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BioRegions: A look at pioneering developments

This year’s German Biotechnology Days in Berlin were not only a forum for lively discussions, but also a platform for recognizing outstanding achievements in biotechnology, as honored by the AK BioRegions Innovation Award. As participants from NRW, we would like to share some remarkable insights and achievements.

“The spectrum of biotechnology is as diverse as the people in the scene.” A clear welcome speech was issued by Oliver Schacht, Chairman of the Board of BIO Deutschland, who laid the foundation for presentations and discussions to come. The topics ranged from gene therapy, sustainable management, alternatives to animal testing, liquid biopsy and plant protection – and covered almost the entire color spectrum of biotechnology.
One of these topics caught our special attention: financing in biotechnology.
Interestingly, Ulrike Hinrichs, MD of the German Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (BVK), overheard an apt statement on the way to the panel discussion about financing: “Biotechnology would be cool if it weren’t for the money.”
This statement emphasized the challenges faced by the biotechnology industry. Tobias Faupel, MD of DeepTech & Climate Fonds, emphasized the importance of a financing mix and called for a reassessment of capital in Germany during the panel discussion. This idea was supported by Ulrike Hinrichs, who addressed the challenges of funding through private investment and referred to the successful model with state participation in France.

Other areas for action were highlighted in another discussion panel: IP, market value and start-ups. “Germany is the European leader and ranks second worldwide in terms of patent applications. However, these figures are not reflected in the number of start-ups,” pointed out by Varun Gupta, Partner at Wellington Partners Life Sciences. Nicolas Krink, Senior Business and Research Analyst of the Federal Agency for Springboard Innovations (SPRIND) looked at the root of this issue by calling universities to highlight more success stories of start-ups and enhance the visibility of entrepreneurship to students. Furthermore, Andrea Schmoll, Partner at Osborne Clarke called for direct action as from her experience start-ups lack the accessibility to IP contracts. Hence, she demanded the establishment of a start-up database to facilitate access to contracts. She also emphasized that those interested in founding a company need more advice and that policymakers should meet this need by filling in the gap and actively supporting young and budding entrepreneurs.

A valuable symposium on the topic of the circular economy took place as part of the German Biotechnology Days. Nils Schrader moderated the session and highlighted the relevance of innovative approaches to the effective utilization of materials and the reduction of waste. Stefanie Bröring, Professor for Entrepreneurship and innovative Business Models at the Ruhr University Bochum, opened the lecture series with insights into circular business models for a sustainable bioeconomy. Gert Weber, Senior Researcher at the Helmholtz Centre Berlin and Srinivas Karuturi, Co-Founder and COO of BIOWEG, presented solutions for the enzymatic decomposition of plastic waste and the extraction of high-quality ingredients from waste streams, respectively. These discussions contribute significantly to the development of sustainable biotechnology.

The Innovation Award of the AK BioRegions in turn honored pioneering projects and up and coming companies that make a significant contribution to biotechnological development through their research and innovations. The award-winning projects demonstrated the diversity and potential of biotechnology. It was a proud moment for us when Patrick Bongartz, one of last year’s winners from NRW (Aachen), and one of this year’s winners from NRW (Essen), Bernd Giebel, met at our BIO.NRW stand.
The discussions and prizes illustrate that the German biotechnology sector is dynamic and diverse. There is a growing need for innovative financing models and increased collaboration between industry, investors, and policy makers to realize the full potential of this sector.

Overall, the German Biotechnology Days 2024 and the Innovation Award of the AK BioRegions provided valuable insights and some interesting solutions for the future of biotechnology. The next German Biotechnology Days will take place in Heidelberg in 2025. We are motivated to continue these discussions and work together on solutions to further advance biotechnology and maximize its positive impact on society. After all, hardly any other industry has as much potential to fundamentally improve our lives as biotechnology.