“Purpose of BioSpin is to enter into new, emerging
—Harald Wolf, project manager of BioSpin for India
The Biotechnology Sustainable Partnering India (BioSpin) was initiated
in 2008 to create business relationships between German and Indian
biotechnology as well as pharmaceutical companies, and to foster
cooperations between research and business in India and Central
Germany. This is one of the projects under the ‘India and
Germany - Strategic Partners for Innovation’ initiative. With
this initiative, the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
(BMBF) supports Indo- German cooperations.
For the last one year,
the German delegation has been screening the market in India and till
date, has touched base with around 450 business and research delegates
from India. On a recent trip to India, Harald Wolf, project manager of
BioSpin for India, spoke exclusively to BioSpectrum. He shares more
information about the BioSpin initiative, its goals and plans to
accelerate the synergy between India and Germany.
What are the key focus
areas of BioSpin project?
BioSpin was started in 2008. We decided to approach the Federal
Ministry for Education and Research, because there were companies and
research institutes in Germany that wanted to make business out of
research projects in India. Partners in India mainly include Indian
pharma and biotech companies. In Central Germany, there are three
federal biostates - Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony - which alone
encompass around 230 biotech companies, and 50 research institutes
including university research institutes.
It was then when we came on a delegation trip to India and we screened
the potential Indian partners from the sector. After this, we began to
contact companies in the domain of the life sciences industry because
we had a strong focus on fine chemical specialties for the pharma
industry and also on industrial biotech companies. The specialty of
this initiative is
that it is focused on biotechnology. This initiative is very important
as far as Germany’s India initiative is concerned. Other
initiatives which are funded by the federal government are more wider
and comprehensive in their India focus.
How is the biotech
scenario in Germany, and how supportive is the federal government to
companies and institutes?
The year 1996 was a landmark year for biotech in Germany. We have young
start-ups, bioclusters and concentration facilities. In Germany, there
are around 450-500 biotech companies doing research in the avenues of
enzymes production research, medical device and drug discovery
services. We also have a lot of biotech concentrations and clusters all
around the region. The federal government is extremely supportive to
boost the biotech industry in Germany and as a result has introduced
For example, you have the research project funding, education research
funding, SME funding and funding for technology. The biotech
initiatives undertaken also depends on the region. Germany is divided
into 16 states and every state has its own funding system for
biotechnology. There are different levels of funding, federal level, EU
level and state level. For instance, for one state alone, there has
been a funding of up to 150 million euros (about Rs 1,028 crore). This
goes into infrastructure, incubators and biotech equipments for small
and medium size companies.
With respect to BioSpin,
what prospects does India have to offer?
India has the potential to offer two things for the BioSpin initiative.
India gives us the opportunity to collaborate with the innumerable
start-up companies and research institutes that have come up in the
recent years. Start-up companies and established Indian companies are
more open to collaborations because they know the prospects that the EU
has to offer. The purpose of this project is to venture into new
markets across the globe and to extend cooperation for research. Most
importantly, we have observed that the academia here have the same
spirit as in Germany. For instance, India has well-educated and learned
academicians in biotechnology, research and pharma.
What are the
collaboration models you are planning to initiate with the Indian
It all depends on the company, their needs and their product. For
instance, if they are into pure biotech or enzymes, the discovery might
take place in Germany, after taking it to a certain phase, the
production may be done in India. We did strike partnerships with Indian
companies because for funding it becomes necessary to have an Indian
partner. Apart from research, we also looked at marketing
opportunities. We first tapped the fine chemicals sector and made our
presence in India.
What kind of funding is
available for this initiative?
This is a small initiative and focus on very niche market, so funding
amount is very small. As of now, our funding is about 100,000 euros
(about Rs 68.55 lakh).
What are the joint
activities you are taking with the Indian government?
At the moment, there are direct talks with the German and Indian
governments. This is in the event of a particular research institute
under this initiative, along with undertaking business, research and
production projects between two German and two Indian partners. So,
when you have four partners you will get a 50 percent funding from
Germany for the German companies, and the other funding comes from the
ministry of technology for the Indian companies.
You are planning to
extend this initiative to Asia. Which are the countries you will be
Yes, we will be going to other Asian regions with India being the most
important region. For example, we will be targeting China and Indonesia.
Any similar delegation or
initiatives in other countries beyond Asia?
We went to Canada in 2005 and Great Britain in 2008. The US is not so
important because we go there through the BIO international forums
where we get all our possible partners, and you do not need a
What are the future plans
to take this initiative forward in India?
In this initiative, we will also include bioinformatic companies. Our
next step is to bring a delegation to India to bring about a nexus
between bioinformatic companies and collaborate with research companies
in India. So every time we make a delegation trip to India, we look
into different sectors and segments in biotech and pharma. For example,
this time it was
industrial biotech and fine chemicals. The delegation trip for
bioinformatics will be somewhere around February or March 2010.
Nayantara Som in Mumbai