Compared to other cities, Braunschweig stands out due to a particular quality: the city has a concentration of research institutions which is almost unique in Germany and, according to Deutsche Bank Research, is the heart of Europe’s most research-intensive region. Measured on economic performance, the region has the highest proportion of research and development spending. Well over 15,000 people are employed in the internationally renowned research institutions.
They carry out research in sectors including environmental technology, automobile and traffic engineering, telematics, aerospace, IT and nanotechnology, microsystem technology and new materials and sustainable raw materials. The breeding ground for potential growth sectors in the city and region is also here, forming the background against which Braunschweig was named City of Science in 2007 – a title which also acknowledged the close inter-connection between research and scientific institutions and business.
The focus is currently on the research airport in the north of Braunschweig, the largest in Germany and second largest in Europe, as a point of crystallisation for future technologies. Its expansion will further strengthen Braunschweig’s aerospace cluster and traffic engineering. With the Automotive Research Centre Niedersachsen and the Campus Research Airport, a platform for joint research between industry and science is coming into being. This is a scientific alliance of the aerospace engineering institutes at TU Braunschweig, the German Aerospace Centre and the Fraunhofer Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films. These changes will give Braunschweig, home to 14 large research institutions and international companies such as Volkswagen, Siemens and Intel, further renown as a city of science and research.
As well as the effective transfer of knowledge and technology and tailor-made areas for industry and commerce, the characteristics of a successful city increasingly include ‘soft’ factors such as the help a city offers in ensuring the compatibility of family and career. In Braunschweig, a family-friendly city is the top priority. This includes an offensive land use policy which benefits families, doubling spending on childcare within ten years, record spending on modernisation of schools and free kindergartens.
Another bonus: the full range of school types is available to the upcoming generation – including an international school. In addition, with its Technische Universität (university of technology), University of Art and the WelfenAcademie, tailored to the demands of business, Braunschweig is an important university city in the state of Niedersachsen.
Braunschweig’s strengths also include culture and quality of life. The city’s Staatstheater (state theatre), with four sections and a top class orchestra, enjoys just as prestigious a reputation as our museums – the Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, for example, has a collection of paintings of great European standing. In 2011, the Schlossmuseum also opened in the rebuilt Welfenresidenz, vividly presenting a part of Braunschweig’s history as a state capital.
With the palace and the redesigned city centre, Braunschweig has gained new quality and shines as a shopping city attracting large numbers from across the region. A centrality index of 161.8, which identifies the influx of purchasing power into the city, clearly shows how strong the magnetic effect is with which this city and its retailers attract people from beyond the city limits.
These are all indicators of a lively city which is well equipped for the future as a business location – a fact which is also perfectly demonstrated by the register of residents: Braunschweig has enjoyed consistent growth against the general demographic trend for the last eight years and, in 2011, reached a quarter of a million inhabitants for the first time since 1997. Gains from migration have been growing steadily in recent years. A key reason for this is the city’s offensive land use policy, which has brought attractive and affordable plots onto the market.
The city’s upwards trend is also reflected in the media, most recently in a city ranking published by Wirtschaftswoche magazine and the Initiative for a New Social Market Economy (INSM).
In the ranking, which used data from the past three years to describe the current situation, the city came 12th among the 50 largest cities in Germany. Hamburg was the only city in Northern Germany to achieve a higher ranking than Braunschweig, which was also number one in Niedersachsen. Braunschweig also performed strongly in dynamics, development over the last five years, taking number 14. If, as in previous years, both categories were combined and the points added together, Braunschweig would actually be the fifth best city in Germany in the overall view – a great leap forward from the city’s previous best effort, tenth place in 2008.
Braunschweig gained a lot of points from the survey of 80 companies. They gave full marks for cost consciousness and the modernity of the administration (both first place), in friendliness to business (second place), in location quality (sixth) and the cost of company relocation (third). As this city’s head of economic affairs, I am particularly pleased that almost 90 per cent of businesspeople would choose Braunschweig as a location again.
With a view to Europe, in 2005, the region around the cities of Hannover, Braunschweig, Göttingen and Wolfsburg came together to form a metropolitan region which is home to around four million people. It recently achieved great success, being named by the federal government one of four regions for a national “Display Window for Electromobility”. This has now opened up the opportunity to gain funding from the federal government’s pot of 180 million euros for its concept “Our horse power is going electric”, developed along with 200 partners and the state of Niedersachsen. This will allow the metropolitan region from now until 2015 to use forward-looking projects to show Europe and the world the outstanding competencies this region has to offer in the field of electromobility with innovative industry and high-calibre science.
In the competition between the regions, the context in which cities find themselves is increasingly decisive. South-East Niedersachsen, with the cities and rural districts of Braunschweig, Gifhorn, Goslar, Helmstedt, Peine, Salzgitter, Wolfenbüttel and Wolfsburg, is working together with the regional growth initiatives Wolfsburg AG and projekt Region Braunschweig GmbH in the “Allianz für die Region” (alliance for the region), in order to create jobs, secure existing employment in the long term and improve the quality of life in the region. Their areas of activity are education, energy, health, leisure, economic promotion and relocation and automobile business and research.
In the leisure field of activity, the “Gemeinsam gestalten. ErlebnisRegion 2020” development concept is planning to significantly increase the attractiveness of the Braunschweig region, with its one million inhabitants, in terms of quality of life and leisure value by 2020. This is creating the conditions for our region to be rediscovered, with all its wide range of leisure and educational activities and destinations for excursions. The concept is to network outstanding attractions such as the museum landscape or projects in electromobility, thus further defining the profile of our region. This applies to both existing tourist locations and new projects which are yet to be developed, creating a full package which will attract ever more attention from across Germany and decisively improve our reputation – both as a tourism and leisure destination and as an interesting place to live and work for specialist staff and their families.
This shows that Braunschweig, together with the region, has created extremely favourable conditions for the city to meet the challenges of the future. Moreover, image should not be underestimated as a factor. In the aforementioned study by the Initiative for a New Social Market Economy, Braunschweig achieved an outstanding eighth place among the 50 largest cities in this category. Anyone who had predicted that a decade ago, when Braunschweig was still treated as the “plain Jane” among German cities, would at best have been laughed at. This experience shows that more notice will have to be taken of Braunschweig in future.
The author was born in Helmstedt, Niedersachsen in 1952. He is married and has two children. As head of economic affairs for the city of Braunschweig, Joachim Roth is also executive board spokesman for Wirtschaftsförderungsgesellschaft Braunschweig Zukunft GmbH and chair of the supervisory board at various district companies.