Berkeley High School students enrolled in the Biotech Partners program work on loading prepared samples from various fish species to compare the proteins present. This PAGE (polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis) lab experiment illustrates fish evolution, and is part of the Biotech Partners curriculum, which encourages students to explore STEAM careers. Courtesy of Biotech Partners

As Berkeley’s largest private-sector employer, Bayer has long invested in the city, and with the company’s expansion, that investment is growing over the next three decades. 

In the first phase, over just the next three to five years, Bayer is spending more than $1.5 million and working with 13 nonprofit organizations. The goals are to advance science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education throughout the city, and to drive resiliency in the company’s West Berkeley neighborhood.

Bayer is sponsoring these programs as part of a development agreement with the City of Berkeley, which outlines more than $33 million in community investments through 2052, as the company increases its biotech operations in West Berkeley.

“We have a long history of active support of our community — both financially and through volunteerism,” said Jens Vogel, senior vice president and global head of biotech for Bayer Pharmaceuticals.  “These 13 groups have very exciting programs underway. Some of the groups we have supported before, like Biotech Partners and Community Resources for Science.

“Others, like the Multicultural Institute and Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center, are new to working with Bayer. Our goal is that, as we grow and transform our operations to bring new medicines to patients, we are also helping our surrounding community to thrive.” 

Investments in West Berkeley’s resiliency

Support for the West Berkeley neighborhood, where Bayer’s biotech operations are located, represents 20% of Bayer’s annual community investments. 

Sixteen Berkeley students received their GED diploma after completing an intensive, seven-week program in Spanish through the Multicultural Institute. A graduation celebration was hosted at the Black Pine Circle Upper School.  Courtesy: The Multicultural Institute

One of these groups, The Multicultural Institute, has been Bayer’s neighbor since both organizations began operations in West Berkeley in the early 1990s. It provides a wide range of services to uplift day laborers and domestic workers as well as immigrant communities throughout Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties, according to Executive Director Mirna Cervantes.

“Through Bayer’s three-year investment, we are really excited to be able to continue to enhance our economic development work,” Cervantes said. “They will be helping us with our fair wage initiatives, making sure that individuals are connected to fair-wage jobs and permanent positions and then also providing direct and indirect pathways to better-quality jobs through GEDs and business entrepreneurship courses.”

Other West Berkeley recipients include Bike East Bay, which promotes bicycle use, and Waterside Workshops, which will provide 28 paid internships in bicycle mechanics and customer service for at-risk youth and will donate 80 refurbished bikes to low-income families. This falls in the climate action category of funding.

In the health equity category, Bayer is investing in the Women’s Daytime Drop-in Center to support 30 unhoused families, as well as in Healthy Black Families to reduce health disparities by working with at-risk youth and House of Loving Hands to reduce food insecurity. 

In addition to the Multicultural Institute, Bayer’s economic resilience investments include funding for the Dorothy Day House, which will collaborate with Rebuilding Together East Bay North to provide job training, free home repairs for low-income seniors and referrals for health care and social services. 

Bayer is providing more than $400,000 collectively for these groups over the next three years. 

Investments in STEAM Education

Support for advancing STEAM education represents about 50% of Bayer’s community investments. In this first round of funding, $1.2 million will be divided among six organizations over the next five years. 

For young students, this funding supports Community Resources for Science, which provides all Berkeley Unified seventh graders with materials and equipment to work with UC Berkeley graduate students on individual science projects. It also allows 50 underserved students to receive mentorship and tutoring through the nonprofit agency Stiles Hall

For high school students, the funding includes continued support for Biotech Partners, which encourages students to explore careers in biotechnology, robotics and engineering. Bayer is also aiding the Arts and Humanities Academy at Berkeley High School, which will provide 180 students each year with a student-led science curriculum and interdisciplinary projects such as the chemistry of paint.

For post-secondary students, Bayer’s funding is assisting Berkeley City College in its work to provide wraparound services that help students complete associate degrees in biotechnology. Funding is also going to the UC Theatre on University Avenue, to help seven Berkeley high school graduates enter a technical music industry training program each year.

Over and above these investments, Bayer’s STEAM commitment during this period also includes more than $1 million for paid internships at Bayer’s Berkeley campus for up to 15 high school students and eight community college students who come from underserved populations. 

Other support for city programs

Bayer’s community investments over the next 29 years also address areas where the city has other critical needs. Funds for affordable housing, childcare and the arts represent about 30% of the community investments Bayer will make and are provided directly to the City of Berkeley to distribute through its standard channels.

“This year, Bayer made its first contributions to the City of Berkeley’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, Affordable Childcare fund, and the Civic Arts fund. Together these investments totaled more than $250,000,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin. 

“For STEAM education and West Berkeley resilience, we structured the (development agreement) to include investment committees, which would bring together Bayer and community leaders to make funding decisions. I want to thank these community volunteers for their engagement in this process. And we thank Bayer for being a great community partner.”