“This was the best solution we found as soon as we stepped over the borders of Germany.”
The German company Candidum moved into Innolab Agrifood, situated in the Avebe Innovation Center on Campus Groningen, end of May 2019. This international player in the field of enzyme development is a spin-off of the University of Stuttgart. Their choice for Innolab Agrifood was motivated among other things by the state-of-the-art laboratory facilities. Philipp Schellenberger, Head of Laboratory of Candidum: “We are rapidly expanding and on the search for a flexible lab space. When we broadened our search to the whole of Europe, we pretty soon came across the Innolab Agrifood. Innolab was the only partner in our Europe-wide search that offered the response time we were looking for in this partnership. We found no other solution that would allow us to get an ML1 lab up and running within a months’ time. This was the best solution we found as soon as we stepped over the borders of Germany.” Corina Prent, Manager of Innolab Agrifood, affirms the lacuna in the German market: “This type of lab, aimed at start-ups and scale-ups, well equipped, cannot be found in Germany actually. It is great that the German Candidum now ventures this step to Campus Groningen.”
The right variant
Candidum has specialised in finding and designing the best variant of an enzyme. This is done with an innovative, digital design of enzymes, that allows Candidum to optimise variants, so they have the desired qualities for their customers. Schellenberger explains: “We need to screen these variants in an analytical lab environment. This production for R&D purposes and screening is at least in part done here in Innolab Agrifood. We have customers all around the world, mainly in Europe and Asia. These are companies for instance in the chemical industry, the pharmaceutical industry or animal feed, that ask us to develop enzymes that fit their needs. Or customers already have an enzyme and we are then requested to engineer them to a higher potential to fit their specific needs.”
It turned out there was a quick match with the Groningen facilities, because there was only a month’s time between the first contact of Candidum and Innolab Agrifood and the actual move of the German company into Innolab. Besides the excellent, brand new laboratory facilities the possibilities for collaboration with the two other renting companies, CarbExplore and EV Biotech, and in a broader sense the potential cooperation with knowledge institutions and companies played a role for Candidum. Schellenberger says on the relation with the two other companies: “The three of us are working in matching fields and we are always keen on interacting with innovators to explore potential synergies.” Corina Prent: “I too see a good match between Candidum and the two other renters in Innolab Agrifood. They develop different products with different applications, but it all involves the same technology.”
Wanted: a place for innovation
Campus Groningen has been working on room for innovation since 2014. An open climate, but also literally physical space where start-ups can rent a place and grow their business. Laboratory facilities are especially for starting companies an expensive investment. There is also often a need for a useful network and easy accessible help with business management.
That is how the first Innolab Chemistry came into existence in 2014, also by initiative of Nobel Laureate Chemistry 2016, prof. dr. Ben Feringa of the University of Groningen. In the year 2018 Innolab Agrifood was added, situated in the Innovation Center of Avebe on Zernike Campus. Edward van der Meer, director of Campus Groningen: “The fact that international companies now find their way to our Innolabs, is a tremendous confirmation of the strength of the ecosystem on Campus Groningen. Here on Campus Groningen you can make the smart start, because of the existing infrastructure and the strong networks between researchers, entrepreneurs and first-rate education.” Schellenberger strongly praises the Innolab formula of Campus Groningen: “Just after two and a half weeks here in Groningen, I can say that the environment of the Innolab is very well fitting and the surrounding network is not only an exciting and productive setting, it is also an excellent pool for recruitment of highly skilled talents, what we really appreciate a lot.”