Dr. Eric Schweitzer: Developing Berlin’s future with innovations

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.


DrThe 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.