Science as a growth engine

How can important scientific research results be rendered usable for the benefit of people and business? A team of researchers at the University of Lübeck has come up with an answer to this question: with EU support, the team has established the Fraunhofer centre for marine biotechnology (Fraunhofer-Einrichtung für Marine Biotechnologie – EMB).

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The time-lapse microscope at the Fraunhofer centre for marine biotechnology (EMB) makes it possible to observe and to document individual cells. Photo: Fraunhofer EMB The time-lapse microscope at the Fraunhofer centre for marine biotechnology (EMB) makes it possible to observe and to document individual cells. Photo: Fraunhofer EMB

“The foundation of the Fraunhofer centre for marine biotechnology was the starting signal for an extremely successful business development; with a host of university and industry partners, EMB has emerged as a new scientific and economic powerhouse in the region.”
Charli Kruse, professor at EMB

As Europe’s largest applied research organisation, Fraunhofer boasts an extensive network of institutes and other bodies in the fields of health, safety, communication, mobility, energy and the environment. The EMB centre in Lübeck has now provided an additional focal point. EMB core competences include stem cell technology, medical/cellular and aquatic technologies, and establishing and maintaining Germany’s "Cryo Brehm" wild animal cell bank.

Cutting-edge research …

EMB currently occupies a surface area of 1 000 square metres. Staff there use the latest technology to conduct a diverse range of research & development activities. Examples of current projects include improvements in the wound-healing process of humans and the production of fish cell powder as a valuable dietary supplement. Researchers are also developing new systems for testing heart medication that enable their effects on the human organism to be investigated without any animal experiments.

One of the centre’s particularly incisive areas of responsibility is the world’s only "Cryo Brehm" cell bank, which stores the living stem cells of assorted animals, both from the wild and in captivity. These cells are not only useful for various research goals – for example, evolutionary biological questions, or research and testing involving new drugs in the event of an epidemic – but are also an important source of cells for maintaining biodiversity.

… benefitting the region as a whole

In order to achieve pioneering research results, EMB on the one hand has been working closely on the ground with universities and other, non-university research bodies. At the same time, EMB’s numerous cooperation projects with industry are an illustration that the centre does not view research as an end in itself. Rather than sitting in academic ivory towers, EMB staff contribute greatly to networking between businesses and science in the region.

EMB’s focus on applied research ensures that the knowledge accrued will directly benefit business. For instance, large companies as well as small and medium-sized enterprises use EMB as a research partner. The region also gains from this significant expansion in specialist skills, making it more competitive and a more attractive place in which to invest at both national and international levels – with corresponding effects on growth and jobs. These advantages appear secure for the long term, as EMB is due to be expanded into a fully-fledged Fraunhofer institute from 2013.

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