The City of Mainz Just Started on Its Way to Becoming a World-Class BioTech Hub


"We want to create a world-class ecosystem for biotechnology."Felix Wälder, Project Coordinator BioTech-Hub Mainz

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We not only focus on the bio part, but we also see the importance of the tech aspect in developing biotechnology products.Felix Wälder, Project Coordinator BioTech-Hub Mainz

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We want some of the next big ideas to be developed in Mainz and enable them to grow in Mainz. Felix Wälder, Project Coordinator BioTech-Hub Mainz

The City

The City of Mainz has a very long history, founded by the Romans on the right side of the river Rhine in the 1st century BC. It is the native city of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the movable type printing press. The city is the capital of the German state of Rhineland Palatine and home to several universities, including the research-heavy Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU).

Great brains came to Mainz and gathered around great minds … translating their knowledge in products [the COVID vaccine]Felix Wälder, Project Coordinator BioTech-Hub Mainz

The city is also home to a growing biotech cluster including spinoffs of the JGU, especially BioNTech, known as the brains behind the BioNTech Pfizer corona vaccines. The company is a smashing success, to a degree that this company alone increased the German GDP by 0,5% ( Note that Germany has the 4th largest GDP in the world.

This success fills the coffers of the city with money, which in turn they will invest in turning the city into one of the world’s premier biotech and tech hubs.

We want startups and investors to come to Mainz, become successful here, and stay here.Felix Wälder, Project Coordinator BioTech-Hub Mainz

The Guest

Our guest today is Felix Wälder (, who works for the City of Mainz’s utility holding company ZBM. Felix’s studies also took him to the University of North Carolina Wilmington. ZBM provides many services for the city and also takes the lead for the Biotech-Hub Project ( Felix is the project coordinator for BioTech-Hub Mainz.

NOTE: We made a little mistake in the name tag, Felix is not an MD for the City of Mainz, but for the ZBM.

We will coordinate within the city and give startups, investors, and interested parties all the answers they need.

Felix Wälder, Project Coordinator BioTech-Hub Mainz

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Welcome to start up bread, that I own, your podcast and Youtube blog covering the German startup scene with News, interviews and a live events. Hello and welcome everybody. This is Joe from celebrated our own your start up podcast, and you to block from Germany, as well as to words, first Internet radio station dedicated to startups and tech companies. Today, our interview is once against Bortnsart by start up Ravencom, the easiest way to find investors or corporation partners. Today, I would not like to welcome a start up, I would not like to welcome an investor, but I would like to very welcome Felix here, who represents a city, the city of minds. Hey, Felix, how you did in Hey? Thanks for having me. Very good. That is a pleasure, and the simple reason that, for the first time ever, I do have a city here in my interview is that a company many of our audience may already know, named Bi on tech, is headquartered in minds and they are the company behind the fisor by on Tech Corona vaccine, which led to a lot of money flowing in the company, a lot of money flowing in form of taxes into the city and that is what you want to invest sustainably in becoming biotech up. That's a bottom line, right. Yeah, sure. So let's first tell us the whole story. Who Are you? How did you end up in the city of minds, because you're not originally from there? Right, exactly. Yeah, yeah, as you said, I'm Felix. I originally come from the Stuttgart area. I came here after studying in Frity south and in North Carolina in the US. I studied public management and governance and always had a focus in the in betweens of spaces of politics and economics, and this interdisciplinary is also shown now in the current challenge we have in minds. I came here ten years ago working for the city and for the cities utility holding companies at the M that does different services for the city of minds, and I'm now the coordinator for it's at them, for the biotech project here in minds that we want to work on. The project coordinates at the right person to talk to. We may add a few details about the city of minds here. Right. So they have a population of somewhere around two Hundredzero, with a lot of students here from big universities and they are the capital of the of the state of kind up figs ran that Palatine, and they are also not too far...

