Why establish a Biotechnology
Network in NRW?

North Rhine-Westphalia is located in the center of Europe, and is the most populated as well as most densely populated of Germany’s 16 federal states. The Rhine-Ruhr region is the most important conurbation with 9.9 million inhabitants.

The cluster policy of the State Government of North Rhine-Westphalia stimulates the cooperation between companies, research institutes, and the state sector along value-added chains in the most important fields of industry and technology.



Of the total revenue generated by German biotechnology companies, 48.6% is generated here by 109 core biotechnology companies with more than 4,400 employees. Additionally, no region in Europe applies for more patents in the field of biotechnology than NRW.


Over 500 life science companies, of which 109 companies with a designated focus on biotechnology, highlight the state’s reputation as a leading European center of innovation.



NRW has the highest density of scientific and first-class research institutes in Germany. The scientific landscape of NRW in the area of biotechnology is shaped by 58 universities and non-university research institutes.


NRW has over 60 technology and founder centers, and a total of 155 biotech and life sciences companies are located in 25 of these. These technology centers primarily serve as incubators for start-up companies, helping to establish contacts with universities, companies, and investors.


BIO.NRW strengthens the position
of biotechnology in NRW

The state cluster BIO.NRW is the catalyst for the sustainable development of the strengths of North Rhine-Westphalian biotechnology from one central point.
The following core aspects make up BIO.NRW:

An effective network
of scienctists and

A central event
platform for
life sciences topics

Developing young

Start-ups und SMEs

The Cluster BIO.NRW is supported by the Ministry of Innovation, Science, Research and Technology of the State of North Rhine Westphalia (MWIDE).

Industrial biotech

The use of biotechnological methods in industrial production processes is often labeled as industrial or “white” biotechnology. Here, microorganisms and biochemical methods are used within technological applications in a targeted manner to effectuate an intermediate step or even synthesize the final product. Accordingly, biotechnology is often used as “cross-sectional technology” – well-known areas of application are, among others, the pharmaceutical, chemical, steel, cosmetic, food, and fodder industries. Industrial biotechnology provides processes that are clearly more energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than classic process engineering. Great methodological advances have been realized over the last years, such as bioconversion through biocatalysts (enzymes), process-optimization targeted evolution, or the identification of new enzymes using metagenome analysis. This results in products that are not just the equals of established products, but actually surpass their functionalities.

BIO.NRW collaborates with its partner cluster CLIB2021 – Cluster industrielle Biotechnologie e.V. (Registered Association Industrial Biotechnology Cluster) to further stimulate the dynamic development of industrial biotechnology. CLIB2021 is an international and open innovation cluster with more than 100 members from large companies, SMEs, academic institutes and universities, as well as other agencies in the field of biotechnology and bio-economy. The association strives to connect stakeholders along the value-added chain and beyond, as well as to identify new opportunities for innovation, projects, and companies. The CLIB2021 team identifies relevant project areas in an iterative process together with its members, developing cross-industrial biotechnological solutions for sustainable processes and products. You can find an overview of current projects here.

Supported by: Ministry of Culture and Science

Project duration & project volume: May 2014 – February 2017, 674,000 Euro; March 2017 – February 2020, 562,000 Euro (phase 2)

Project partners: project coordinator CLIB2021, core partner German Association for Waste Management (DGAW) and EnergieAgentur.NRW (EnergyAgency.NRW)


RIN Material Flows concerns itself with scientific bio-economical and circular-economy questions in a regional context, with the objective of making material use of secondary and waste material flows of varying origins within the region. This should close technological and biological carbon cycles to increase the resource efficiency of agrarian and industrial production and in turn contribute to material savings and climate protection.

Supported by: INTERREG North-West Europe

Project duration & project volume: 2016 – 2019, 5.8 MEUR

Project partner: AC3A (France), Bio Base Europe Pilot Plant (Belgium), CLIB2021 (Germany), Flanders Bio-Economy Valley (Belgium), Materia Nova, (Belgium), NNFCC (UK), REWIN (The Netherlands), TCBB Resource (Ireland), York University (UK)


The BioBase4SME project helps start-ups and SMEs overcome technological and non-technological barriers to bring their products to market. The eight partner organizations from six different countries in the BioBase4SME network offer training events, innovation biocamps, workshops, and innovation vouchers with a value of up to 100,000 EUR.

Projektzeitraum: unbegrenzt

Projektpartner: BE-Basic, Biobased Delta, BIO.NRW, Catalisti, CEF.NRW, Chemelot Brightlands, CleanTechNRW, CLIB2021, FlandersBio & Flanders Biobased Valley

Link (eigene Homepage oder CLIB-Homepage):

BIG-Cluster is a cross-border ‘Smart Specialisation Initiative’ aiming at transforming Europe’s industrial mega cluster in the Flanders region of Belgium, The Netherlands and the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia into the global leader of bio-based innovation growth. The overarching goal is a comprehensive feedstock change with a focus on regionally available and sustainable raw materials, climate protection and the safeguarding of jobs in the mega region. To establish the transition of our current fossil-based economy towards a more sustainable biobased economy, BIG-Cluster is, among others, focussing on the following Feedstock-To-Product Flagships: “Aromatics from woody biomass”, “C1 gases to chemicals”, “Aviation fuels from various feedstocks” and “Circular economy education”

Supported by: EU H2020

Project duration & project volume: 2015 – 2019, 6 MEUR

Project partners: Over 20 international partners, coordinated by University of Bangor, Wales, UK. 4 partners from NRW: evoxx GmbH, Bayer AG, University of Düsseldorf, CLIB2021


Innovative screening and expression platforms to discover and use the functional protein diversity from the sea. The consortium of over 20 international partners aims to reduce the time for developing an industrial process based on enzymatic transformation from the current 5 to 7 years down to 3 years by tapping into the potential of biocatalysts from extreme marine environments that are functional in harsh, industrially relevant conditions such as high temperature and high or low pH or pressure.

