InnoTour 2018: Australian researchers exploring German healthcare sector

13.11.2018

Friday, November 9, 2018 was the last day of InnoTour 2018, a five-day tour leading 16 Australian researchers and innovators to different institutions and companies of the German healthcare research sector. InnoTour was organized by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft within the initiative InnoHealth Australia. Presenting the large portfolio of applied research and corporate landscape, InnoTour 2018 promoted networking between the German and Australian actors. First joint project approaches have been identified – in basic and applied research as well as in the industrial sector.

InnoHealth Australia is a constituent part of the collaborative project “International Research Marketing”, scheduled for 2017 to 2019. The initiative is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research and Education (BMBF) under the brand name “Research in Germany” and is executed by the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. 

InnoTour 2018 started in Munich at the Fraunhofer Headquarters, where Dr. Lutz Zeitlmann, Head of Research Coordination Materials and Life Sciences, updated the Australian delegation with news from the Fraunhofer world of high-tech development. Furthermore, the guests got information about business development in Germany’s medical device industry. The tour continued at the Medical Valley/Digital Hub in Erlangen. Jörg Trinkwalter, member of the Managing Board, talked about innovations from this cluster in the Nuremberg area. Heike Leutheuser, Managing Director of the Central Institute for Medical Engineering at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU), together with colleagues from FAU presented recent research activities in health and sports. The Australians were highly impressed: “This knowledge cluster shows the excellent cooperation of academia, industry, and government institutions in Germany.” 

Day 2 of InnoTour led the Australian researchers to the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB in Stuttgart. Institute Director Dr. Markus Wolperdinger welcomed the group: “We look forward to fruitful discussions and intensifying our collaboration with you. Let’s stay partners!” After several lectures about new technologies and processes, the delegation got the chance to visit laboratories in the institute’s micro and molecular biology division. In the following matchmaking session, first cooperation possibilities and financing opportunities were discussed already. This day ended with a short visit to the Pharmacy Museum in Heidelberg Castle, a touristic and historic highlight for many of the Australians. 

On the next day, the group visited the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Mannheim with its Project Group for Automation in Medicine and Biotechnology PAMB. Besides getting information on diverse projects, the Australian researchers learnt about local start-ups in the field of biomedical engineering. Among others, they met Marc Mazur, CEO of PreviPharma Consulting, who had already participated in the InnoPlatform in Melbourne where he established valuable contacts. He said: “A network of international partners is becoming more and more important for projects to be successful.” Afterwards, the delegation travelled to Max-Planck-Institute (MPI) for Experimental Medicine in Göttingen, where German research projects in neurosciences, oncology, diagnostic and therapeutic approaches of individualized medicine as well as collaborative research projects were presented. Prof. Dr. Nils Brose, head of the department of Molecular Neurobiology, emphasized that “basic research in Germany is independent”, in contrast to industry-oriented research, and he also pointed out the broad spectrum of research performed in Germany. 

A visit to the Fraunhofer Institute for Toxicology and Experimental Medicine ITEM in Hannover and its clinical research center CRC Hannover were on the agenda on the following day. Scientific lectures about integrating human tissue into research and development and guided lab tours at the CRC Hannover gave insight into the cutting edge of in-vitro toxicology and ex-vivo methods. And again, there was the chance for intensive networking. 

The last morning of InnoTour began at the Fraunhofer-inHaus-Center in Duisburg, an innovation center for smart novel system solutions for rooms and buildings of the healthcare sector. After this stop, Markus Wiegmann, Managing Director of Stryker GmbH, welcomed the Australian delegation in the facilities of this internationally operating company for medical technology with 33,000 employees worldwide. Like the other visits of the Tour, this stop was equally considered fruitful by the visitors. Consequently, the unanimous opinion of the Australian experts was: “InnoTour gave us intensive insights into the German research landscape. We got the chance to enter into discussions with many stakeholders and to get to know new perspectives. We will definitely come back to collaborate on ideas and projects!“