Life Sciences

Hamburg Metropolitan Region – Life Sciences

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The sector – Researching for better lives

People are the focus in life sciences. Whether it is new drugs, improvements in diagnoses or more individualised treatment that are concerned, the Metropolitan Region has outstanding medical scientific expertise, forward-thinking technological know-how, and industrial capabilities to offer.

The life sciences sector in the region saw a dynamic development trend in recent years. Meanwhile, a diversified network of high-tech companies, respected research institutions and universities has grown up, whose goal is to transform innovative ideas into marketable products. Some 500 companies employing 270,000 people are active in life sciences and the health care management sector in and around Hamburg.

Life sciences represent a vital domain for the future in Hamburg Metropolitan Region: an economic factor with huge potential for innovation and employment. Close links between medicine, medical technology, biotechnology and pharmacy have forged an internationally competitive life science cluster.

Focal points – Innovations for the medicine of tomorrow

Medical technology: Tradition and innovation

The Metropolitan Region is an ideal location for medical technology due to the size and market dominance of the corporations based here. Few German regions have such a heavily developed infrastructure in medical technical research and development. The 300 or so medical technology companies have a workforce of more than 11,500.

The region is home to globally recognised, traditional medical technology companies such as Philips Medical Systems DMC GmbH or Olympus Medical Systems Europa GmbH, which provide continual new impulses and see themselves as outstanding innovators. Products for world markets are manufactured in the Metropolitan Region by global players such as Dräger Medical, Johnson & Johnson Medical, Söring and Eska Implants. Apart from the large concerns, there are numerous SMEs and small start-up companies.

As well as its expertise in implantology, prosthetics and biomechanics, not to mention minimally invasive surgical techniques, the North also shines in imaging processes where it is at the leading edge.

Biotech/Pharma: Dynamism and diversity

About 150 companies with some 8,200 employees work and research in biotechnology and the pharmaceuticals sector in the region. To these must be added 70 companies in the pharmaceuticals industry. The core competence in biotechnology/pharmaceuticals is in pharmaceutical active agent research, molecular diagnostics and enabling technologies.

Many small and medium-size companies offer both analytical and diagnostic products and services on world markets. Eppendorf AG, for instance, makes use of its expertise in laboratory instrumentation to develop special diagnostic applications. QIAGEN Hamburg GmbH positions itself with customised analysis and diagnostics for infections. Some of the large international pharmaceuticals concerns, such as GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca und Ferring have research, production and distribution locations in north Germany.

Evotec AG has positioned itself as supplier of a development platform for screening new pharmaceutical active agents. One outstanding project for the north German life sciences location in 2007 was the launch of the European ScreeningPort - ESP, a therapeutic agent research centre. ESP provides an industrially organised platform for European research to identify promising therapeutic agents for future medicines more efficiently and systematically and to push forward their development. In addition to the companies Evotec AG and c.a.r.u.s. Information Technology AG, the City of Hamburg also has a stake in the enterprise.

Human and veterinary medicine are important in Cuxhaven. Whilst Lohmann Animal Health GmbH & Co. KG (LAH) manufactures veterinary products; TAD Pharma GmbH and VOCO GmbH produce preparations and generic medicines for human medical or dental use. Blue biotechnology covers marine products, such as marine aquaculture. The Cuxhaven BioCompetence centre is available as a partner for interested businesses.

Education, research & development – Excellence is the basis

The world-renowned Bernhard Nocht institute for tropical medicine is a world leader in research and development: it was heavily involved in decoding the SARS pathogen and in developing a diagnostic test for it. At DESY (the German electron-synchrotron), various institutions (EMBL, Max Planck working group) are involved in identifying the structure of biomolecules, which will be the foundation for developing new treatments.

The university hospitals in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein, at Lübeck and Kiel, are crucial knowledge banks. The Hamburg and Kiel clinics are working, for example, on the molecular imaging north (MOIN) research project with Philips Medical Systems DMC GmbH to find new procedures for medical imaging processes.

