Tall and lanky, worldly and sophisticated, André Domin is CEO of the Technology Park, an international biotechnology and life sciences cluster based in Heidelberg, Germany. A truly global man, André travels the world from China to Europe to the USA and beyond. He drives the Technology Park to enhance innovation, and to catalyze and support bio-tech start-ups. Moreover, André plays a crucial role in linking political and business leaders and big players in the Life Sciences field to create real value for all.
O'Brien: Let me ask you a simple and direct question, André: why the Technology Park in Heidelberg? There are excellent Life Sciences clusters in the UK, France and the USA: what does Heidelberg have to offer that's unique or special, besides its pretty location?
André: Great question. The Heidelberg Technology Park's USP is that it is located right at the heart of global Life Sciences research in Europe. Within a radius of just a few kilometers are the Max Planck Institute, the European Molecular Biology Laboratory, and the world-renown German Cancer Research Center, where Nobel Prize winning scientists conduct reasearch. Heidelberg, besides being a beautiful place to live, also boasts Germany's highest number of scientists per capita. If your aim is to found a bio tech start-up, Heidelberg is the place to be.
O'Brien: I see, so supporting bio tech start-ups is a major focus. How do you specifically support them?
André: Oh, we support our tenants by offering them lab and office space, and networking possibilities to venture capitalist and Big Pharma corporations such as Roche, BASF, etc. In addition, the Technology Park hosts practical, interactive seminars and workshops designed to help start-ups with the business side of things, something natural scientists are often quite weak at.
O'Brien: Very good. What, in your opinion, are the greatest challenges facing bio tech start-ups today?
André: Number one is a lack of funding and a tight venture capitalist market, especially here in Europe. Secondly, if a start-up aims at bringing a new drug to the market, there is great uncertainty in achieving reimbursement from health insurance organizations. Thirdly, I would say that bio techs need more business savvy -- typically they're great at developing innovative scientific solutions but terrible at the business side: negotiations, leadership, teambuilding, professional presentations, marketing, self-branding and even pricing.
O'Brien: Right. So the typical bio tech start-up has a highly talented and motivated scientific staff working on a ground-breaking product. But their challenge, in a business sense, is how to sell this...
André: Exactly. In order to sell their excellent ideas, bio tech start-ups have to up their business skills.
O'Brien: How can bio tech start-ups enhance their business skills?
André: That is the key question. I firmly believe bio tech start-ups have to network globally -- both in a business and a scientific sense. Also, they need to work with externals -- business leaders, mentors, coaches, consultants -- to ramp up their sales, management and marketing skills.
O'Brien: These are some mighty challenges and opportunites. Thank you very much for sharing these valuable insights, André.
André: The pleasure is all mine. I passionately believe in the Technology Park's mission, and I'm glad you gave me the opportunity to express that. I look forward to co-operating with your readers and international partners.