Tag Archives: education tools

A Visit to Bayer

Stepping Inside the Life Science Company

While leaving Eindhoven after such a short visit was disappointing, the prospect of returning to Germany had all the students excited, myself included. We took a bus to Dusseldorf, a pit stop before traveling to the Ruhr Area, and stored our luggage in the train station. From there we took a train to Leverkusen to see the Bayer headquarters. Bayer, a major pharmaceutical company, did not originally seem like a visit to be included on a program surrounding smart cities and renewable energy. However, after a walk through the campus and tour of Baykomm, the communication center, there were many ideas to take away from the visit.

Entering Baykomm, the communications center for Bayer. Inside is where we met one of our guides for the day and had the opportunity to engage with some of their interactive learning tools.
Bayer’s campus is covered with walking paths and beautiful gardens. Walking through this campus makes it clear that the employees have access to plenty of green space and can stay active throughout the day.

First and foremost were the innovative education tools the Bayer communication center is using to promote lessons on the life sciences as well as the projects they are working on. Teachers in the area can bring their elementary school children into classrooms and laboratories here that contain equipment many schools cannot afford. Merle Jackel, our guide for the afternoon, showed us a lab specifically used to teach children about the importance of a healthy bee population. The decline of bee colonies in parts of the world is of major public concern; of the 100 crops providing 90% of the world’s food, 70 benefit from bee and other insect pollination. The lab not only shows young students how they themselves can help bees stay healthy, but introduces them to a world of research and science. Inspiring students at a young age to pursue an education in science is important for the future health of our world’s ecosystems.

Inside one of the labs that school teachers may bring their students to. This one specifically is devoted to learning about bee health, its importance, and how students can help improve it.
Inside the communications center, employees and visitors stay up to date with facts and figures about the health of the world. Pictured here is the square meters of arable land required to feed one person today (1,995.56) and people still affected by poor nutrition (738,309,030).

Bayer was founded in 1863 as a synthetic dye production company, but in the 1890s they developed their first synthetic insecticide. Dye production turned crop protection company, it is not surprising that bee health is not the only environmental-based project Bayer works on. While Bayer now concentrates in human and animal health, a major focus of theirs remains crop science and researching arable land and nutrition. With a predicted population of 10 billion people by 2050, providing enough healthy food is a goal for this life sciences company. Unfortunately, the presentation did not go into depth on the agricultural research and innovation Bayer is pushing forward. They also glossed over the deal with Monsanto, one of the biggest takeovers of its kind at a value of 60 billion euro, describing it simply as the key to having the “complete solution” to agricultural technology. With Monsanto’s representation for engineering food and pesticides, I am curious to see the affect this has on crop technology worldwide. Additionally, with Monsanto and Bayer owning 30% of the seed market combined, it will be interesting to see how seed prices for farmers are affected.

One of the program’s students participating in the interactive learning at the communications center Baykomm. Here he is putting on the “Senior Simulator” and tasked with opening up pill bottles. This allows Bayer to see what improvements can be made to make their senior consumers more at ease.

An intriguing part of the presentation was the stress they put on Bayer’s separation from their chemistry counterparts. Bayer is a purely life sciences company with a separate chemical industrial area is located next door – Chempark Leverkusen. Merle Jackel explained that the separation was necessary in order to stay competitive. Bayer did not have the budget to keep the chemical processes under its company, and the chemical group could be more competitive with other chemical based companies if it separated from Bayer. A tour through the Chempark revealed that the entire operation was still supported by coal, and not much innovation was occurring to make production more efficient and sustainable. The emphasis on cost-benefit production as opposed to innovation and sustainability seems like a theme that may stem from the classic shareholder model. Overall, many students left the visit wondering what role Bayer, Monsanto, and its chemistry counterparts would play in the future of smart and healthy cities.

The bus we boarded for an air conditioned tour of the chemistry park, which was nice after a long day of traveling.
During the bus tour, we were taken inside one of the buildings to see a model of the entire chemical park. This picture highlights the use of coal and continuation of a more traditional industrial campus.

-Sarah Wotus