Human viruses and viral diseases are the focus of research at Heinrich Pette institute for experimental virology and immunology. Leading edge research is also to be found at the Borstel research centre, whose activities centre on fundamental and patient-oriented research into pulmonology, or respiratory disease. Borstel research centre has been working closely in the inflammation cluster with the universities of Kiel and Lübeck since 2007.

A Fraunhofer institution for marine biotechnologies (EMB) was set up in Lübeck in January 2008. During the next five years, it is planned to develop into a full-blooded Fraunhofer institute with a wide spectrum of research topics. EMB concentrates on the isolation, cultivation and differentiation of stem cells, particularly those from marine organisms. The results of research could be used, for example, for regenerative medicine and for test procedures in the cosmetic and pharmaceuticals industry.

The region is learning

Interdisciplinary work is becoming ever more crucial, especially in life sciences. In response, consistent tailoring of education and training to the needs of the labour market, interdisciplinary learning and contact with research and technology at an early age – all these factors are well on the way to being implemented in life sciences in the region.

Degree courses in biotechnology and medical technology have mushroomed. These are to be found in Lübeck at both its university of applied sciences and Lübeck Universität. Both institutions offer outstanding interdisciplinary degree courses such as master of science degrees in biomedical engineering or molecular life sciences. The good reputation of north German academic life sciences is also upheld in Hamburg by Hamburg University, Hamburg university of the applied sciences, Helmut Schmidt University (Hamburg armed forces university) and Hamburg-Harburg technical university. 

Business development – Inter-regional connections: Achieving more together

Norgenta Norddeutsche Life Science Agentur GmbH

Life sciences activities in North Germany are supported and coordinated by Norgenta Norddeutsche Life Science Agentur GmbH, the project and marketing company for Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. The agency’s job is to link the expertise of companies, universities, research institutions and hospitals. It initiates and supports innovative projects which will enhance the location’s economic and scientific profile. Thus the know-how of North German university-level and research institutions is targeted towards the development and marketing of products. The agency is also responsible for international marketing of the region. Recently Norgenta set up cooperation with BioCon Valley, the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania agency.


The Lower Saxony life sciences initiative, BioRegio N, is the central liaison office for life sciences in the state.

It brings together partners from business, academia and politics with the aim of getting the huge potential of excellent research outcomes onto the market at the earliest possible stage, to promote relocation, and to underpin Lower Saxony – one of Germany’s major bio-regions – in its role as a life sciences location.

BioRegioN has the task of making Lower Saxony’s potential in life sciences – particularly biotechnology – internationally known.

Figures – Data – Facts

Key indicators for Hamburg und Schleswig-Holstein

  • Medical technology enterprises
    300 companies, 11,500 employees, EUR 3.9bn sales; primarily SMEs; employees as proportion of total gainfully employed: SH 4.3% and HH 5%.
  • Biotechnology and pharmaceutical enterprises
    150 companies in biotechnology, 70 in the pharma sector, 8,200 employees, mainly SMEs; Annual turnover of pharma enterprises over EUR 2.8bn.
  • Scientific research and teaching institutions
    5 universities, 2 university clinics, 4 university-level colleges, 10 extra-university research institutions, of which 3 in Leibniz Gemeinschaft, 2 in Helmholtz Gemeinschaft, 2 in Fraunhofer institutes/establishments.
  • Health care management
    154 hospitals, 183,000 employees subject to social security and 29,000 beds; 943,000 inpatients per year.
  • Additional infrastructure
    14 technology centres with specific sectoral orientation and service provision to sector enterprises.
  • Technology transfer
    3 technology transfer and promotion institutions, 2 state patent evaluation institutions, transfer offices in scientific/academic institutions and chambers of industry and commerce.
  • Promotional institutions and networks
    7 business development agencies, chambers of industry and commerce and 3 corporate networks are integrated in Life Science Council cooperation organisation.

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