Biotechnology is a key technology which can be used to feed the growing world population, save resources and improve the health of many millions of people. Bioeconomy entails the transition to a fossil-free economy. On 20 October 2022, renowned scientists and innovation drivers from business and startups gathered at this year’s PSP Conference at the Potsdam Science Park with the motto ”Biotechnology & bioeconomy – the obstacle course of the future” to discuss bioeconomy’s potential and success stories.
“Germany has the chance to become the world’s leading location for biotechnology.” It’s statements like this that make the Federal Government’s coalition agreement so encouraging for this industry, which sets itself very high standards. “Our industry could hardly be any more successful at the moment”, said Dr. Viola Bronsema, CEO of German biotech association BIO Deutschland e.V., at the PSP Conference 2022. The figures back up this assertion: According to a survey conducted by the industry association, the results of which were published in the German Biotechnology Report 2022 (Deutscher Biotechnologie Report 2022) by auditing and consulting company EY, 774 companies in the field of biotechnology recorded a total turnover of 26.32 billion euros in 2021. This represents a new record, and a 279% increase on the previous year. Almost 19 billion euros of that can be attributed to Mainz-based vaccine developer BioNTech alone.
This success was reflected in the euphoric mood on 20 October when industry experts from research and business met with the motto ”Biotechnology & bioeconomy – the obstacle course of the future” at the PSP Conference in the Fraunhofer Conference Centre in Potsdam-Golm. It was an immense pleasure for all attendees to finally be able to exchange ideas, establish new contacts and learn new things in person again after two years of exclusively digital conferences. It quickly became clear that the PSP Conference would be a success: 175 guests and over 30 speakers accepted the invitation, and the Fraunhofer Conference Centre filled up in no time. “The event is fully booked and the mood is extremely positive”, explained the centre’s manager Agnes von Matuschka, who got the event underway with other guests.
A diverse programme from the panel discussion to the Startup Pitch
The success of the PSP Conference 2022 would surely also be thanks to the programme, which contained a wide range of topics and formats. Comprising nine items, the programme included talks on current developments in biotechnology as well as panel discussions, a Science Slam and a Startup Pitch. It quickly became clear that Potsdam Science Park is the ideal location to allow industry actors to network and to promote intensive topical discussions, because some of the innovations presented at the event were absolutely breathtaking. Examples included solutions for more precise predictions in drug development and a DNA analysis process which can cut the time required for a sepsis diagnosis from 24 hours down to 4.
The PSP Conference 2022 made it clear that biotechnology and bioeconomy will continue to gain in importance in future. Agnes von Matuschka explained: “These fields harbour enormous potential to solve the biggest, most urgent problems of our time, such as ensuring better nutrition and developing a sustainable food supply. Alongside CO2 emissions and sustainable energy production, the biggest challenge we face is feeding a growing global population of over eight billion people while sparing resources”.
White biotechnology – the key to feeding the growing world population?
Potential solutions to these problems were heavily discussed at the PSP Conference 2022. The organisers also looked beyond the Potsdam Science Park and the Berlin region and invited Dr Martin Langer, Executive Vice President of Brain Biotech AG, to give the keynote presentation “Food production – the future is biotech?”. In his speech, he explained the role of biotechnology in feeding the world population: “In terms of nutrition, we’re in the midst of a major transformation in which biotechnology can and should play a central role.” He described how resource consumption in food production could be reduced despite global population growth and how biotechnological innovations help combat global hunger. White biotechnology, the specialty of Brain Biotech AG, is an area with potential here. It is used in the production of complex molecules such as enzymes and thus aids in the development of novel pharmaceuticals and pesticides while reducing resource consumption. This branch of biotechnology therefore harbours huge potential and opportunities for the bioeconomy, in other words: the transition to a fossil-free economy.
The importance of investments and a positive mood at the Startup Pitch
It quickly became clear that research innovations are the drivers of growth in the industry. While on the podium, Director Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP, Prof. Dr. Alexander Böker, stressed that: “The Potsdam Science Park is hugely important as an innovation site. A country that builds its wealth on a foundation of research and innovation can never have enough places like this”.
Dr. Manuel Bauer, author of the German Biotechnology Report 2022 published by auditing and consulting company EY, also confirmed the willingness within the business world to invest in the industry. He concluded: “The capital is there. Now the industry needs to start vying for it by presenting positive data and innovative ideas.” And the attendees got some initial, exciting insights into the new processes and technologies which are already being put in motion at Potsdam Science Park. The Startup Pitch is a firm fixture at the PSP Conference every year, and 2022 was no different.
Six startups from the local region got the chance to present themselves and their business ideas to the expert audience. This is how Dr. Grazia Annunziata, Transfer Manager at Standortmanagement Golm, explained the concept: “The audience votes on the winning pitch. This year, that meant members of the audience needed to form groups who would then jointly decide how many points to award to each pitch.” This approach created a good atmosphere, with reflection and impassioned discussion taking place throughout the hall. There was a diverse range of ideas being pitched, such as innovative apiaries, a mobile eye clinic in a box and an app for early treatment of dementia patients. Meanwhile, other startups presented new ways of controlling weeds using microwaves as well as home blood tests for cancer patients. This year, the audience votes for Dr Doron Benjamin Stein with his presentation of the memodio GmbH. He and his team are developing an app that is intended to support the therapy of incipient dementia in the future.
Participants of the Startup Pitch 2022 are:
- Gewinner des Publikumsentscheids: Dr. Doron Benjamin Stein: memodio GmbH – The Future of Digital Therapeutics in Dementia Care
- Fabian Wischmann: HIIVE – Natural habitat of honey bees
- Johannes Vegt: glaucare GmbH – ophmo – the mobile eye clinic
- Pauline Neuholz: PAAWR GbR – The Revolution of Agriculture
- Dr. Alexander Bartholomäus: GreenGate Genomics – Bioinformatic Solution for Complex Microbiomes
- Iris Wing To Lam: DeDx – Blood diagnostics, decentralized, personalized, simplified
Conclusion: Potsdam Science Park is where the innovations of tomorrow are born
”If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”, said Dr. Viola Bronsema of BIO Deutschland e. V. during the panel discussion, citing an African proverb. This has been clearly demonstrated by the PSP Conference 2022: “As well as scientific excellence, discussion and contacts are the name of the game in the world of biotechnology”, added Dr. Bronsema. That’s why formats such as the PSP Conference are so important: they enable face-to-face discussion, which is essential because success in biotechnology means science and business working in tandem – not only at Potsdam Science Park, but at every innovation location.
The location is well equipped for the future: Potsdam Science Park is already one of the fastest-growing innovation locations for biotechnology and life sciences companies in the German Capital region (Berlin-Brandenburg). In the next few years, you can expect to see various innovation impulses, interesting research projects, new processes and technologies emerging from here. One way to learn about these is by attending next year’s PSP Conference.
FYI: The upcoming PSP Conference will be held on 9 and 10 October 2023, once again at Potsdam Science Park. The conference programme is split across two days to allow more attention to be dedicated to core issues and leave guests and participants more time for personal discussion. Then again, the focus will be on research innovations and key technologies, companies from Potsdam Science Park and concepts from other regions.
This blog and the projects carried out by Standortmanagement Golm GmbH at Potsdam Science Park are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Federal State of Brandenburg.
Image credit: PSP Conference 2022 © sevens[+]maltry and Graphic Recording © Visual Facilitators