By Rainer B. Langen

BioWorld International Correspondent

HANNOVER, Germany ¿ The majority of exhibitors at the Biotechnica 2001 trade fair here described the economic outlook as promising or very promising, said Sepp Heckmann, a board member of event organizer Deutsche Messe.

Equipment manufacturers reported an unabated stream of interest from biotechnology companies keen on investing in new technology, Heckmann said, adding that the trade fair had more biotech companies presenting marketable concepts and products than at the event two years ago.

As the event closed Thursday, organizers recorded 25 percent more visitors than attended Biotechnica 1999. The number of visitors totaled about 12,500, Heckmann said at the closing press conference.

¿Many exhibitors also used Biotechnica to forge strategic research alliances and seek joint venture partners to speed up the launch of new products onto the market,¿ Heckmann said.

Hannover Fairs USA Inc., of Princeton, N.J., organized a joint booth for U.S. companies.

¿They told us that they have done very, very well,¿ Hannover Fairs director Donna Peterson Hyland said. ¿Some far exceeded what they expected. Some would like to see more scientists come.¿

¿[Biotechnica] is the key meeting place [in Europe] for the biotech industry,¿ said Crispin Kirkman, CEO of the BioIndustry Association in London. BIA had organized a joint booth for 56 UK companies, whose expectations also were surpassed, he said.

Spain, which had a joint booth for several companies, will quadruple its exhibition area at the next Biotechnica, Heckmann said.

Heckmann said that despite the wishes of some, Biotechnica will continue running every two years instead of every year, at least in the near future. But Deutsche Messe AG is working on some event in the years between, he added.

Approximately 400 of the 1,069 exhibiting companies presented their platforms or products in joint booths, which for young companies and start-ups opened the opportunity to take part in the trade fair at relatively low costs.

¿Start-ups attending Biotechnica in the hopes of finding financial backers for their ideas now have a much more realistic attitude than they had two years ago, according to venture capital providers,¿ Heckmann said.

Trends and topics displayed at Biotechnica included biochips, tissue engineering, laboratory automation and bioprocess engineering.

The next Biotechnica is expected to be held Oct. 7-9, 2003.