Euro Exim Bank

Biotech – business in Central Europe

The river Rhine gave the name to one of the core clusters for Biotechnology in Germany and Europe along its banks: BioRiver. Nearly 5 Million people work, study and live in the business hubs of Cologne and Düsseldorf and the smaller cities of Aken, Bonn and Wuppertal (17,9 Mio. in NRW) at the national boundary to the Netherlands and Belgium in central Europe. The quality of life is very highly valued in the BioRiver region. Strangers come for a visit and stay for a lifetime because of attractive jobs, the open mindset and sociability of the population, the historical site, leisure and landscape along the Rhine and the nearby mountain ranges. Business counts the developed infrastructure and the well trained workforce as one of its many assets.

The BioRiver association was founded in 2004 through a common agreement by stake holders of the industry, backed up by the cities and communal partners, the chambers of commerce, technology parks and financial institutes. It has been the essential idea to promote and represent the biotech industry in the Rhineland through an independent organization. Since its creation BioRiver has successfully established a strong network within the Rhineland’s biotech industry serving networking and training events, information and the contact to business partners to its members. The regular contact to the state ministries adds to the value of its activities. The association is chaired by a board of directors, each with extensive experience in his specific field and in active business as CEO, managing director or vice president of their own organization.

Germany’s largest Biotech companies QIAGEN and Miltenyi Biotec together with Bayer Pharma as global pharma enterprises are the best known businesses of the BioRiver cluster


Germany’s largest Biotech companies QIAGEN and Miltenyi Biotec together with Bayer Pharma as global pharma enterprises are the best known businesses of the BioRiver cluster. Lonza Cologne, Charles River Newlab BioQualities, Taconic Artemis, Rhein Biotech Dynavax Europe among others did their first steps as spin-off from the BioRiver universities and today report to international parent companies. Periods of frequent foundation of biotech-start-ups changed with times characterized by acquisition and consolidation. Today the number of biotech-SMEs is again rising constantly to a total of almost 300 life science related companies in the cluster (NRW:370), among them 60 biotechnological enterprises. The business fields cover a wide range: Separation, diagnostic and analytic; Enzyme and cell optimization; Fermentation and cell culture with bacteria, yeast, mammal cells or plants; Drug development in the fields of pain, anti-infectiva, infection, oncology and others; Downstream processing and Service providers of all kinds.

The financing of a biotech companies is often difficult for the management. The reasons can be long development times or the late return of investment. On the other hand findings of a founder has often been significant multiple in the past. A more than 300 Mio. €-worth licensing agreement between AiCuris from the BioRiver cluster and Merck in 2012 give a perspective on how it can go right.

To overcome the lack of capital and to strengthen the management through competent advice, business angels have become important partners to young biotech-start-ups. It can be seen as significant success that by the help of BioRiver a regional acting business angel circle was established where promising biotech and medtech projects can be financed. More initiatives to facilitate the access to capital are accompanied by the BioRiver association.

The excellent research and an established scientific community highlight the last and but not least strength of the BioRiver cluster. Questions in neurology, oncology, immunology, personalized medicine, plant breeding, biotechnological processes, medical technology among a wide variety of research fields are addressed at the Universities and Universities of Applied Sciences of Cologne, Aken, Bonn and Dusseldorf1 and further research institutes, like Max Planck Institutes (12; 6 with life science activity), Fraunhofer Institutes (12; 3 with life science activity), Helmholtz Institutes (3; all with life science activity) and Leibniz Institutes (11; 6 with life science activity). Special transfer offices care for the marketing of scientific findings.

Everyday life is inconceivable without Biotechnology; it offers new possibilities in a wide range of different circumstances. Personalized medicines are important topics for the future. With many strong companies in the sector and excellent research institutes, BioRiver is well positioned for global competition.

BioRiver – Life Science im Rheinland e.V.
Frauke Hangen, Managing Director,