Markets & Companies

The German Capital Region

A Leading Hub for Life Sciences and Digital Health

24.11.2017 -

The German capital region is one of the leading life sciences and healthcare industries centers in the world. A total of around 30,000 employees work in more than 500 companies in the pharma, the biotech and the medtech industry.

The region’s distinction is anchored in its unique research and clinical landscape, as well as its ability to closely link the key players in the life sciences and healthcare. Biotechnology is a strong driving force within the Berlin-Brandenburg healthcare industries cluster – HealthCapital – generating innovation and growth there and beyond. More than 80 % of the around 230 biotech companies are active in biomedicine. The focus of biotech activity within the region are biomedicine and diagnostics, therapeutics and regenerative medicine.

In addition to the biotech and medtech landscape, the capital region has a longstanding tradition of pharma drug development. Global players, such as Bayer, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda or Berlin-Chemie (as part of the Menarini group), and more than 20 medium-sized companies, are offering jobs for a total of around 10,600 employees.

They all benefit from close cooperation, both with science and with more than 130 hospitals. Customers from research and industry have access to patient cohorts of urban and rural populations of about 180 ethnicities, covering all medical indications.

Excellent Conditions for Transfer and Translation

The German capital region is home to over 40 renowned scientific institutions, including the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Robert Koch Institute, the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC), the German Heart Center Berlin, and other well-known Fraunhofer, Helmholtz, Leibniz and Max Planck Institutes. The Charité is one of the largest university hospitals in Europe. More than 4,500 physicians and scientists carry out research, teach, and treat patients here at the cutting edge of international medicine.

The Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) is a new world-class research institution. Scientists from Charité and MDC have been carrying out research together at BIH since 2013. BIH is a scientific institution for translational research and systems medicine and is being established as a unique structure in Germany’s biomedical research landscape. The BIH, the Charité, the MDC and Sanofi Germany signed a joint research framework agreement in Berlin on October 4, 2017. In the future, the institutions will work together closely on the development of novel therapies for various diseases. In addition, the partners will support talented young researchers and projects with economic and medical potential.

For translational research and the interdisciplinary transfer of knowledge between researchers, for close networks between science and business, and the exchange between creative minds on the one side and financial backers on the other – in the German capital region, there are transfer and translation centers for a variety of topics and technologies, such as the Berlin-Brandenburg Center for Regenerative Therapies BCRT and the Experimental and Clinical Research Center ECRC.

The many technology parks and networks create an excellent infrastructure and technological support for transforming the latest scientific findings into innovative products for the healthcare sector. These include Germany’s largest Biotech Park Berlin-Buch and Europe’s leading technology park Berlin-Adlershof.

Strong networks such as the new formed “Network for Pharma Solutions“ (Net PhaSol) and the “glyconet Berlin-Brandenburg (BB)” offer plenty of opportunities for collaboration along the entire value chain. Both networks are not limited to the Berlin-Brandenburg region, but are also open to national and international partners and projects.

A Place To Be for Start-ups and Digital Health

The lively mix of economic players and scientific institutions, the diverse selection of initiatives, the beneficial location factors and the growing number of IT companies make the capital region a unique hub for start-ups and digital health solutions.

Over the last five years, more than 100 life sciences companies have been founded in Berlin-Brandenburg. This dynamic is still ongoing. Visible indicators include not only the number of new start-ups, but also the wide range of networking activities and services for start-up founders. The main start-up engine is the fact that the fields of life sciences and digital technologies are merging more and more. Digitization is advancing all segments of the healthcare industry, and has seen outstanding development over the last few years. The trend towards app-based applications for prevention, diagnostics, and treatment has only just begun, but the potential and demand involved indicate it will develop substantially into a strong market.

The over 60 incubators and accelerators in the German capital region offer founders and start-ups a leg up in developing their ideas and networking with other players. More and more, large pharmaceutical and IT companies are working with start-ups.

Bayer was one of the first movers in this area, with Grants4Apps (G4A). This program was successfully launched in Berlin in 2012, and has now been expanded to many other cities around the world. G4A is a web-based crowdsourcing initiative. It provides financial support to start-ups for their software, hardware and technology projects which contribute to improve health outcomes or pharmaceutical processes.

With its CoLaborator Bayer offers young companies in the chemical and biosciences field suitable and complete laboratory and office spaces in close proximity to their own researchers. The company’s goal in doing so is to drive research and innovation forward and to serve as initial contacts for start-ups searching for potential cooperative partners.

Pfizer also supports digital health solutions for better patient care through their Healthcare Hub Berlin. Another initiative by the US pharmaceutical company is the Berlin Research Lab (BRL). The BRL supports biotech innovation and diversity by bringing together companies and researchers from different areas of expertise, such as biotechnology, biopharmaceutics or biomedicine.

Industrial Biotechnology

Industrial biotechnology in the German capital region bears the potential of bringing forth innovative products and new production processes that save energy, costs and greenhouse gases and contribute towards becoming less dependent on fossil raw materials. Therefore, the industrial biotechnology has interfaces to numerous sectors.

The regional expertise covers various fields like enzyme technologies, natural compound extraction, microbial expertise, metabolic engineering and analytical technologies for the optimization of bioprocessing.

One focus in the industrial biotechnology sector lies on methods and procedures for the production of biopolymers for biobased and biologically degradable plastics. New paths are sought for producing basic and specialty chemicals from biomass as well as to optimize processes and to make them more sustainable. Regional know-how is offered to the pharmaceutical and fragrance industry, for example re-using methods for catalysts. Technologies are being developed for bio-refineries, which produce diverse intermediate and end products based on biogenic raw and residual material for the industry as well as energy sources.

Industrial players benefit from the region’s strong research facilities, such as the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Engineering and Bioeconomy Potsdam-Bornim, the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces in Potsdam-Golm and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research and its processing pilot plant for biopolymers at BASF's Schwarzheide site.

Offering Service and Support for Life Sciences in the Capital Region

The central contact and coordination office for all issues concerning life sciences and healthcare industries in the German capital region is the HealthCapital cluster management. At the interface of business, science and clinics, the cluster management drives networking and the technology transfer and supports companies interested in relocating to the region. Berlin Partner for Business and Technology and the Brandenburg Economic Development Corporation (WFBB) are responsible for managing the cluster.

See you in Berlin at BIONNALE 2018

Representatives from academia, industry and finance attend BIONNALE, the annual life sciences conference in Berlin to identify, engage and enter into strategic partnerships. The networking character is one strength of the multi-sessional, international event with 1,000 attendees from 30 countries in the last year. BIONNALE 2018 will take place on June 20, 2018.