It is certainly true that, for outsiders, the enchanting Lower Franconia and its idyllic landscapes belie the true potential and dynamism of the
region’s companies. “Highly underestimated!” is our verdict. Regional President Dr. Paul Beinhofer explains why.
Wine – World Heritage – business: the stereotype associates Lower Franconia primarily with premium Franconian wines, such as those from Würzburg, Iphofen or Bürgstadt, as well as art and culture, and names such as Walter von der Vogelweide, Tilmann Riemenschneider and Balthasar Neumann. But Lower Franconia is much more, specifically a fortunate symbiosis of apparently contradicting values. On the one hand, tangible history, the home of cultural assets of international standing and lovely landscapes; and on the other, a dynamically growing high-tech region, which is among the leaders in Europe.
With nine districts and the cities of Aschaffenburg, Würzburg and Schweinfurt, Lower Franconia’s 8,531 square kilometres are home to about 1.3 million inhabitants. These three regional centres and 20 smaller towns provide the population and business in this originally rural region with a comprehensive, clearly structured and fully functional network of urban centres. The region’s landscape is characterised by three main features: arable land, the valleys cut by the Main river and its tributaries with their vineyard-dominated landscapes, and the wooded hills of the Spessart, Odenwald, Rhön, Steigerwald and Hassberge, which frame it all.
Convenient strategic location with an excellent transport infrastructure. Lower Franconia has a clear USP. Located in the heart of Germany while also part of the state of Bavaria, the region is Bavaria’s German geographical centre.
Put in economically exploitable terms, this means: a central location, politically stable, reliable conditions and the positive image that comes with belonging to Bavaria – a brand with positive associations around the world. However, it takes two more factors to turn the central location into a decisive location advantage for the local economy: the excellent quality of the transport infrastructure and the proximity to the neighbouring urban centres.
Lower Franconia is well integrated into the European long-distance road network through its federal motorways (A3, A7, A70, A71, A81, A45). Trains also provide excellent connections, primarily through the high- speed rail hub in Würzburg and the highspeed train stop in Aschaffenburg. The region’s location between the conurbations of Frankfurt-Rhine-Main to the west, Nuremberg-Fürth-Erlangen to the east and Stuttgart to the south allows fast and convenient access to all these airports. The regional airports in Giebelstadt and Haßfurt provide business travellers with additional options for private international trips. The traffic infrastructure is completed by the Main river federal waterway – historically the economic backbone of the region. The Main-Danube waterway today connects ports between the North Sea and the Black Sea, while also providing the basis for a booming tourism option: river cruises.
Research and science as the basis for innovations. The innovative capabilities of Lower Franconia’s people and companies play a crucial role in making the region so competitive. The University of Würzburg and the iniversities of applied sciences in Aschaffenburg and Würzburg-Schweinfurt taught approx. 37,000 students during the 2013/2014 winter semester. The Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg is both one of Germany’s oldest and one of its most modern universities. Various new, primarily technology-focussed degree programmes, such as Nanostructure Technology, Technology of Functional Materials, and Information Technology represent the key technologies of the future.
In addition, the region benefits from the competencies of renowned research institutes such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC), the German Plastics Center (SKZ), the Bavarian Center for Applied Energy Research (ZAE-Bayern), the MRB Research Center for Magnetic-Resonance-Bavaria and the ZfT Zentrum für Telematik. Established in 2011, the Frauenhofer project group Nano X-ray Systems for Material Characterization develops x-ray microscopy testing systems for non-destructive materials testing at the micro and nano scales – a challenge for many production companies.
The foundation of a Frauenhofer Translation Center for Medical Products and Cell-Based Regenerative Therapies is intended to help bring findings from materials research and regenerative medicine to people faster via clinical application. As a medical location, Würzburg is currently benefiting from the foundation of a Max-Planck Research Group for System Immunology at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg.
