Cooperation and Competition

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Subproject 6 (associated):On-site Cooperation and Competition: The Emergence of Munich-Martinsried as a Centre of Life Sciences and Biotechnology

Since their development into a new leading field of science, life sciences have become epistemically dependent on collaboration. However, they have also turned into an increasingly commercially structured and highly competitive field of global importance.

This project analyzes Martinsried near Munich as a site of research and science, which developed within only three decades from a village to an enclave of basic biochemical research, and finally became one of the leading locations for biotechnology worldwide: in 2000, this “BioRegion” Munich was one of the top three locations in Europe from roughly 40 worldwide clusters of biotechnology. With the example of Martinsried, the project argues, we can follow up radical disciplinary change within biosciences and their rapid rise in the Federal Republic of Germany. This occurred late in an international comparison, but all the quicker. Due to competitive pressure from the USA (recombinant DNA), Martinried’s development was characterized and promoted mainly by scientific, political and economic relations of cooperation and competition, intricately intertwined in institutional structures. These ties were consolidated further so that they unleashed specific dynamics and changed significantly over time.

The project examines three of the Martinsried research institutes, each established with a decade’s interval, in order to study different competitive and collaborative constellations: first, the launching of the new Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry in 1973 (including its pre-history in the sixties); second, the Gene Center, founded in 1984 as a joint venture of the MPI of Biochemistry, the University of Munich (LMU) and the major chemical companies Hoechst and Wacker, and financed by the federal government; third, the Innovation and Start-Up Center for Biotechnology (IZB), financed by the Free State of Bavaria and established in 1995 to foster the formation of research-based new biotech companies that would enable Germany to remain a competitive actor on the highly competitive global market. These periods mark a radical change of contemporary perceptions of the processes of innovation and towards the question whether and how politics can plan and control them. Furthermore, they shed light on a new “scientific persona” that emerged: it changed from basic research to the entrepreneurial scientist. Martinsried, as an institutionalized site of research, is considered a place where these networks crystallized, resulting in a multitude of competitive and collaborative relations: within and between scientific disciplines in their national and international contexts; between different types of organized research (university, extra-university, and industrial research); between basic research, the major chemistry and new biotech companies; and between regional, national, European and global political levels.