Five years of Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus

september 24, 2018

Five years after it started, the Brightlands Maastricht Health Campus has outgrown its premises. This is why there is now a third incubator building, located on the Gaetano Martinolaan. CEO Prof. Dr. Jan Cobbenhagen talks about five years of valorisation as a core business, cross-overs with the other Brightlands campuses and more.

  Our efforts are designed to make
everyone better, literally and figuratively.

It starts with knowledge

“When we first started out, our campus was given a special assignment by the founding fathers Maastricht University, Maastricht UMC+ and the Province of Limburg. Our task was to become a true valorisation campus, an ecosystem focused on converting knowledge to value. The knowledge of doctors and scientists working here leads to products that heal people, or prevent them from getting sick. The money earned is applied toward new research. Knowledge is where it starts. Health and employment are the result. Our efforts are designed to make everyone better, literally and figuratively.”

Not your average campus

“Every university has a venture capital holding company or similar structure. At these institutions, knowledge is often marketed via licensing deals. This may bring in cash, but it’s not necessarily good for the region. After all, licenses may be used by companies all over the world. We take a different approach. We use the knowledge already present at our campus community to establish start-ups here. Our business developers help in every area to get the companies up and running. They assist with financing, knowledge about laws and regulations and finding the right contacts. If necessary, they personally guide the start-up through the initial stage. By helping a start-up achieve sustainable growth, we create new jobs here. This is how our ecosystem grows, and it is becoming increasingly more interesting for scientists or entrepreneurs with ambitions in the life science or health fields to set up a base of operations here.”

Growing and leaving the nest

“When we started out, our goal was to have 40 new companies at the campus within ten years. We already have 64 after only five years. Our goal was to create 1,100 extra jobs at this campus. Thanks to the knowledge institutes and the companies here, the actual number is now 1,180. In terms of growth, things are going well. We have outgrown our premises. This is why we have recently moved into a third incubator building on the Gaetano Martinolaan. It is mostly the companies with a greater need for office space that are moving in here. At the Oxfordlaan, we have a clear focus on companies that need lab facilities. The companies that once started here are already leaving the nest. Pathofinder and PharmaCell, which was acquired by Lonza, both have their own large facilities at the Brightlands campuses now. We are actually also a breeding ground for the other campuses. Companies focused on regenerative medicine sometimes move to the Brightlands Chemelot Campus once they have reached the production phase. This is an interesting location for them given all the knowledge on materials that is readily available there.”

The future

“We are successful in our efforts to connect science and business. This takes teamwork. All 32 of our team members have a hand in that. It starts with a warm welcome. We also expect future growth in the number of innovations, new projects and products and cross-overs between the different campuses. The number of sustainable jobs will grow proportionately. We are also going to focus more on community development. I think that we can encourage serendipity this way. It might sound a bit pompous, but it really isn’t. If you know who the other people are and what they do, something really great can develop. And it doesn’t matter whether you meet each other during a meeting, a cocktail hour or an activity within the vitality program. It’s about discovering that you can make each other better.”

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