Small life sciences companies find it particularly difficult to set aside time for making international contacts at trade fairs. The BioValley cluster located in a region bordered by Germany, France and Switzerland, has a team of scouts that focus on matchmaking. Dr. Mona Boyé is the coordinator of the trinational matchmaking team of the BioValley cluster. Boyé and her colleagues keep track of the know-how and economic power in the German, French and Swiss regions and bring together what belongs together. The cluster’s Meet & Match events are always very successful.
The BioValley is one of the largest biotech regions in Europe. With more than 600 companies (including global players such as Roche and Novartis), 40 scientific institutions and five universities, the Upper Rhine region bordered by Germany, France and Switzerland is a booming area in terms of innovation and economic success in the field of life sciences. Collaborative projects between companies and between companies and research partners, drive new developments and lead to the conquest of new markets, on a national and international level. However, effective and successful collaborations require suitable partners to come together, for example at trade fairs. "Small- and medium-sized companies in particular do not often have the time to be present at all the key life sciences events," said Dr. Mona Boyé, coordinator of the trinational matchmaking team of the BioValley cluster, which was established under the EU's Interreg IV funding programme. The team has been offering its services to companies, universities and other research groups since 2009. "Our goal is to bring together supply and demand," said Boyé.
Each of the three countries that are part of the BioValley cluster has its own scouts, who can best be described as mobile matchmakers who travel from one company to another and from one research group to another in order to gather details about the 400 or so stakeholders in the BioValley cluster. The scouts have an excellent overview of what is happening in a company or in an academic working group and about the available know-how. They have also identified the requirements of all the individual players in the BioValley. “When a biopharmaceutical company is looking for a cooperation or service partner, we often know who that potential partner is and all we need to do is put the two in contact with each other,” said Boyé. The trinational matchmaking team can also make use of its worldwide contacts with people in other clusters and innovation regions. In addition, the team represents companies at biopharmaceutical or medtech fairs where it organises a booth and advertises the products, services and research interests of institutions and companies in the BioValley.
The team has already brought together many partners. For example, it has helped a small company called BS MTI, which produces catheters. “This company did not have the capacity to send a company representative to exhibitions,” said Boyé. “We presented the company’s product at medtech fairs and acquired a contract worth 75,000 euros. The company was really pleased.” The team also brought a company called Rhenovia into contact with an internationally renowned producer who then worked with Rhenovia on the industralisation of an innovative skin patch. The BioValley team has so far received around 150 cooperation requests and has been able to find partners in the German BioValley region bordered by Freiburg, Basle and Strasbourg for around 100 of the requests. Around 40 companies and institutions interested in finding a collaboration partner found one either in the trinational BioValley or another region. Boyé and her team are able to initiate a broad range of different types of partnerships – orders, the establishment of service partnerships, research collaboration and strategic alliances. The regional BioValley institutions also organise regular lectures by experts that play an important role in terms of consulting on financial, economic and legal issues. “However, of all our various activities, our Meet & Match events are the most successful,” said Boyé.
The Meet & Match events are organised three times per year. Companies and researchers from the three BioValley regions come together in order to discuss specific topics, including biomarkers, medical imaging, antibody technology, etc. The events are limited to 50 participants; English is used as conference language, and four talks each from Switzerland, Germany and France provide an overview of the activities in the BioValley. After the talks, the participants are given ample time to discuss problems and discover common interests. "These events are actually rather simple affairs," said Boyé. "But they are hugely successful, the companies and research groups are very enthusiastic because they meet the right people. Companies and researchers have even started contacting us to find out when the next suitable Meet & Match event is taking place. The next Meet & Match meeting will be held in Karlsruhe on 20th October and the theme is "Microfluidics/Lab-on-a-chip".
Boyé and her scouts will continue their work in the future, even after financing through the Interreg IV programme comes to an end in 2015. They also plan to initiate global contacts, initially with innovation clusters in the EU with a similar profile to the BioValley, but later on with regions in the USA and Asia as well. On 25th January 2012, the team will also run a training module entitled "Understanding global markets and culture in biotechnology - a first step towards the definition of an internationalisation strategy", an event that is organised on the initiative of ABC Europe, which has the goal of 'strengthening and improving entrepreneurial innovation and competitiveness in the agro-food sector through enhancing the Networking of European Agro-Biotech Clusters'.
Many life sciences companies depend on international markets. In addition, international connections are also of great advantage for new developments. However, in view of the large number of people involved in the complex world of affairs, nothing really works without mediators who are able to maintain an overview of everything that is going on and bring together what belongs together.
Mona Boyé, PhD
Tel.: +33 (0) 3 90 40 57 42
Boulevard Gonthier Andernach 9
67400 Illkirch, France