Portrait: B. Braun: "Sharing Expertise" to guarantee success

The healthcare market requires constant development and the digital transformation offers a wide range of new opportunities for technological innovations. B. Braun, a company with production sites in Berlin, is therefore intensifying its partnerships with start-ups by providing them product development support as part of its new accelerator program launched in November. B. Braun is thus remaining true to its "Sharing Expertise" motto.

B. Braun is headquartered in Melsungen in the German state of Hesse and supplies the global healthcare market with products used in anesthesiology, intensive care, cardiology, extracorporeal blood treatment, and surgery as well as services for hospitals, doctor's practices, and home healthcare providers. The international company has two production sites and a training center in Berlin, which is also where it launched its new accelerator program. About one hundred interested start-up entrepreneurs, investors, and representatives of other companies were present for the launch. Start-ups selected for the program can tap into B. Braun's expertise in product development, market access, and financing.

Bringing innovations to the market faster

"The idea behind the accelerator is to connect people, share knowledge and lessons learned, and translate innovative ideas into sustainable solutions faster," said Alexander Katzung, Vice President of Acceleration & Innovation at B. Braun. Thilo Brinkmann, Head of Outpatient & Nephrology Products at B. Braun, sees clear advantages from working more closely with start-ups: "We are looking for innovative business models and products based on digital solutions that will bring us closer to patients." The aim is to turn ideas into successful business models quickly and put them into practice. 

The projects selected for the program starting in early 2018 will receive six months' support tailored to their needs, such as access to various resources, in-depth knowledge from internal and external experts and mentors, or even workspace. 

Digitalization is playing an increasingly important role at B. Braun, according to Marc Riemenschneider, head of the pharmaceuticals production site in Berlin. The demands for efficient production and documentation are high. "This would not be possible without modern production processes with a high degree of automation and digitalization."

About 1,000 employees in Berlin

Among the most well-known innovations brought to the market by B. Braun is the Braunüle, the first one-piece peripheral venous catheter for extended infusions to come on the market (1962). The company has been active in Berlin since the 1970s. It currently has about 1,000 employees in the German capital. The pharmaceuticals production plant on Mistelweg has about 760 employees and produces sterile injection solutions in glass and plastic ampules. The factory has been expanded several times since it opened. The most recent structure on site was built using sustainable construction methods and earned LEED Gold certification.

The company also moved its heart catheter production facility from Melsungen to Sieversufer in Berlin in 1992, investing several million euros into the renovation and modernization of the new facility. The 275 employees there produce about 250,000 catheters per year in a process that requires a lot of manual craftsmanship. 

Riemenschneider sees the company's commitment to Berlin as offering many advantages. The city supports industrial companies in meeting any challenges and offers attractive conditions to support their growth. "Being in the healthcare industry, geographical proximity to leading hospitals like the Charité and the medical professional societies gives us many opportunities for scientific exchange," he says. In general, the potential offered by the young and fresh ideas generated in Berlin is enormous.   

Wide range of training offerings

B. Braun also benefits from the vocational training center for the chemical industry, especially for its pharmaceuticals plant. It now has all of its pharmacists trained in Berlin, even those who will eventually work at its other German locations. Its plants in the capital are also of interest to those looking to train in other professions: chemical laboratory technicians, machine and plant operators, machine engineers, and industrial clerks, to name but a few. 

B. Braun takes training and education seriously, both the training of new skilled workers and continuing education and training. This is why it set up another key site in Berlin in 2005: the Aesculap Academy at Langenbeck-Virchow-Haus in Mitte district. Its offerings are intended as continuing education not only for medical professionals, but also specialists in nursing and hospital management. For B. Braun, investing in education has a long tradition: As early as 1966, the company founded the B. Braun Foundation to promote the education and training of doctors and nursing staff.

From pharmacy to global player

The company's constant readiness to continue evolving and not only to adapt to the market, but also shape it has been a key factor to the company's success over its almost 180-year history. What started with the acquisition of the Rosen-Apotheke in Melsungen by company founder Julius Wilhelm Braun on June 23, 1839 has become a global company with 60,000 employees. In 1908, it made its first sterile, resorbable suture material from mutton intestines and, in 1925, it opened its first production facility outside Germany in Milan. In 1967, it purchased Laboratório Americano S.A. and entered the Brazilian market. The company went public in 1971 and continued to expand. In 1972, it started its Asian business and B. Braun of America was founded in the USA in 1979. 

Acquisitions of other companies have continued to grow the company. The company has also continued to make investments at its historic home in Melsungen and its other locations in Germany. Throughout this time, B. Braun has made a name for itself time and again by introducing new products that have changed their markets. After the introduction of the new accelerator program, it will be interesting to see what future innovations will result from the cooperation between start-ups and the global player. "Sharing Expertise" is obviously a promising approach.