Research, Innovation, Patient care / 03.05.2023
Interview about Berlin-Buch – A Location for Future Innovation
The BerlinBioCube incubator is currently being built on Campus Berlin-Buch. The new five-story building provides a total of 8,000 m² of space for state-of-the-art laboratories, offices, and shared spaces. |transkript spoke to the Managing Director.
transkript. Construction sites are visible at biotech locations all over the country. In Berlin-Buch, more progress has been achieved. What is the current situation at your site?
Christina Quensel. The entire space in our existing buildings is already leased out. As early as 2016, we realized that we needed to expand. Technology transfer was also strengthened by Berlin’s major universities forming the Berlin University Alliance and the city’s non-university research institutions joining forces to create BR50. The Covid-19 pandemic made it clearer still that innovation from Germany can be successful – and needs space. Our principal shareholder, the Federal State of Berlin, was easily convinced. We were able to utilize the maximum building size on the construction site, and the opening is now scheduled for October 2023.
transkript. So you were very fortunate with the timing, given that demand is particularly strong in the region around the German capital, is it not?
Quensel. Yes, it was good that we got off to an early start. And we did not let up during the pandemic either. On the contrary, we had so many ideas in addition to the construction project that we needed to put a foot on the brake at times. But now we are delighted to be able to add space for a further 10 to 20 companies in one go. These will join the 50 life science firms and 70 consultants and service providers that are already based there.
transkript. How do you go about choosing your tenants? What criteria do you apply?
Quensel. They have to be companies that fit the profile of our campus and that in turn will benefit from the environment, their neighbors. Everything with a focus on health. We attach great importance to connectivity with others, whether in scientific or technological terms; it is important that new companies fit in, enabling them to make good use of the interactivity between enterprises and the scientific community, as well as to boost their own activities. In this context, we focus on personalized medicine in diagnostics and treatment.
transkript. Which companies might you like to mention briefly in this regard?
Quensel. They range from CELLphenomics, a company that takes patient tumor tissue in culture on which to test parallel treatment strategies with various compounds with a view to making recommendations for further treatment, to T-knife, which develops cell therapies in the field of personalized immuno-oncology. T-knife has been highly successful in acquiring international financial backers, with major rounds of financing, which of course has a positive knock-on effect for the entire campus. Everyone here can benefit from their experience. We also have on board Eckert & Ziegler, a key player in radiopharmaceuticals, and Ariceum, a brand new start-up in this field. We are also home to companies that innovate in RNA drugs and approaches, such as Silence Therapeutics and Pramomolecular.
transkript. Who will move into the new BioCube, how strong is the demand?
Quensel. The BioCube is a no-brainer, particularly because there are very few other places in Germany where a company can move in at such short notice. Opening in the fall gives us a major advantage. T-knife will lease large areas, but of course there is also sufficient space for smaller companies. As we all know, it’s the mix that matters. However, we have consciously opted against offering co-working in those labs, since most of the companies attach great importance to IP protection. But we do encourage co-working in our shared spaces, because we value inter-company communication. The BerlinBioCube has high amenity value and creates spaces with special offers that inspire people to get together.
transkript. How can you remain flexible with all that demand, or is your mantra to achieve full occupancy?
Quensel. We know from our long experience that not every company succeeds: we have repeatedly seen firms fold over the years. We experience fluctuations, which is why we always have an average vacancy rate of a few percent each year due to various ups and downs in the companies’ development. That gives us a certain amount of flexibility in the face of rising demand.
transkript. How else do you support the companies, besides providing them with space?
Quensel. We offer a whole range of professional development and networking opportunities, from seminars to summer parties. The “Talk in the Cube” series will enable enterprises to present themselves, and also to address the issues currently preying on the tenants’ minds. In this way, we want to build a bridge between science and business, and fill it with life, ensuring that translation is not just an empty word. Instead, the transfer of knowledge from person to person should also embrace the next generation of founders.
transkript. There are many different types of operations for a cluster organization. What is the situation with Campus Berlin-Buch?
Quensel. Our business is mainly to operate the BiotechPark. We currently see Campus Berlin-Buch in its entirety as one of the largest biotech innovation hubs in Germany, measured in terms of square meters, the number of companies served, and the number of employees. And of course we would like to maintain this position. Beyond these facts, we are developing many activities aimed at enhancing the attractiveness of the location. But it goes without saying that these activities must also recoup the costs incurred. One example is our staff health maintenance service. This may sound rather dry, but it has had an incredible impact and has now been a crucial element for years, involving all campus staff – not only those employed by the companies but also those working at the research institutes. People meet each other at CampusVital, do sports together, and make contacts easily beyond the boundaries of their campus facilities or enterprises. Excellent services and this kind of interaction are key factors for the stability and future development of companies on the campus.
transkript. How do you see the relationship with other sites in Berlin? Is it a never-ending competition?
Quensel. To be honest: This diversity is necessary. And we, the colleagues who operate the individual sites, are getting better and better at networking with each other. Berlin’s 11 “Zukunftsorte” (the places where tomorrow’s future is being created today) represent an important initiative that supports such networking and helps to overcome competitive instincts. After all, we can learn a lot from each other in terms of attracting and supporting young companies, as well as with regard to operational aspects, including energy efficiency, and other issues. We are keen to make it even easier to find each location’s individual offerings and, with the help of Berlin Partner, we will continue to expand cross-information and cross-networking. The good thing is that individual sites have developed their own distinct profile. Environmental technologies tend to be found in Adlershof, there is a Food Campus, a focus on Artificial Intelligence, and an array of other specializations.
transkript. Just how cooperative is it?
Quensel. Many of Berlin’s biotech/life science players meet regularly, and we have developed a good level of collaboration. In this context, continuous mutual learning is paramount, as well as how we can better pool resources, which are limited for all of us. As far as services for such things as start-up consulting are concerned, it would be nice if they could be used by scientists from all institutions, whether from Berlin-Mitte, Berlin-Buch or Potsdam, whether from a university, a university of applied sciences, or a non-university institution.
transkript. Is Berlin now truly coming up trumps?
Quensel. We are simply delighted to receive so many requests. With an even greater international scope, the BioCube will also be a welcome pick-me-up for the long-established institutions.
Find out more about the BerlinBioCube: www.berlinbiocube.de
Find out more about Campus Berlin-Buch: www.campusberlinbuch.de
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