Dr. Klaus Weichel: Think tank Kaiserslautern – Model of information technology in the future

Generating positive headlines the re­­gion of Kaiserslautern has attracted the attention of political and economic decision makers. Future technol­­ogies are found in close proximity here in laboratories and in application. Kaisers­lautern is both, the smallest metropolis in Ger­­many with slightly more than 100,000 residents and a Western Palat­­inate Cen­tre with a population of 500,000. People from 140 na­­tions work and live in the Kaiserslautern area, including many US citizens. The region hosts the largest American community outside the United States.

Kaiserslautern is a young, dynamic and cosmopolitan city: 19,000 students from 80 countries receive a top-class educa­­tion at the University of Kaiserslautern and at the University of Applied Sci­­ences. The University’s top position in research and teaching is constantly reemphasised again and again by excellent re­­sults in univer­­sity ranking lists. In the framework of support programmes fund­­­­ing means amounting to millions of euros are invested in projects continuously promoting quality improvement in teach­­ing strategies.

 


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The university is the key engine of devel­­opment in the region. Business start-ups and company set-ups, international conferences and the foundation of top level research institutes generate a wide range of synergy effects. Companies from various sectors are benefiting from the smooth and tailored transfer of knowl­­edge and technology.

Kaiserslautern is in the vanguard of soft­­ware development thanks to internation­­ally recognised re­­search institutes such as the German Research Center for Ar­­ti­­ficial ­­Intelligence (DFKI), the Fraun­­hofer Institute for Experi­­mental Soft­­ware Engi­­­­neering (IESE), the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathe­­matics (ITWM) and the Max Planck Insti­­tute for Software Systems (MPI-SWS). Kai­­serslautern al­­so excels in other ar­­eas of research. A number of research groups are at the front line for the foundation of research institutes. Many products and software applications that are used around the world are “made in Kaiserslautern”. There are laboratories where businesses can have individually tailored solutions de­­veloped while saving resources. Kai­­sers­­­lautern is participating in Europe’s most important software cluster “Soft­ware­inno­­vationen für das Digi­­tale Unter­­neh­­men” (software innovations for digital enterprise). The cluster is considered Europe’s silicon valley and spans the centres Darm­­stadt, Kaiserslautern, Karls­­ruhe, Saar­brücken and Walldorf. The Federal Ministry for Education and Re­­search is supporting the cluster partner’s projects with more than 80 million euros. We are doing our utmost to recruit the world’s best minds and make available a constantly rising number of highly attractive positions.

More than 180 companies with some 5,000 staff are represented in the high-tech sec­­tor. The logistics for the apparel of armed forces worldwide, the weighing system that accurately weighs the small­­est goods at top speed on the production line, the creation of websites for mobile devices for names such as eBay, BILD, Kicker, Die Welt and Der Spiegel – all of these tech­nol­­ogies were developed in Kaisers­­lau­­tern. Even the software that is used to archive millions of audio and visual docu­­ments at television and radio stations or for securities trading and man­­agement at banks around the world comes from Kaiserslautern. The leap from the think tank to implementation is increasingly creating jobs in the sector of production, for example in the plants of Celstran/Ticona and Circomp, where high-tech composite materials are produced for the automobile industry, or at Wipotec: the high-speed weighing systems are not only de­­vel­­­oped but also manufactured at the Kaiserslautern plant.


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Sectors that have high potential for ex­­pan­­­­­sion include those already represent­­ed by a large concentration of com­­panies maintaining active networks. Tra­­di­­tional industries which have evolved over time are being revitalised and ex­­isting potential is serving to establish strong, compet­­itive companies. In the field of commer­­cial vehicles, the power­­ful Commercial Vehicle Alliance has emerged from three initiatives. It brings together the stakeholders and goals of the Center for Com­­mercial Vehicle Tech­­nology of the Uni­­­ver­­­­­sity of Kaiserslautern (ZNT), the Fraun­­­hofer In­­no­­vation Cluster “Digital Engi­­neer­­­ing for Commercial Vehi­­cles“ (DNT) and the Com­­mercial Vehicle Cluster (CVC). The planned connection to the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region will also be a major step forward: it will intensify co­­operation in research and development with stakeholders from this region.

PRE-Park is responsible for a big push in this direction – PRE stands for Pfäl­­zische Regionalentwicklung (regional de­­vel­­op­­ment in Palatinate). The site of a former military garrison has been trans­­­formed into a technology and industrial park that combines research, work, living and leisure. The park has become one of the most successful conversion projects in Germany in the past nine years. Some 2,500 jobs have been created and over 200 million euros invested. Highlights of the leisure activities include a spectac­­ular water park, a multiplex cinema, an entertainment centre and fitness centre. The park has 70,000 square metres of office space and 160 residential units. The site is located directly at the Kai­­sers­­lautern East motorway junction. The ex­­pansion project Gewerbepark Euro­pa­­höhe is creating new space. The model for success served as the inspiration for the PRE Uni-Park, located in direct prox­­imity to the University. The industrial park, which fo­­cuses on science and re­­search with core competencies in IT and business mathematics, is the liaison be­­­­tween teach­­ing and research to comple­­ment appli­­cation-oriented IT companies.

It practically goes without saying: Kai­­sers­­lautern has been successful from the start of the “365 Landmarks in the Land of Ideas” ini­­tia­­tive, which is an overwhelm­­ing confirmation of the power of innova­­tion and combined competence in fu­­ture technologies.

Portrait_Weichel-KopieThe doctor of biology was the head of the de­­part­­ment of environment and for­­­­estry in Kai­­serslautern from 1990 to 1995. He was the head of the department of envi­­ron­­­ment, health, youth, so­­cial wel­­fare and sports from 1995 to 1999. From 2000 to 2007, he was the president of the Struktur- und Genehmi­gungs­direk­tion Süd in Neu­­stadt/Wein­­straße. He has been the Lord Mayor of Kai­­sers­­lautern since 2007.