...away from the city of Frankfurt, if there's no traffic jam, no rush hour. I would say like twenty minutes by car. Yeah, exactly, exactly. And you guys are not only my birthplace but also a very interesting place in terms of celebrating German mody, grap Fast Nacht. Also famous to be the city of Johannes Guttenberg, the guy who invented the book printing, and you have very research intensive university there as well as multiple research institutions. Right, exactly. Yeah, so my understanding is the University of minds already had a Nobel Lord and you have multiple Max Planck institutes there and one of the institutes or institutions around the University of minds WHO's working on the mass express mission. You have two Super Computer Mogan one there, and a lot of other interesting stuff. Can you tell us just a tiny bit about that? Would you all doing there? And then it becomes then it becomes pretty obvious why you want to build on this basic research. Yeah, yeah, as you said, minds has always been a place for great innovation, starting at Guttenberg with printing press, with media mindsets, also a very strong media industry with the second German television and, as you said, the university has a high it's very important in the city and for the city. All the institutes are very specialized in their part, especially, to name the university medicine, were great ideas also are developed and we're startups come from. Also, the departments of chemistry, biology and physics are very famous. So they are, as you said, supercomputers. There are mini reactors and laser and electron research done, which is very, very impressive what's going on there. And it's also impressive, how the to see the energy at the university to translate those research, this research, into ideas and start up ideas and to try a company. Personal experience the university clinics. They are big enough to be almost their own borrows. So it's really big, like twenty something building, some of them really big, and a lot of smart people working there and the university just the hants could work. University, the Big One, has more than thirty two thousand students. Giving the city is approximately round two hundred. Two hundred twentyzero people. You can see it's a very young and vibrant city.

And how did bio check end up there? Hey, yeah, this was not a coincidence and a lot of great work has been done in the last twenty years. I would say first, there have been many people in minds working on this vision and this impulse from the university and from the institutes and grade brains came to minds and gathered around. Also, now the the world known researchers who go shine and a slim trilogy in a specific area and they did research and also try to translate this into into into real time products. So also, a long time ago, the state, the city and the university together were investing in infrastructure. For example, they came up with a technology center almost twenty years ago. And we're renting lab spaces in minds in a time where other cities did not even think about this, and those lab spaces have always been rented out two different companies and minds. Was was really lucky to have a success stories from back then, gunny made, but also torn and now the biggest, the biggest company that is now well known bion take, which is like which grew, grew a lot in the last year's two thousand and eighteen nineteen were really good years for them, and it also shows that there has been a fertile ground for four great ideas in the last decades. And my understanding is that some of the tax revenues of Biontech are actually now funding. Would you guys are planning? I have read once I'm maybe mistaken here, but the city, the whole city, was working on a budget of around one hundred million a year and only bio and tech generated like seven several hundred millions in annual tax revenues for the city. Is that true? What you said about the the past budgets? That's true. In Germany there is a like it's a it's a it's it's a secret who which company paid how much Texas, but it's not a secret anymore that the year two thousand and twenty one has been the year where the city had a budget or an income that led to work estimate of over one billion in the budget. And to give some background, the city of minds has been very...

...poor city in the last decades. The public depth was over average and kind of very high. It was over one point four billion depth public depth of the city of minds and to have now, in one single year, over one billion of tax revenues. That's amazing, and also for this year, the the forecast is of over five hundred million for this year. So this is amazing. Basically, your income in one year explodes, tanful. Basically that's the bottom line. And now what you're going to do with this? My understanding is you paid down that, meaning the whole city paid down that, and you are planning to do awesome things with the money left over, so to say. And basically that is why we're t talking here. You guys want to become a biotech hup. Exactly. Yeah, that's the that's the explanation that. After minds becoming the pharmacy of the world, as our primary minister put it, we want to continue and we want to accelerate and develop the structures forward and make minds better than before, and we want to create an ecosystem for biotechnology of world class in minds, and the bio tech hub is the idea to make this happen. We may add that, of course, already being the headquarter of Biontech, you don't necessarily stand alone there completely, but there is a big farmer and chemical cluster already around, with burring Engelheim, BASF and lukewixhaten and Merk down in Damn Stat, which are also already big players in that area. So it kind of makes sense there. And when you talk about becoming a biotech hup, I assume you're not just renting out the same laboratory spaces just for cheaper. You do a little bit more. They're right, exactly. Yeah, that I mean, that's that's a minimum you have to do to replicate the success stories of the past. But we are doing a lot, much more, and we are doing this together with the relevant partners, because I think this is one of the key factors that you have to include the relevant stakeholders and the relevant partners into this project to make it a success. So this means that our project structure definitely includes the state of rhindun files, as you said before, and it includes relevant partners from industry and from institutions and the university. So we are working together in a in a network, in a joint approach to develop this ecosystem and it includes, on the one hand, like spatial planning of the..., so the city has to adjust as well to this goal of becoming the biotach up and building this ecosystem, which starts at simple infrastructures. For example, at the moment, minds does not have an international school, and we know that our talents are global and that the talents probably mostly speak English and that basic infrastructure needs to be developed fast. We also talk about infrastructure, we talk about five or we talk about spaces, and we'd also talk about the right combination. Who needs to be on a biotech compus to make it work? which investors, which institutes, which startups and other side elements need to work? Also, which services need to be around, need to be there, need to be developed, that great brains from the world, that start ups, that the next idea will be developed in minds and also can grow in minds. I see. So, basically, you start at the very basic stuff, like international schools. You make more laboratory and I would also assume office space available for startups, and do you also have like a personal place to talk to international investors? Ought to get them real in. Yes, we are. We are also working on this. We already do the we have the draft of the building of the new technology center, which will be much bigger than the last one and will be broader than the last one, will bring people together. We also know that networking today means to make collaborations happen and we want to give the space and the ground for those collaborations. And we are aware that funding is one central point that ideas and startups get funded, because the success story we have in minds with biontech was like the the probability of a product in biotechnology, that it it's successful is kind of lowcome if you're compared to other fields of industry, like if you have it startups or others. So the brave investment in in future ideas, in solving problems of the world will be one of the one focus in minds and we are also working on on funding structure that funding will be available for the startups and for the ideas that are developed in minds around university medicine in biotechnology, but not only in biotechnology, because we also see that the tech part plays an important role in the combination of artificial intelligence and biotechnology,...

