When the French microfluidics company Fluigent decided to expand into Germany in 2014, Simon Renard was the natural choice to head up the subsidiary. The French physicist not only had the requisite experience in basic and applied research, he also knew the market well, having lived in Germany for 15 years, two of them working for Fluigent.
He chose to locate in Jena, a small city in the eastern state of Thuringia, on account of its tradition of scientific innovation but also, he says, because “it’s a really nice place to live.” Since its founding, Fluigent Germany has grown by around 20 percent annually and now operates in more than a dozen countries supplying research institutions, biotech and pharmaceutical firms with laboratory solutions. Fluigent makes air pressure pumps capable of producing drops of liquid smaller than the width of a human hair, but unlike conventional syringe pumps they have very few moving parts. “That means you can have very precise flows and create droplets all of the same size,” he explains. “Physics, chemistry and cell biology – they all intersect here.”
The six-person Jena office focuses on sales and service, while manufacturing is done by the parent company in France. Renard has found the perfect conditions in Thuringia for combining science and business. “In France, it’s far more difficult to move innovations from the research arena to applied fields. In Germany, the two are much closer together,” he says.