To resolve conflicts arising from the different objectives of these priorities, we need holistic approaches which take into account the ecological, economic and social concerns in equal measure and integrate them in sustainable solutions.
In 1974, the Federal Ministry of Research and Technology (BMFT) had already commissioned a study from DECHMA (www.dechema.de/en/start_en.html) to look into the promising future of biotechnology. However, an influential manager of a chemical-pharmaceutical enterprise advised the Research Minister at the time against establishing a targeted funding programme for biotechnology. A few years later, the industrial sector complained that Germany lacked know-how in modern biotechnology. At the beginning of the 1980s, Hoechst AG invested 70 million dollars in a research cooperation with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, USA, so as not to miss the chance to gain access to newly developed genetic technology. In response, the BMFT funded gene centres (in German only; www.biotechnologie.de/BIO/Navigation/DE/Foerderung/foerderbeispiele,did=72972.html) in Berlin, Heidelberg, Cologne and Munich from 1982 to 1995, in order to establish research centres for molecular biology in Germany.
The funding had a long-term impact: even today, German biotechnology is concentrated in these regions. The industrial use of biotechnology received a clear boost during the wave of start-ups triggered by the 1995 BioRegio Competition, which was won by "BioRegions" Heidelberg, Munich and Rhineland. Meanwhile there are over 500 biotechnology companies in Germany with more than 15,000 employees and over 2 billion euros in sales. Germany has caught up in both modern life sciences and commercial biotechnology.
Domestically, the biotechnology programme set the trend for further funding measures: the BioRegio Competition (starting in 1995) was imitated by numerous competence networks and the Leading-Edge Cluster Competition, which started in 2007. BioFuture (starting in 1998) set standards for the promotion of young talent, and BioChance (starting in 1999) became a model for KMU-innovativ, providing funding for small and medium-sized enterprises. After the end of the framework programme "Biotechnology - using and shaping opportunities" (2001-2010), funding for biotechnology continues to be provided through the funding programmes for health (www.bmbf.de/pub/health_research_framework_programme.pdf) and bioeconomy (www.bmbf.de/pub/bioeconomy_2030.pdf).
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