Innovations determine our lives – be it washing machines, pacemakers, or Web 2.0 portals. Without them there would be no new products, no new business models and no progress – in short, no growth and no jobs. In the global knowledge society, the importance of innovation and creativity is increasing, especially for Germany, whose economic competitiveness is based on the development of high-quality products, new technologies and services requiring profound knowledge. Berlin’s future, too, depends on this trinity. Already today the city meets the most important requirements.
Berlin is ranked at least in the upper third of countless studies examining the sustainability and innovativeness of various regions. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, for example, the expenses for research and development in the public and private sectors amount to almost 3.4 per cent of the gross national product (GNP) of Berlin. In a comparison of all German states, this places Berlin on the second position only behind Baden-Württemberg. It also means that Berlin is one of only two German states that already now live up to the targets of the Lisbon Strategy, which aims at dedicating three per cent of the GNP to research and development.
Traditionally science and innovation are concentrated in Berlin. To this day the city is associated with names like Humboldt, Virchow, Planck, Einstein and Zuse. In addition to successful scientists, a great number of innovative industrial enterprises add to today’s innovative potential of Berlin.
Berlin excels with a number of research facilities that is unique in Germany. Four universities, more than 20 public and private universities of applied sciences as well as 70 non-university research institutes are based here. Other regions can only dream of having as many Fraunhofer and Max Planck institutes. Berlin’s enormous scientific potential thus is an very excellent basis for innovation and economic development.
At the same time, these institutes train a great deal of Berlin’s human capital. The job market of Berlin is very attractive, thanks to 135,000 students and a great number of highly qualified employees.As partners in the knowledge transfer, they contribute significantly to research activities and innovative developments of companies from Berlin. This way the scientific institutes not only increase the innovative power of local companies, they also attract other companies.
Not least, the universities and research facilities are incubators for highly innovative start-ups. However, for proving the innovative power of science and economy, the high numbers are less important than the real successes. Ambitious technology centres like those in Berlin-Adlershof or Buch attract attention with successful spin-offs. They have long since become visible crystallization points for the network between economy and science. Here it was possible to accumulate a critical mass of money and mind. This way these networks were able to gain a clear lead in the site competition for new set-ups and research funds. New growth industries like the solar industry have found a home there and show that it pays to raise the treasure trove “science” for the economy in Berlin.
The excellent science scene is reflected in an innovative economy in Berlin. A study conducted by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Berlin and the “Bundesverband Deutscher Unternehmensberater” (Federal Association of German Management Consultants) found that almost 40 per cent of the enterprises in Berlin can be considered innovative.
Following a severe structural change, the industry of Berlin, most of all, has developed into a modern, flexible and competitive sector. Traditional industries of Berlin – like the electrical industry, chemical-pharmaceutical industry, mechanical engineering, automotive and control engineering – which boomed in the early 20th century have long since given up their standard production. They rely on custom-made products in modern corporate units and refine their products with high-quality services. Due to this, big concerns like Siemens, BMW, Daimler, Bayer Schering Pharma and Berlin-Chemie, in addition to numerous SMEs, run innovative plants as well as research and development departments in Berlin.
They are complemented by a great number of highly innovative technological enterprises that have successfully held their ground in market niches. Many of them work in the competence fields of biotechnology, medical technology, information and communication technologies, optical technologies, transport systems and energy technologies. Berlin has special strengths and innovative skills in these areas.
In addition, knowledge-intensive services not only characterize Berlin’s economic performance, they also secure the location’s innovativeness and sustainability.
The corporate service providers alone stand for 35 per cent of the gross value added. They complement regional value chains, refine products, stand for creativity and innovative offers. This way they increase the appeal of Berlin as a location. Within the health and creative industries Berlin has made an innovative name for itself especially in the market segments research services, health insurance, software development, media, games, marketing and design.
An enormous number of research facilities, modern industry, innovative technologies, creative services – against the background of the increased intensification of knowledge in economy, Berlin is well set up for the future. Being the voice of Berlin’s economy, the Chamber of Industry and Commerce is a creative power using this potential of Berlin. We help the enterprises to rise to challenges like the current economic tension, but also to recognize and grasp existing opportunities. In fulfilling our mission we are guided by our members and benefit from the practical experiences of entrepreneurs who work as volunteers in the Chamber of Commerce.
The Chamber of Industry and Commerce Berlin is the biggest network of enterprises in the capital – with about 230,000 member companies employing more than one million people. As an entrepreneurial organization, we replace governmental administration with managing things ourselves, we defend our members’ interests towards politics and support them with our services. We contribute to making the companies of Berlin fit for the future and to developing the location into a competitive and innovative economic region.
The author was born in Ipoh, Malaysia, in 1965. He studied business administration at the Freie Universität Berlin. After obtaining his doctorate in 1990, he worked in the field of waste management in the USA. Eric Schweitzer has been the CEO of ALBA AG since 1990 and chairman of the board of Interseroh S.E. since 2008. He has been the president of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Berlin since 2004.