Further factors in the region’s competency in electromobility include the model city Bad Neustadt with its projects, the technology transfer centre for electromobility at Würzburg-Schweinfurt University of Applied Sciences in Bad Neustadt and the research activities of the Fraunhofer-Institute ISC in the field of applied electrochemistry. Since September 2011, the Aschaffenburg Center for Scientific Services (ZeWiS) in Obernburg has been supporting cooperation and exchange between Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences and companies from the Lower Main region of Bavaria. ZeWiS focuses on the important pioneering fields of materials research, information technology and information systems, intelligent systems and automation as well as issues involving energy efficiency. The establishment of the Fraunhofer Technology Transfer Centre at Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences will further strengthen Bavaria’s Lower Main region as a business location. The focus in Aschaffenburg will be on raw materials research. This ties in with the Project Group for Materials Recycling and Resource Strategies (IWKS) established in the region by the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft in 2011.
Lower Franconia thus offers excellent employment prospects. The unemployment rate is very low; generally even below the outstanding average for Bavaria as a whole.
Competency profile: automotive/mechanical engineering, health/biomedicine, new materials. A well-founded competency fieldanalysis has given Main-Franconia an objective basis for decision-making. According to the analysis, our region possesses outstanding competencies in the areas of automotive/mechanical engineering and health/biomedicine. Further-more, Lower Franconia stands out in the cross-sectional technology of new materials, in particular due to the research institutions based in the region, the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research, the German Plastics Center (SKZ) and the faculties of the University of Würzburg that cooperate with them. This competency field is now receiving long-term support in the form of the Technology of Functional Materials degree programme, which has been offered since the winter semester 2006/2007. Finally, significant growth has also been achieved by the logistics sector. The Lower Main region of Bavaria in particular has developed into an important logistics hub.
The core competence field of automotive/mechanical engineering is characterised by products in precision and roller bearing technology, braking and coupling systems, control and drive technology, vehicle safety (airbags), hydraulics, printing presses and electric motors and operating systems for motor vehicles. Innovative high-tech products from automotive supply companies and successful global players in mechanical engineering can look back at a long tradition in Lower Franconia. The region is home to renowned companies steeped in tradition, such as Bosch Rexroth, Schaeffler Technologies GmbH & Co. KG with its FAG brand, ZF Sachs, Linde Material Handling GmbH, TRW Automotive, Takata AG, Reis-Robotics and Koenig & Bauer.
The health competence field ranges from research-intense biotech and medical technology to hospitals and rehabilitation centres, all the way to the wellness sector. To support this, the University of Würzburg conducts research at 25 institutes and research centres as well as in eight Collaborative Research Centres related to medicine and human biology. The Rudolf Virchow Center for Experimental Biomedicine is one of three centres of excellence run by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and conducts top research into key proteins. The health resort and wellness sector is concentrated in the “Spa Region Bavarian Rhoen” which also includes Germany’s most famous spa town, Bad Kissingen. The town of Bad Neustadt is the home to one of Germany’s largest non-university cardiac centres with its cardiovascular clinic.
Numerous well-connected initiatives are dedicated to demographic change in Lower Franconia. Important players in this field include the two regional marketing initiatives Region Mainfranken GmbH and Initiative Bayerischer Untermain. They work across all institutions, for example to secure the supply of skilled professionals, thus strengthening the region in times of demographic change. Everyone benefits: companies, educational and research institutions, and even cities and communities as they become attractive places to live.
Lower Franconia has already faced up to the issue of energy with considerable dedication in the past. For example, the region plays a leading role in Bavaria when it comes to wind energy. As of June 2014, there were 163 wind power plants in Lower Franconia.
In short, Lower Franconia stands out as a strong business location with a particularly high quality of life. Its diverse research and development landscape combined with outstanding ties to industry, trades and services provides excellent spill-over advantages for companies and graduates and guarantees the best opportunities for the future in the region. Lower Franconia is a walking advertisement for Bavaria in the heart of Germany. It benefits from its proximity to neighbouring urban centres while also enjoying its own unique profile with an outstanding (transport) infrastructure.
As a result of its many high-tech companies, Lower Franconia has been named one of the ten strongest high-tech regions in Europe by the EU’s statistical agency, Eurostat.
The author was born in Munich in 1953. He studied law and gained his doctorate in 1981. From 1997, he was both deputy head of the government of the Upper Palatinate (in Northern Bavaria) and simultaneously lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Regensburg. Dr. Paul Beinhofer has been head of the government of the Lower Franconian regional authority since 2000.