Diplom-Volkswirt Lotar Schmidt: A business location with ideas – The Thuringian technology triangle opts for quality

Jena, Erfurt, Weimar, Ilmenau – each of these cities stands for a particular suc­cess story in the areas of technology, culture or education – together they add up to a region that not only has considerable potential as a business lo­­cation, but much rather one packed with ideas, innovations and success stories.
The full power of this region that could always live from its technological know­l­edge and know-how, shows quantitative but especially qualitative growth that radiates into the entire state. Only the founding of the Ilmenau Tech­nical University in 1894 – previously known as the “Thüringisches Techni­kum” – is mentioned as an example that as a private initiative had an eye on technological development. And this even though Ilmenau was no stronghold of mechanical and electrical engineering in the 19th century – it was much more a city that lived on the production of glass and porcelain. They already then invested in the future!
Nothing has changed since – also today the development of the entire region is directed at modern industries.


The educational landscape in this technological triangle has the best pre-condition for a technology location per excellence.
And the organizations profit from it. Already today the organizational density in Thuringia is greater than that in most of the other federal states. The average size of the organization is, with 80 employees, still very insignificant (in comparison to the German average of 127 employees per enterprise), but their steady growth stands on firm ground.
The medium-sized enterprises that in Thu­ringia, more than in hardly any other federal state, determine the economic profile, are future-oriented and an innovative motor.
The medium-sized enterprises employ 90 per cent of all employees, over 75 per cent of all patent applications come from them and they are the forerunners in the area of education.
Particularly in the high-technology area the real success stories with the old Thuringian virtues and specialties are written by these organizations, through small series tailor-made for the re­­spective demands and individual so­­lutions cleverly devised for every problem.
The large producers with their enormous series are only found sporadically here, but instead highly productive medium-sized enterprises that cause quite a stir with their original and innovative problem-solving.


The term ‘Thuringian heartland’ for the largest part of the region that is de­­scribed as the technology triangle, is not just geographically correct.
Also figuratively speaking, the heartland is the fitting term for that piece of Thuringia that has for times immemorial determined the direction of development, and will also in future determine it.
High investments and efforts towards capturing the market have already how­ever pointed out a problem: more em­­ployees are needed. Through internal training, organizations obtain, above all, employees for production and administration.
Engineering-technology personnel in contrast are far more difficult to find and more than ever for the small enterprise that can neither attract with its brand name nor its high salaries.
But here also more than just a high salary is asked.

Early counseling of students about per­formance-related scholarships, the ma­­k­­ing available of high quality internship placements, the presentation of real prospects in an organization and the coaching of degree themes – those are all being done and have already brought results.


Added to that is the high value of being family-friendly in many organizations to above-all afford young educated wo­­men the opportunity of premium jobs without having to forego having children.
The Educational Institute of Industry and Commerce in Thuringia (Bildungs­werk der Thüringer Wirtschaft) provides valuable assistance for organizations on these topics (www.bwtw.de).
Participation at organizations through specific performance-related supplementary grants, flexible working time models, money to welcome new-born children or the absorption of child day-care costs through the organization – there are as many individually structured mo­­­dels that are perfectly aligned to the needs of the employee as there are or­­ganizations.
Here, just as with their products, small organizations show their great strength, their flexibility and their resourcefulness.
The early study courses starting in au­­tumn are also promising.
As yet it is a unique concept, which is one of its kind in Germany, that will be implemented as a collective pilot pro­­ject by the language school “Sprachen­gymnasium Salzmannschule Schnep­fenthal”, the Ilmenau Technical Uni­ver­sity and the IWT Institut der Wirt­schaft Thüringens GmbH (institute for industry and trade in Thuringia) in Er­­furt.


Thereby gifted and willing scholars would be offered a structured early study course between the tenth and twelfth grades of grammar school whereby the subject matter of the first two semesters for the Bachelor Degree courses of the Ilmenau Technical University are communicated. The completed university subjects would be assessed in the form of performance points and taken over by the uni­versity on admission to the study cour­se. The scholars therewith have the possibility of shortening their subsequent degree course by up to two se­­mesters.
As the allocation of performance points complies with the ECTS (European Credit Transfer System) a subsequent de­­­gree course need not be registered only at the Ilmenau Technical University but also in principle at any other Eu­­ropean university. Even when registering for a degree course other than in economic sciences, the knowledge and skills gained will be valuable for the subsequent professional career.
An important attraction of the early study courses now being prepared lies in the combination of language skills of the scholars at the “Salzmannschule” in Schnepfenthal (besides the “classical” foreign languages English, French or Spanish also languages important for the future like Chinese, Japanese or Ara­­bic) and economic science subjects.

This is a unique opportunity for the e­­conomy of Thuringia to more intensely serve the global export market by way of the proficiency in the language of the contract partners.
Organizational project sponsorships, where all interested scholars indepen­dent of their social status can advice on to the support society of the IWT (www.iwt-foerderverein.de) with the possibility of participation in the early course study, simultaneously promote an early bond between the scholar and the organization.
A number of sponsorships have already been declared and the success here also lies in the flexibility of the organization, their imagination and the total commitment.
After the successful start of this pilot project further early study courses should follow in mathematics and natural sciences study courses.

And in addition the early study project proves: Thuringia’s “economic heartland” stands for a concept of modernity and tradition, of flexibility and continuity and it stands for solid success.
A greater compliment cannot be given to this region.

Numerical data
IWT-Institut der Wirt­schaft Thüringens GmbH (www.iw-thueringen.de)


SchmidtBuntDer 1945 geborene Autor hat in Mar­burg Volkswirt­schaft studiert. Seinen beruflichen Werdegang begann er in Kas­sel beim Arbeit­geber­verband Metall. Nach verschiedenen Tätigkeiten bei Ar­­­­beit­ge­­­berverbänden ist er seit 1996 Haupt­­ge­schäftsführer des Verbandes Metall- und Elektro-Industrie in Thüringen, des Allgemeinen Arbeitgeberverbandes Thü­­rin­gen und Hauptgeschäftsführer des Verbandes der Wirtschaft Thüringens.