Interview with Robert-Jan Bumbacher – new member of the Board of Directors of the Technologiepark Basel AG

Robert-Jan Bumbacher explains what the strengths of the life sciences location Basel are and why Basel offers ideal conditions for life sciences start-ups.


About the person

Robert-Jan Bumbacher, lic. oec. HSG, is an independent business consultant. In addition, he is the Managing Director of the association Verein Vorsorge Schweiz (VVS), President of the Board of Directors of the University Hospital Basel, has various board of directors and foundation council mandates and a teaching assignment at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Northwestern Switzerland (FHNW). The certified accountant has broad experience in the support of national and international autiting and consulting mandates and was active with Ernst & Young (EY) for 20 years.


1. Since June 2016 you are a member of the Board of Directors of the Technologiepark Basel AG, the funding body of the Technologiepark Basel (TPB). What in particular attracted you about the TPB-board mandate?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: Since many years, I have been interested in start-ups and in the subject of innovation, also because I have been acting as a coach for the SwissInnovation Challenge of the FHNW for quite some time. I admire the enthusiasm and the endurance which these young entrepreneurs apply daily. In my role as President of the Board of Directors of the Basel University Hospital, innovation is also great importance, in particular in the area of research but also with regard to big data and digitalisation.

2. From your point of view, what characterises the TPB?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: For me, the TPB provides a platform for innovative and creative minds, which enables interdisciplinary collaboration between the tenants and interactions with the Inkubator. The TPB promotes an active exchange of ideas among the start-ups.

3. Did you note anything in particular during your first tour through the Technologiepark?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: Several years ago I was involved as a sponsoring partner on the part of EY in the founding of the TPB. It is good to see that offices and laboratories gradually became filled with life. The forthcoming extension of the TPB with additional rental spaces particularly pleases me and shows the TPB’s success.

4. You have worked in the pharmaceutical industry yourself and were also active as a certified accountant for many years. From your point of view, what are the strengths of Basel as a life sciences location?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: In the Basel region, a life sciences cluster with national and international reach has formed. This includes players such as the life sciences industry, the university as well as the university of applied sciences and arts, the university hospitals, the supply industry as well as start-ups. Together, they are the foundation for the location’s continuous development. In the life sciences commission of the Chamber of Commerce Basel for example many of these powers are bundled. There, you feel that people are acting in concert in the interest of a strong location.

5. Where do you see the chances and risks for the current life sciences industry in Basel?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: The chances for the local life sciences industry lie in developing new technologies. Hereby, I am also thinking about new medical treatments and clinical research, for example in the field of oncology. It is also important to carry the achieved successes out more clearly beyond the region.

I see risks in insufficient networking and coordination, which can lead to redundancies or insufficient focus. We should measure and assert ourselves more against other successful life sciences clusters.

6. What role do start-ups such as those in the TPB play for the life sciences location Basel?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: Start-ups quickly assume new trends. Each success, but also each failure extends our knowledge and this lays the foundation stone for the next development step until the next big hit.

7. How do you evaluate the industry’s collaboration with the hospitals in Basel and what would you like to change?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: There is a great potential for further connections here. The joint hospital group, Kantonspital Baselland and Basel University Hospital, should in this respect form the basis, in order to be an interesting partner to the life sciences industry for research projects. The goal is to better position ourselves with the life sciences companies on-site. Here, we must measure ourselves against other university hospitals in Switzerland, but in particular against those abroad.

8. In your opinion, what future does personalised medicine have in Basel? How should the Basel location develop?

Robert-Jan Bumbacher: Personalised medicine has a great future and is of highest strategic importance for our location. It is already a reality with individual treatments in oncology. The project of Basel University and Basel University Hospital for a common research platform under the name “Personalised Health Basel” lays an essential foundation stone. This is effected in close connection with the same activities in the Zurich location and in coordination with the national initiative.

See contribution “Precision Medicine Basel”.


Technologiepark Basel

The target group of the Technologiepark Basel are innovative start-ups from the life sciences, the chemical industry, environmental and energy technology, nanotechnology, as well as information and communications technology. The commercial start-up of these companies from high technology sectors is facilitated by the offer of office, laboratory, and storage spaces as well as joint infrastructure. In addition, the Technologiepark Basel provides basic services. In general, successful start-ups only stay in the Technologiepark Basel for a few years. After the establishment of the company and its products in the market, the company finds a new location in the regional real estate market. 

Due to the great demand and in order to satisfy the expansion plans of the current tenants, the Technologiepark Basel was expanded for the first time in summer 2014. In addition to a doubling of laboratory and office zones, a central reception area as well as an auditorium was created. The continuing high utilisation of the laboratory and office zones in the Technologiepark Basel as well as the availability of free zones in the same building led to the further expansion of the Technologiepark Basel. By the end of 2017, the surface of the laboratory and office zones will be further extended, so that the Technologiepark Basel will encompass a total of approximately 6,400 m2. At the moment, planning work is in progress for the second expansion.