Joachim Roth: Braunschweig – A strong city in a strong region


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.

Application-orientated research is a big priority in Braunschweig:  DLR wind tunnel and JKI Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants.

Application-orientated research is a big priority in Braunschweig: DLR wind tunnel and JKI Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants.

JKI-Bundesforschungsinstitut für Kulturpflanzen.

As the national metrology institute, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt takes measurements  with the greatest precision.

As the national metrology institute, the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt takes measurements with the greatest precision.

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.

Braunschweig offers quality  of life and a family-friendly  environment.

Braunschweig offers quality of life and a family-friendly environment.

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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.

2012_-Joachim-Roth-I-Portrait-KopieThe 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.