Central Hessen meets the USA: In February 2020, a delegation from Hsse travelled to the US East Coast. The aim: promote investments by US companies in Hessen. Christian Piterek, Regional Manager of Regionalmanagement Mittelhessen GmbH, was also there. His mission: to network the healthcare region of Central Hessen with US industry hotspots of Boston, Princeton and Philadelphia. He describes his impressions in an interview.
You have visited some healthcare hotspots in the USA. Where exactly were you?
The East Coast of the USA. It’s a trendsetter especially for the healthcare sector. Just think of AI and digitalization in medicine. And especially the regions around Boston and Philadelphia, as well as New Jersey, as the center of the biotech production companies. They were the perfect destinations. We had numerous high-level meetings there. For example, I was able to visit with the German Accelerator Life Science and IBM Watson. In Princeton I met the representatives of BioNJ, and the New Jersey Biotechnology Industry Association. And we had a meeting there with the Entrepreneurial Hub of Princeton University. And then in Philadelphia, we had more network meetings.
What was the purpose of your trip?
With our roadshow, we wanted to promote more investments by US companies in Hessen and further strengthen American-Hessen trade relations. It was important for us as regional management to position Central Hessen as the healthcare region with strong and innovative companies and universities. After all, more than 250 companies are based in our region, the ten largest of which together generate more than 4 billion euros in sales annually. We’ve provided information about this in a variety of formats – lectures, company visits and networking events. I had a lot of concrete examples and points of contact to get in touch with local stakeholders. All in all, it was a good opportunity to raise awareness for the region and to build new networks.
What impressions and insights did you gain?
I’ve received very positive feedback. After all, the region of Central Hessen as a region is lesser known in the US. But the region’s strengths became clear in the presentations and discussions, and the participants in the events were very positively surprised by the region’s performance. We also have many, very concrete contacts, which we are now following up on. And we were also able to gain many new contacts, which will make it much easier for us to access the US East Coast for possible cooperations.
Which events impressed you the most?
For example, we received insights into the topic of AI and deep learning from Armen Pischdotchian, the Academic Tech Mentor at IBM Watson. This is a field that’s also becoming extremely important in medicine. The Philipps University in Marburg has appointed Prof. Dr. Martin Christian Hirsch, one of the leading international experts in the field of AI, to the newly established professorship “Artificial Intelligence in Medicine.” However, it was also exciting to see how Princeton University promotes start-ups from within the university. With their Coworking Space and Coworking Labs, there’s an ideal environment for start-ups in the life science sector. University members as well as external companies can rent space. And the Venture Cafe in Philadelphia was impressive: This is an event for the startup scene in Philadelphia and takes place every Thursday in a Life Science hub. The spirit of the event is extremely cool. There are different panels, lectures and networking. The atmosphere is very open, so even as an external person you can network with the other participants very easily.
What is the general significance of the USA for the healthcare location of Central Hessen and vice versa?
Well, the USA is the most important source market for foreign direct investments in Hessen. It’s also Hessen’s largest trading partner. Hessen’s chemical and pharmaceutical products have been particularly popular in the USA for many years. Ready-to-use drugs, vaccines and diagnostics dominate. And the US East Coast in particular is strong in the life science, pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical technology sectors. But today we also have to look at quite different areas that are also becoming increasingly important for the healthcare industry, such as data mining solutions or IT security. And also security, for example in the transport of new, highly sensitive biological active ingredients. All of this makes international cooperation indispensable. The current Covid-19 pandemic also shows us just how important it is to have the international exchange of research results.
The Hessen delegation was led by Dorothee Hanitsch, Hessen Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing. Among other participants were Dr. David Eckensberger, Head of International Affairs at Hessen Trade & Invest; Dr. John Gatto, President FrankfurtRheinMain Corp., Chicago office; and Dr. Mark C. Hilgard President American-German Business Club Frankfurt e.V.