The State of Hessen and Merck open the ‘ryon’ business accelerator as a launch pad for a green technology innovation cluster.
The State of Hessen and Merck (EMD for our northamerican readers) opened a green technology business accelerator in Gernsheim on November 28. The accelerator is intended for fledgling companies focused on climate and environmental protection technologies. Known as ‘ryon’, the accelerator helps start-ups on their way to industrial maturity, representing the launch pad for a green technology innovation cluster that links universities, established companies, start-ups, financing partners and public agencies.
Al-Wazir: Hessen is driving the economic transformation and securing Hessen’s future
‘One of our most important tasks is to transform an economy that is based on fossil fuels, consuming large amounts of raw materials and exploiting the environment into one that is carbon-neutral, socially oriented, crisis-proof and therefore future-proof. To achieve this, we need green technology – a growth sector that is oriented to the future,’ said Tarek Al-Wazir, Hessen’s Minister of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing. Mr Al-Wazir signed off the approval for funding the green technology innovation cluster. ‘Because start-ups have a decisive role in driving the economic transformation thanks to their new, highly innovative products and processes, we should use the accelerator to foster their development and create an entire green technology ecosystem. The focus in Gernsheim is clearly on green technology start-ups involved in production. This shows that the economic transformation and a location with a strong industrial background are not mutually exclusive but need each other. And this is exactly what we are promoting with state funds.’
Dr Beckmann: laboratory and production space for green technology start-ups
However, green technology start-ups involved in production have special prerequisites in order to reach industrial maturity. These companies need laboratory and production space in sizes ranging from typical university labs to sites used for large industrial processes. Such spaces are rare, particularly in the Rhine-Main region. ‘Our site in Gernsheim has spaces like these in a designated and approved industrial and commercial area,’ said Dr Kai Beckmann, Member of the Executive Board and CEO of the Electronics business sector at Merck. ‘That is why we are not only supporting the establishment of ryon financially but are also providing suitable spaces in the form of laboratories and a technical centre on the grounds of the GreenTech Park FLUXUM Gernsheim.’ A recently founded operating company consisting of Merck, the Wirtschafts- und Infrastrukturbank Hessen (WIBank), Hessen Trade and Invest (HTAI) and the universities of Darmstadt and Frankfurt is responsible for setting up the accelerator.
Boddenberg: green technology cluster increases attractiveness of location
There are also plans to construct a new building for the ryon accelerator – the operating company is already in talks with an investor, and the building should be ready by 2025. This will allow more start-ups to move in and be brought up to production maturity there. The State of Hessen intends to contribute to a rental guarantee. Minister of Finance Michael Boddenberg is confident: ‘The state will support the start-up phase of the project, after which it should be self-supporting. In addition to the start-ups, established companies will also benefit, as they will be involved in the development of innovation programmes. This will create a pioneering cluster that increases the attractiveness of Hessen as a location.’ The accelerator will be housed in an interim space until the planned building is completed.
Asar: important prerequisite for university spin-off companies and knowledge transfer
The ryon accelerator is aimed at green technology start-ups with a need for development and growth. Universities have a central role for spin-off companies such as these. ‘Hessen’s universities are the place where excellent ideas are born for technologies and production processes that enable us to live and conduct business in an environmentally friendly way that conserves resources. Once these companies outgrow the existing incubator programmes at universities and research institutions, they can find the infrastructure and support they need at the ryon accelerator. That is an important prerequisite for university spin-off companies and knowledge transfer,’ said Ayse Asar, Hessen’s State Secretary for Higher Education, Research and the Arts.
First start-up in the accelerator: ceres
The ryon accelerator already has its first start-up on board: ceres, a spin-off company from the Technical University of Darmstadt that manufactures packaging material from straw. The sustainable filling material is intended to avoid environmentally harmful packaging waste and make shipping parcels more ecologically sound. Thanks to this business idea, ceres has already won several competitions, most recently the founders’ prize presented by Hessen’s Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing. At this time, the company’s three young founders are still working from their basement at home. But that is about to change – the workshop where ryon was officially opened on Monday will one day become their new production facility.