Dr. David Eckensberger is Head of International Affairs at Hessen Trade & Invest GmbH (HTAI), the economic development agency of the state of Hessen. In this interview he tells us why Central Hessen is a stellar location for healthcare companies and how Hessen’s healthcare companies are managing the Corona pandemic.
What makes central Hessen a great location for internationally-minded healthcare companies?
Dr. David Eckensberger: This region offers a whole range of favorable factors – economic, social and logistical. Central Hessen has a very good mix of large corporations and innovative medium-sized companies can be found here. Also, a number of different areas in the healthcare industry are covered. In addition, the optics industry and companies in the field of electronics are also located here, for example, resulting in a network only a short distance away when businesses are thinking about research projects. This is also noticeable in the network as a whole. Central Hessen combines the social and societal advantages of a region outside a metro area with the logistical advantages of a metro area on its doorstep.
What particular challenges are healthcare companies and startups facing in the Corona crisis, and how can you overcome them?
Dr. Eckensberger: This differs depending on the segment in which the companies operate. For example, vaccine manufacturers and companies from the field of intensive care medicine and protective equipment could currently have too much work, while the situation is quite different in the field of implants. Here, there is a certain amount of uncertainty due to the postponement of medically unnecessary operations and also due to the concerns of some patients. The OTC sector is also feeling the effects of changes in the sale of its products. Finally, there are companies for which business has continued and is continuing essentially unchanged.
Something that affects all companies – completely independent of the sector – is the challenge of organizing production, research and administration in accordance with the current hygiene regulations. Especially in production areas, this is often a tricky task. But here again, the healthcare sector in particular has a head start. Due to the existing, tight regulatory network of rules, crucial working areas are usually already subject to strict hygiene rules anyway, so it was possible to continue working quickly and efficiently here.
What support do companies receive from you, especially in the current situation?
Dr. Eckensberger: As the state’s non-monetary economic development agency, it has always been our aim to support companies in Hessen with networks and information. In doing so, we apply the principle that anyone who does business in Hessen is also a Hessenn company to us – regardless of whether it’s a start-up that wants to revolutionize its industry with new ideas, an established medium-sized company that wants to find out about new paths in its innovation management or European funding programs, or a new branch of a global corporation that is looking for suitable cooperation partners for a research project. During the crisis, we also provided advice on government funding programs, of course, and supported companies in submitting their applications for aid funds. Here, our close links with politicians and the state’s development bank were a great advantage. We’ve also been providing fast and unbureaucratic help with information regarding the relevant legal framework conditions via a hotline since March.
What would you like to give companies to help them remain fit for the future?
Dr. Eckensberger: In itself, the recipe for success is well known: Keep an eye on your own industry development, think outside the box and always have the courage to change. That’s easy to say, of course. But I’m absolutely convinced that the will to actively change, to try out something new and to leave traditional ways of thinking is a very important factor. To achieve this, a culture must prevail in the company that tolerates mistakes – within reason, and if you learn from them – and encourages your own ideas and innovations. A completely scheduled day leaves no room for this. This does not mean that all employees should have set innovation times, but that the system must be flexible enough, when a good idea comes up, to quickly form a small team to develop it further. That way, you can create many approaches in a short time – and then follow up on the best of them. I’m convinced that a completely optimized system will become rigid and thus, from an overall economic point of view, ultimately vulnerable again.
Break away from beliefs like “we’ve always done it this way”, “we’ve never done it this way” and “we can’t change the process even once.” Changing such beliefs may sound simple, but it’s not so easy in daily work. That’s why we have to always motivate teams to question processes and products. Of course, there are always well-established successful methods to work, but it doesn’t hurt to make sure from time to time that this is still the case.
Read more from Dr. Eckensberger here.