Come together

CLIB2021 aspires to become Europe's leading industrial biotechnology cluster.

By Manfred Kircher

Opinion by Manfred Kircher

Industrial biotechnology is crucial to the future economy and to the health of the planet. It utilizes renewable resources and develops novel materials and active substances for almost all markets and areas of life. It provides opportunities to innovate both process and product in many fields. For example, it's an innovation driver in climate protection through production processes that reduce greenhouse gases while encouraging competitiveness. Industrial biotechnology already makes significant contributions to fine and specialty chemistry, pharmaceuticals, detergents and body care, and is now ready to compete in the field of monomers and polymers—a segment so far dominated by petrochemistry. The Cluster of Industrial Biotechnology (CLIB2021), a radical new organization to promote industrial biotech, has set its sights on all of these segments, targeting business fields that represent 75 percent of Germany's...

Founded in 2007, CLIB2021 cluster has grown to more than 60 members. It includes household names from the German chemical industry such as Altana, Bayer, Cognis, Evonik Industries, Henkel and Lanxess, and more than 30 small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), such as like Artes, bitop and Protagen. Also included are nine academic institutes, the universities of Bielefeld, Dortmund, Düsseldorf among them, as well as investors and infrastructure firms. The accumulated 2008 sales volume of €65 billion by its members generates a private R&D budget for industrial biotechnology of about €200 million per year. When public finds are added in, CLIB2021 provides the critical financial mass, creating an attractive R&D market for big industries, SMEs, academia, and investors. Our aim is to turn research and development for innovative processes and products into commercial success.

CLIB2021 members are quicker to initiate market-oriented R&D, shorten time to market, and capture the competitive advantage in industrial biotechnology.

CLIB2021 is based in Düsseldorf—the capital of Germany's industrial center of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Producing 73 percent of Germany's organic precursors makes NRW the number 1 region in chemical production. The state provides the biggest trade fair location in the world as well as Europe's largest R&D network. The Jülich Research Center and the University of Aachen exemplify the excellence of NRW's academic research, in addition to training the upcoming generation. And while the network of CLIB2021 members is densest in NRW, the cluster is active all over Germany, attracting European members, and has established transatlantic linkages. CLIB2021 also coordinates projects that are funded by German federal ministries for R&D and agriculture and by NRW's innovation ministry.

The cluster works in part by promoting partnerships between its members in academia, SME, big industry, and investors. Business options are created by initiating trendsetting R&D projects and promoted by public funding if necessary. Currently, partnering projects with a total outlay of €45 million are either signed or in the pipeline. These can utilize the expertise of the Technology Cluster, a series of resources designed and made available by academic institutes for biotechnology, microbiology, chemistry, process engineering, and materials and applied science. Excellence throughout the process chain, from feedstock processing and development of the bioprocess right through to purifying the final product, is the cluster's crucial competitive advantage. Training, through a Graduate Cluster, ensures that the coming generation in science and technology maintain excellent standards. €20 million have been invested in these two academic cornerstones of CLIB2021.

We see process and product innovation as the biggest drivers of industrial biotechnology. CLIB2021 captures it through partnering its members in industry, SME, academia, and with investors. Organizing technology transfer among these groups will strengthen both the participating partners and the cluster itself, resulting in economic growth and the startup of new companies. The financing of start-ups and SMEs is critical to these activities.

CLIB2021 looks to identify future market requirements and then build a business plan and initiate R&D to work toward commercial success. Networking along the entire value chain, linking members that are R&D-oriented (research-development-commercial utilization) and production-oriented (raw material-intermediate-component-consumer product) is our edge. Through this linkage, CLIB2021 members are quicker to initiate market-oriented R&D, shorten time to market and capture the competitive advantage in industrial biotechnology.

Manfred Kircher is the chairman of the board of CLIB2021

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