The biotech location of North Rhine-Westphalia
Around 500 companies in the life sciences, including 109 core biotechnology firms, are located in North Rhine-Westphalia. The economic focal points, in addition to the Rhineland (Bonn, Cologne, Düsseldorf) and the Ruhrgebiet (from Duisburg to Dortmund), include the regions of Aachen-Jülich, Münster, and East Westphalia (Bielefeld). This illustrates the multicentric character of the biotechnology landscape of North Rhine-Westphalia, with its regionally specific strengths.
These strong economic locations are also the center of the most dense college network in Europe, which is located in NRW. Both application-specific and fundamental research and instruction in the life sciences are international successful at 59 universities, technical colleges, and research institutions in NRW.
Made in NRW
Fixed elements in the NRW corporate landscape include established international giants like the biotech company Qiagen and Miltenyi Biotec, or Bayer, UCB, Henkel, Evonik Industries from the pharmaceutical and chemical industries. In addition to these global players, NRW is also home to dynamic small and medium-sized companies (KMU) like AiCuris, Biofrontera, NEO New Oncology, Paion, Xell and many others.
These large and medium-sized companies are joined by numerous young startups, such as Ayoxxa Biosystems, Cube Biotech, Numaferm, PL BioScience. Even this small selection demonstrates the innovative power of NRW as a biotechnology location. For a comprehensive overview of NRW as a biotech location and of its companies and their profiles, please use our company database.
Selection of NRW companies
Biotech in the academy
NRW has Germany’s most dense network of academic institutions, with a total of 71 internationally renowned colleges (25 with life science focus), 13 Max Planck Institutes (6 with life science focus), 14 Fraunhofer Institutes (3 with life science focus), 3 Helmholtz Institutes (all with life science focus), and 11 Leibniz Institutes (6 with life science focus).
For over a decade, NRW has been the leading region for stem-cell research in Germany, with important centers in Münster, Bonn, and Cologne. The “birthplace of plant biotechnology” is at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, and other excellence initiatives and clusters (such as CEPLAS and CECAD) underscore the dynamic development of NRW as a location for science.
Interdisciplinary centers are increasingly looking for ways to implement the latest findings from academic research in innovative therapies. Examples include the German Center for Neurodegenerative Disease (Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen, DZNE) in Bonn, the Center for Integrated Oncology (Centrum für Integrierte Onkologie, CIO) in Cologne, and the Lead Development Center GmbH (LDC) of the Max Planck Society in Dortmund.
BIO.NRW has detailed information about the academic environment in NRW in its brochure Spot on Biotechnology Science.
Biotech in the economy
Biotechnology is of immense importance to the overall economy of our society, because biotechnological products and methods are the basis for industrial production in many industries. One example of this is the chemical industry, which uses countless biotechnological processes to save energy and raw materials and to be able to use renewable resources. The pharmaceutical industry is also largely directly dependent on biotechnological processes. Biofuels from plant wastes, detergents, adhesives, bioplastics, paper, medications, diagnostic and analytical methods, nutritional supplements, and seeds are just a few examples of products that could no longer be economically and ecologically developed and produced without biotechnology.
Sales in these industries are several billion euros worldwide, and while many individual products from the various industries can be clearly classified as biotechnology, the sales resulting from them generally are not. But these examples show that the actual influence of biotechnology on all industrial sectors cannot be overstated.
An updated annual look at NRW’s biotech and life science industry and its development,, including national and global comparisons, is available in the brochure published by BIO.NRW, Spot on Biotechnology Business.
Centers for technology and start-ups
Many of today’s successful young biotech companies started out as offshoots of universities. There are over 60 centers of technology and start-ups in NRW, and currently 25 of them play host to a total of 155 biotech and lift sciences companies.
These “incubators” for start-up companies are typically located near research facilities, and their objective is to provide an efficient infrastructure for the transfer of scientific expertise to marketable products and processes.
Centers of life sciences and start-ups in NRW – an excerpt
Promoting the next generation
In addition to supporting technology transfer in NRW, the promotion of the next generation is an important issue for BIO.NRW. Since 2009, BIO.NRW has regularly supported young talents, from schoolchildren (in STEM fields) to young academic scientists, with many varied awareness and orientation activities across a broad spectrum of biotechnology and life sciences. For example, these include project days for STEM students (STEM Lab), the BIO.NRW PhD Student Conventions through 2015, or the annual NRW jobvector Career Day.
BIO.NRW also supports future-oriented ongoing education projects such as goal-based learning in an alternate reality setting (GLARS), a multimedia learning project for students in the educational track for biological technical assistants (BTA).
With these activities, BIO.NRW biotechnology cluster for North Rhine-Westphalia seeks to contribute to the future dynamic growth of NRW as a biotech location, as the availability of highly qualified technical specialists has an increasing influence on site selection by companies.