Regional cooperation is considered an important location advantage by economic experts. When organizations “look beyond their own noses” and collaborate with other organizations or research institutions in the vicinity, they can, by way of cost reductions and specialization, achieve specific competitive advantages in the market.
For many organizations in Dresden this cooperation does not only stretch across its own city borders. In numerous supplier- and cooperation relations they profit from a regional involvement over the Saxony state borders and beyond, far away into Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The regional networking in Middle Germany not only contributes towards a stronger economic growth “on its own strength”, however also offers new investors an attractive environment and radiates accordingly. Hence, this process is actively promoted by politics with the “Initiative Mitteldeutschland” (Middle Germany Initiative) of the Prime Ministers, as also by the nationwide unique Industrial Initiative for Central Germany, which is supported by the organizations. For, this is the motto of the economic initiative: If the organizations are doing well, the region also does well and vice versa. The economy knows no state boundaries.
The perhaps most prominent examples of cross-national cooperation are the automotive and photovoltaic industry. In addition, there are also numerous networks in areas such as information technology or biotechnology, of the Dresden organizations and research institutions with partners, right up to the well-connected Middle German centres in Leipzig, Erfurt and Magdeburg.
The Dresden automotive location is generally known by Volkswagen’s glass manufacture. Besides several suppliers and automotive-related mechanical engineering companies, the Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) could additionally distinguish itself here, in particular with the institutions for automotive technology, for vehicle technology as well as for lightweight construction and plastics technology. Regional integration stretches across the Saxony Automotive Supplier Network (AMZ) into all parts of Eastern Germany. Upon the aspiration of organizations, the “Automotive Cluster Ostdeutschland” (ACOD), was accordingly founded.
This also connects the Dresden automotive location with the OEM works of Daimler in Ludwigsfelde or Opel in Eisenach. The range of activities encompasses joint research and development accomplishments, joint topic-centred workshops as well as varied marketing activities.
It is similar in the photovoltaic industry, which not only represents an important future technology for Dresden and its surroundings. Here, the entire Middle Germany has developed itself into one of the leading photovoltaic regions in the world. 90 per cent of solar cells produced in Germany come from here, which amounts to almost 20 per cent of the global market share. In several segments, the organizations in Middle Germany are counted amongst the market leaders. Like many locations in Middle Germany, the Dresden economic region has a very specific competitive edge here. Besides the excellent infrastructure and the great support measures, there are in particular many highly qualified employees available. The reason for this is the ever-increasing interlocking of the solar industry with the microelectronic industry, which was established decades ago. The “Solarvalley Mitteldeutschland” – initiated by 30 firms, ten research institutions and four universities from Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia – was distinguished by the Federal Research Ministry as the national “top cluster” and with numerous research funds is now until 2015 working on reducing the costs of producing solar energy down to the price of conventional energy sources.
The cross-national cluster building processes are being supported by the three state authorities of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia in an exemplary manner. The coordination from the promoters’ side even comprised the granting of funding for activities which extend beyond the respective own state – a remarkable rarity in German competitive federalism, which nevertheless clarifies the achieved regional cooperation status. “Strengthen growth industries” is accordingly one of the objectives of the political “Middle Germany Initiative”, which is also decisively pushed forward from Dresden. In addition to numerous cooperation projects on administrative level, the policies of the three states have given further ambitious objectives for collaboration: In this way, “optimal conditions for investments and entrepreneurial initiatives” should be created as well as the joint development and networking of research and innovation potential.
Numerous organizations of the three states also support cross-national “Middle German thinking” through the “Industrial Initiative for Central Germany” association, which in collaboration with cities and chambers, considers itself the “action platform for structure-determining organizations” for the “development and marketing of the long-established Middle German economic region”. The already more than 60 members of the initiative, which was founded in 2000, promote cross-national cluster and network building through internal financing and management capacities, they support promising innovation projects and contribute towards the security of regional qualified employee demand with the “Absolventenmesse Mitteldeutschland” (alumni trade show), designed as the leading trade show.
In addition to the already achieved economic integration in Middle Germany, a current Middle German collaboration is being channelled on a municipal level. The prospect of a future European Union (EU) funding policy aligned in so-called “metropolis regions” – modelled on the organizations and research institutions – also provide for close cooperation between the largest municipalities in Middle Germany. For many, this even represents one of the important decisions for the future of the economic region.
The author has been the managing director of the Industrial Initiative for Central Germany since 2005. He was born in Lower Saxony and studied political science in Paris and Leipzig. He worked as a scientific officer at various institutions as well as being a journalist. From 2003, he was a project manager for the cross-national cluster process at the former Regionenmarketing Mitteldeutschland.