is part of Hessen Trade & Invest, provide input in terms of content and cooperate closely with the cluster management. The „Initiative gesundheitswirt­schaft rhein-main e.V.“ is another Hessian network that is active in the transregional Ci3.

Collectively strong and efficient. Representatives from the industry, science and politics strive to bring together the health sectors at the site. The „Initiative gesund­heits­wirtschaft rhein-main“ wants to contribute to the region so that it can expand its health economy potential further as one of the strongest health regions in Germany. Its aim is to shorten the paths between the stakeholders of the healthcare industry and to promote contacts between economy and politics. The initiative also campaigns in favour of an active health and economic policy.

The “rhein-main-cluster chemie & pharma” demonstrates how modern clusters thrive on historic soil. The network consisting of companies from the chemical and pharmaceutical industry has established itself on the former site of the once world-renowned chemical and pharmaceutical corporation Hoechst in Frankfurt. Size doesn’t matter; specialised small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are active alongside larger partners while enjoying equal rights, and all of them are internationally successful. Together, they work on increasing efficiency and innovative strength, but they are also looking for solutions with regard to the shortage of skilled labour.

The integration of SMEs is one of the success factors of clusters. SMEs in innovative industries such as the healthcare industry distinguish themselves not only through highly specialised expertise but also through above-average R&D quotas. The high expenses underline the innovative strength as well as the potential for growth and employment. Not least because of the in­­tense cooperation between SMEs and large corporations did the Ministry of Economics of the state of Hessen distinguish the “rhein-main-cluster chemie & pharma” in the state‘s cluster competition.

Networks for science and health. Beyond the Rhine-Main area, there is a regional cluster focusing on medical technology in central Hessen around the university towns of Giessen and Marburg. The cluster management of “Technologie & Innovation Medizinregion Mittel­hessen” – timm, for short – brings together the region’s businesses, clinics and universities. Under the motto “Idee trifft Strategie” (idea meets strategy), they exchange know-how with the aim of accelerating and improving the process from idea to product series. By enhancing the efficiency of the value-creating process in this way, they strengthen the central region of Hessen as a business location.

While the clusters previously described primarily open up potential in science and the economy, the “Gesund­heitsregion Nordhessen” (health region of North Hessen) cluster adopts a holistic approach. Based on the resources nature, culture and health expertise, the site at the heart of Germany is being developed into a nationally recognised health region. At the same time, the institutions involved in the network are developing concepts to ensure medical care for the people living in North Hessen in a sustainable way.

Hessen Trade & Invest collaborates closely with the cluster initiatives, for instance in the search for suitable network partners or within the scope of jointly organised events and projects. HTAI also advises and supports interested initiatives and businesses when they apply for EU projects or file an application to obtain funding for strategic alliances.

 

HA_Dr.-Waldschmidt_040-KopieAfter various international positions in re­­search and industry, the author, a scientist and MBA graduate, worked in the Hessian Ministry of Economics, Transport, Urban and Regional Development from 2002. In July 2011, he became Managing Di­­rec­­tor of the state business development corpo­­ration HA Hessen Agentur GmbH. He has also headed its subsidiary, Hessen Trade & Invest GmbH, since October 2012.