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2018/11/08
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Federal government funds campus for high-tech start-ups at DESY

Planned technology centre for start-ups in the field of life sciences, biotechnology and nanotechnology, as well as new materials, to receive 95m euros in federal funding

The budget committee of the Bundestag has agreed to set up a start-up incubator in the immediate vicinity of the DESY research campus, in the west of Hamburg, at its settlement meeting on 8 November 2018. The planned technology and start-up centre will be established as a federal institution with a volume of 95m euros. DESY, a research centre of the Helmholtz Association, initiated the idea and will be in charge of building this integrated incubator aimed at start-ups and innovation issues in the complex and high-tech fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology, as well as new, intelligent materials.

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The research centre DESY in Hamburg Bahrenfeld (Photo: DESY/R. Schaaf).
Johannes Kahrs, the spokesperson on budgetary affairs for the SPD parliamentary group, has been an advocate of this integrative incubator concept from the very start and views the development of a complex start-up centre as a unique opportunity for bolstering the high-tech strategy of the federal government: “I pushed through the funding because Hamburg – and with it, the whole of Germany – really needs DESY as a place for innovation, especially when it comes to moving Hamburg further forward as a high-tech location in the face of global competition. I am convinced that DESY is ideally placed for this, as an anchor within a research campus that has huge international appeal. The technology centre will not only promote entrepreneurship; it will also enable visionaries to tackle the big challenges facing society in the field of healthcare and sustainability, using viable business models.”

The planned technology centre is meant to open up the economic and innovative potential offered by new technologies, possibilities and developments in the fields of life and material sciences, so that Germany can tap into it. Start-ups will find an environment with an excellent infrastructure, including perfectly equipped laboratories and offices, but also uniquely integrated into the ecosystem of the research campus in Hamburg’s Bahrenfeld district.

“DESY and Hamburg are the ideal location for this start-up campus,” emphasises Helmut Dosch, the chairman of DESY’s Board of Directors, and elaborates: “We have world-class scientists here and do excellent research on an attractive research campus. In addition, the life sciences cluster is a major economic factor for Hamburg and North Germany. Our innovative strength and wide range of connections to the business world and to society will lead the start-up centre to success.”

“This is exactly the right moment in time to support and promote start-ups in highly complex technological fields,” adds Arik Willner, Chief Technology Officer at DESY, under whose management this project is being planned and implemented. “Over the coming years, we are going to experience major advances in the fields of personalised medicine and medical imaging. With the systems expertise that DESY is able to contribute as an anchor institute, we are very happy to take on the task and the challenge of setting up a successful start-up centre on behalf of the federal government.”

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Johannes Kahrs (middle left) and Swen Schulz (middle right), delegates of the Bundestag, at the occasion of a visit at DESY in August together with DESY´s Directors Christian Harringa (left) and Helmut Dosch (Photo: DESY/A. Heimken).
The overall cost of the start-up and technology centre that is to be established in Hamburg-Bahrenfeld is expected to come to 95m euros, and will be covered in full by the federal government, under the resolution now being passed by the budget committee. The cost of at least 9.5m euros for the first few years of operation will be covered by the city of Hamburg. The aim is to launch it in stages, to ensure that the centre is able to operate profitably from an early time.

The incubator is now being planned at DESY, and will then be implemented in stages. The concept aims to meet the precise needs of start-ups in the fields of life science, biotechnology and new materials, taking into account the fact that companies in these fields often require long, cost-intensive incubation periods before achieving market maturity and getting their products licensed.