...that those those areas are getting closer and closer together and we are looking forward to see combinations of tech and bio and see the outcome in a startup and in the future products that are developed in this location. I think we're getting much closer. So basically you are building a new hub for those startups, for those biotech startups and for those tech startups, especially Ai, but I do assume something like big data would also have a spot there, because it's really required to get some good ai of the ground. And do you have any idea when this will become real? What are your plans? Admittedly, German governments are, doesn't matter which level, they are always pretty good in being delayed, but nonetheless there should be a plan, a rough estimate when the building will be completed. Yeah, yeah, that's true, and this is a this there are also examples that public administration and the political projects are tend to run a bit late, but we are trying to do best practice and to do it differently. We want to commit to speed as well. In this project. We have seen a great job, outstanding job, of the biontech company developing a vaccine at light speed, as this their CEO called it, in in their project, and we also want to give a give a high speed that city of mines has not seen before. So we are in the spatial planning. We have a high, very high priority for this project and we are planning to start digging the new area this year. So probably in summer we will already see the first the first moves on the ground. We have three hundred thousand square meters to develop. We have an old army base right next to the biontech headquarter, which will be available end of this year. We have an area close to the university campus which can be built this year. So we are we are looking forward to see also outcomes already this year and we are also convinced that we will do our task in terms of defining the the project outline, to define the needs and the elements that we need to have as a biotech hup to get the right part nurse... So on that concept we are also still working and we want to get the outcome by late summer. So we are still open for also suggestions and we are we want to also to work together with the companies and the partners and the startups at the university on this project draft to build the right thing that leads towards the right direction to have an efficient ecosystem here. Building an ecosystem is always pretty tough and I do know a lot of stories where the actually failed. So best of luck on that. If there's now a start up, maybe bio take, maybe an a I that could work with biotech startups, maybe an investor interested in biotech, what would would you be able to offer them right now and where can they learn more? Right now? We Are we are working on on a platform that allows us to have a one stop shop for investors and for startups, that we overcome the different department structures that cities and institutions have. We want to have one central position in the city, which will be located at our office, that we will coordinate to give the answers to investors, to start ups, to interest the people that want to locate or invest in the location of minds. So this is kind of crucial, I think, and we are working on this and we want to go live in the next two months with a solution where people can contact us and also get, like, participate in the in the development of the biotake up, and that every partner or stakeholded us his part to make the location work great. I think the only one's missing our podcasts right now, and so the website is not life, as we were calling this first off March, we may delay a little bit the publication until you website is life. So in case of that, you find down here in the show notes the link to the website and everybody can go down there and learn more. As we said, it's already it's still in development, it's not already done yet. So your head of the curve in learning about this, Felix. What is like? The final closing sentence? What would be sid...

...thing you want startups and investors to take away from the city of minds and your attempt to become a global place of global importance for biotech? Yeah, we want startups and investors to realize that there's development in minds in the field of biotechnology. We want to be a major player in the map of biotechnology in Europe and in the world and we want to be visible and we want everyone to know that there are great ideas here already, that there is a network growing in minds on biotechnology, and we want to motivate startups and investors to come to minds, to grow here and to be successful here and also get to know the city of minds, the liveliness and stay here and develop good ideas together. Well, great closing words. That's basically everything. I would add as well. Hope to have you back when the when the building is getting off the ground and maybe the first biotech startups or investors move in. Best of Lucks, best of luck until then and thank you very much. Thank you very much. So have good day. By by. Thanks. By. That's all those fine audios, streams events at interviews at www dot start up ratio. Remember, Sherry is carry.

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