In October 2020 we began our cooperation with BIOBoosteRR, which was initially planned to run until June 2021. We would like to take this opportunity to look back on this time together. To put it all in context, we need explain what BIOBoosteRR actually is. Very roughly speaking, it is an accelerator programme that helps to bring innovations from research into commercial application through consultation (https://www.biooekonomierevier.de/gruenden_mit_bioboostrr). The programme is a cooperation between the “BioeconomyREVIER” initiative funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), which is coordinated from Forschungszentrum Jülich, and the Cologne-based consultancy “compreneur GmbH” (https://compreneur.de/). In the context of the phasing out of lignite mining in North Rhine Westfalia (Rheinisches Revier), the structural change initiative pursues the goal of developing a model region for a sustainable ”BioEconomy”. In a sustainable Bioeconomy, bio-based raw materials, such as plant or animal residues, are economically utilized and introduced into a self-sustainable economic system. The economic transformation in the lignite mining region therefore offers the opportunity to create such alternative forms of economy with new jobs through new business models and innovations, which is supported by programmes such as BIOBoosteRR.
We became aware of BIOBoosteRR through a visit to the Forschungszentrum Jülich (https://www.fz-juelich.de/portal/DE/Home/home_node.html, FZJ) in summer of 2020, where we were able to exchange ideas with Prof. Ulrich Schurr and Dr. Christian Klar (Institute of Plant Sciences IBG-2), initiators of the BioeconomyREVIER coordination office. On this occasion, we presented GENAWIF – and together we discussed ideas for its further development. This is when we learned about BIOBoosteRR.
In Autumn 2020 we had the first telephone conversation with the Economist Ingmar Stock and the Biologist Niklas Hielscher from the BIOBoosteRR programme in order to explore together how the booster could support GENAWIF. The constellation of business and scientific expertise was of course ideal for us. Once we had agreed on the framework conditions of how cooperation could look, we met twice a month to map out a plan for the short-, medium- and long-term development of GENAWIF and what work would need to be implemented to achieve the various goals. Among these were self-imposed goals such as our own digital events, a concept for financing and implementing our research ideas, and of course ways and means to put the association on an economically independent footing.
A very helpful aspect of our support through BIOBoosteRR was certainly the regular meetings, at which we naturally wanted to show successes and developments. A fitting comparison would probably be that you can resolve to go jogging regularly by yourself, but when you arrange to go jogging with a partner, the motivation to jog is much greater because of the shared responsibility that you have for each other.
Another important aspect was “networking”. GENAWIF is broadly based with interests in many natural substances, which leads to many different points of contact with the free economy and with academic research. BIOBoosteRR was always able to offer us help to establish contacts based on our ideas with various industries, such as cosmetics or food, but also specifically with individual companies. On the other hand, we were very happy to provide to others new contact opportunities and experiences. For example, moving into the multidisciplinary working space LabAix in Aachen, our contacts to FutureLab Aachen and to the editorial team of Quarks & Co.
Furthermore, we also learned a lot from a business perspective, for example when we worked with BioBoosteRR to develop business models for GENAWIF. Of course, as a non-profit association, we are perhaps not a classic start-up, yet there are economic aspects that GENAWIF must take into account when it makes the transition to financial independence.
The bottom line is that we would like to express our gratitude to BioBoosteRR and specifically to Ingmar Stock, Niklas Hielscher and his successor Carlotta Muhle, for the stimulating discussions in a trusting working atmosphere and for the professional advice that we have been able to enjoy for eight months up to now.
Jan Borlinghaus, 01.07.2021