Supported by: BBI JU, EU H2020

Project duration & project volume: 05/2017 – 10/2019, 1.2 MEUR

Project partners: Ciaotech (coordinator), CLIB2021, Innovation Engineering, Europe Unlimited, National TU Athens, Biobased Delta, Turku Science Park, Bioeconomy Cluster, West Pomeranian Chemical Cluster Green Chemistry.


BiOPEN, a consortium highly specialized in the bio-based industry, is composed of five European bio-based clusters, three open-innovation expert companies, and one research centre and aims to embark on an ambitious programme to support collaboration and knowledge sharing in the bio-based industry, stimulating the set-up of co-innovation partnerships for the development of new products and markets in the sector. These partnerships will develop and deploy a web-based open-innovation platform to serve the bio-based industries.

Supported by: MKW (NRW)

Project duration & project volume: 2016 – 2017, 200 K EUR

Project partner: CLIB2021


The identification, production, and approval of high-performance ingredients place high demands on research efforts and development times compared with drop-in approaches, which also means an increase in financial risk. Many of the necessary development and production aspects, research approaches, biocatalysts, and manufacturing processes are also new. An elaborate collaboration between these different technology fields is key to delivering target-oriented results in a timely manner and to managing risk factors. To support this, CLIB aims to develop a roadmap toward a competence centre for biotechnological concepts for high-performance ingredients. Furthermore, CLIB organises special forum events and subsequent roundtable discussions to support the initiation of R&D consortia in this field. Topics are selected with member input.

The lion’s share of German biotechnology companies continues to operate in the so-called field of red biotechnology. In 2016 as well, around half of the biotechnology companies in Germany focus on the development of new medication or innovative diagnostic procedures,.In NRW, red biotechnology plays a similarly important role and captures a similar overall share.

Looking at the revenue of the overall German pharmaceutical market over the last few years, it is noticeable that the development of the revenue share of biopharmaceutics has beening consistently positive in recent years. In 2016, the German share amounted to 24.8%, an increase of 12.4 % compared to 2015. Biopharmaceuticals alone generate revenues of EUR 9.3 billion. Moreover, the market is sure to continue its growth – out of 38 newly authorized medicinal products in Germany/the EU in 2016, 14 were biopharmaceuticals. At 37%, this is the highest percentage share since the first authorized biopharmaceutical. The pipeline of biopharmaceutical preparations is well stocked. Within a year, the number of clinical biopharmaceutical development products also rose slightly, from 627 to 636.

The strategic initiative has been founded as a part of BIO.NRW to do justice to this enormous development and market potential. offers a stable and sustainable network in NRW, with clear growth potential, made up of experts of widely disparate interdisciplinary areas:

Focus is placed on the quick and reliable detection of diseases and genetic defects, as well as particular vulnerabilities for certain medical problems. Additionally, the use of so-called “Companion Diagnostics” offers support for a validated treatment decision with novel and very specific pharmaceuticals.

Biotechnological medicines (biopharmaceutics) are used particularly in those fields where classic substances and processes are (completely) ineffective, such as illnesses caused immunologically as well as tumor diseases.

Procurement and reproduction of various endogenous tissues (e.g., skin, cartilage, bones) for transplantation, to replace damaged tissue and organs.

Diseases that are caused by errors in human genetic information are treated by replacing the incorrect information with correct information. This is done through transmission of isolated, correct genetic information, or through intact cells with the correct genetic information.

Gene-therapeutic approaches are growing increasingly important when developing novel, complex therapeutics and biopharmaceutics.

Structure of the BIO.NRW Cluster

The State Cluster Biotechnology North Rhine-Westphalia, BIO.NRW, consists of three central pillars:

  • The office of BIO.NRW is operated by the research center Jülich (FZJ) commissioned by the Ministry for Economy, Innovation, Digitalization, and Energy of the State NRW (MWIDE); it supports the State Cluster Manager. The cluster is not an association with members.
  • BIO Clustermanagement NRW GmbH (Bio Cluster Management NRW GmbH) can implement various services that serve the primary interest and task areas of the cluster thanks to its legal status. As such, it is the economically active part of the cluster and contributes to the financing of selected activities and events of the Cluster BIO.NRW.
  • The Förderverein Biotechnologie NRW e.V. (Registered Association for the Sponsoring of Biotechnology NRW) is a non-profit organization that supports selected aspects of biotechnology in NRW, particularly focusing on the stimulation of young talent. The association uses projects to compensate for the lack of graduates in the STEM subjects related to life sciences.