science 12.1.2018 17:04

Biology Institute seeking to build regional biotech hub

Ljubljana, 12 January - The Slovenian National Institute of Biology (NIB) is planning a EUR 38m top-of-the-line biotech hub to improve conditions for research and improve knowledge transfer between research institutions and the economy. The hub will also facilitate an international breakthrough for Slovenian science, the NIB believes.

Ljubljana
The head of the National Institute of Biology's biotech department participates in a debate on the creation of a regional biotech hub.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Ljubljana
National Institute of Biology (NIB) director Tamara Lah Turnšek at a debate on the creation of a regional biotech hub.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

Currently in the process of seeking suitable investors, the NIB plans to spend EUR 20m on state of the art high-tech equipment.

The remaining EUR 18m will go for upgrading existing facilities and for building new laboratories that would be made available to all who want to get their projects off the ground and potentially market them.

The 4,000-square-metre centre will help bring closer together basic research and businesses in pharmacy, biomedical technology, food industry, biomimetics and environmental biotechnology.

It will enable users to connect with incubators, create offshoots and encourage education, said Tamara Lah Turnšek, the head of the NIB.

The hub will provide an innovative environment to attract scientists from abroad, especially young Slovenian researchers who want to return home, she stressed.

In addition, the hub will help the NIB "show the public we're not only users of public money, but that we push forward development and create value added for the economy".

She deems the hub important for further development of the NIB as well as for development of Slovenian natural and biotechnological sciences.

The NIB got the building permit for the hub already in 2016, but it now seeks suitable investors. Lah Turnšek also expressed hope that the hub's significance for Slovenia and the wider region would be recognised by politicians. She hopes they will allow the plans to move ahead in the new budget period.

The hub has already been endorsed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Sport, as well as some companies, including drug maker Lek, a part of the Sandoz group.

Stane Pejovnik, the chancellor of the University of Ljubljana, also highlighted the significance of the project. He sees it as the first step towards creating a great scientific park that would have "all the required infrastructure required for startups and new knowledge".

His vision is for the park to "educate young people to show an interest for both basic research and commercialisation".

Meanwhile, Peter Wostner of the Government Office for Development and European Cohesion Policy praised the project for having the potential for breaking ground in cooperation on such projects between science, the state and the economy.

The plans have also been praised by several experts from India, the UK and Israel, who have agreed that NIB's research is already exceptional.