In the modern knowledge-based society, transfer is essential. Still, even in this digital era, the exchange of know-how arising from human collaboration works best in spatial proximity. In this respect, the science structures of a region also have an impact on the local innovation activities. Working clusters represent the most important factor in international location marketing in this context.
The research infrastructure in the Frankfurt RhineMain region offers the best conditions for developing clusters. Currently, 30 universities at 37 locations, six Max Planck Institutes, three Fraunhofer Institutes and one Helmholtz Centre are active in the region. Moreover, there are about 80 research facilities not linked to any universities, some of which operate on a global scale. Lastly, there are four interdisciplinary research centres: the House of Finance, the House of IT, the House of Logistics and Mobility and the House of Clean Energy.
On the other hand, the knowledge region is characterised by approximately 200,000 students as well as almost 3,000 high-tech companies with a large number of employees working in research and development. Furthermore, 25 technology and entrepreneurship centres as well as 13 technology parks were established during the course of recent years.
Traditionally, the industrial strengths of the region are in the areas of chemistry, pharmaceuticals and life science. Nonetheless, considerable growth rates have also been observed in the automotive, avionics and electrical engineering fields in the past few years. A total of nearly 450,000 people work in the industrial sector and for industry-oriented service providers, generating almost a quarter of the regional value creation.
It is this variety that really predestines the Frankfurt RhineMain knowledge region to facilitate an intensive exchange between science and economy. It therefore does not come as a surprise that quite a number of site networks – also referred to as clusters – exist in the region today alongside value chains. Synergy effects are created there which enable companies to establish strong ties to the region. However, the level of organisation of these clusters varies greatly. For example, only some of them are formally organised. This applies in particular to the publicly subsidised cluster or network activities. In many cases, there are only rudimentary or no organisational structures at all. The most successful informal clusters in Frankfurt RhineMain certainly include the industrial parks, led by the Frankfurt-Höchst industrial park. Here, 90 companies with 22,000 employees are concentrated within only a few square kilometres; most of them are chemical or pharmaceutical companies as well as large research facilities and the private Provadis University.
An aerospace cluster has also formed around the airport. In the industrial sector, the cluster offers more than 4,000 industrial jobs. At Rolls-Royce in Oberursel alone, more than 1,000 employees develop and build state-of-the-art jet engines. Rolls-Royce cooperates closely with the scientific environment. As part of this cooperation, the company, together with the Darmstadt University of Technology, has founded the University Technology Centre (UTC) called Combustor and Turbine Aerothermal Interaction. A focal point of the research is the increase of the environmental compatibility of jet engines by reducing their emissions while improving their efficiency.
The banker, born in 1959, studied law in Frankfurt. In 1996, he became general manager of Frankfurt-based Assekuranz-Kontor GmbH before taking over the management of the executive board secretariat at mg technologies ag in 1997. He was appointed the company’s chief representative in 2000. He has been general manager of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce in Frankfurt since April 2005.
Besides these informal structures, there are also numerous clusters in Frankfurt RhineMain which are organised in associations or limited liability companies. In these cases, the supporting organisation takes care of organising the information exchange, creating networks and establishing contacts. Apart from the economic promotion institutions, this task is often taken on by the chambers of commerce. An example of this is the Frankfurt Biotech Alliance e. V. (FBA). This network has existed as an association for several years and views itself as a pacemaker for the biotechnology region. Consequently, the Frankfurt Biotech Alliance participated in the application process for the Cluster for Integrated Bioindustry (CIB), specialising in industrial biotechnology, as part of the BioIndustry 2021 competition organised by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Thanks to its success, the CIB was able to support pre-competition network research projects of the fine chemistry and specialty chemicals with five million euros from 2008 to 2012.
Among the members of the Frankfurt Biotech Alliance are not only large and medium-sized enterprises but also a great number of start-ups. Furthermore, law firms, patent attorneys, venture capital and consulting businesses are also members. The same is true for mst-Netzwerk Rhein-Main. Its goal is to support the micro-system technology sectors in a comprehensive way and develop market potentials. The network is organised as a non-profit association and is supported by the Hessian Ministry of Economy, Transport, Urban and Regional Development.
Overall, the research infrastructure in the region represents an important cornerstone for the future viability of the Frankfurt RheinMain business location. Nevertheless, the increasing competition between the metropolitan regions also forces the Frankfurt RhineMain region to increase its marketing efforts even further in the future. So far, Frankfurt RhineMain has been selling itself under value here and has not managed to sufficiently highlight the numerous advantages the region has to offer in the global competition of locations. Not only does the enormous knowledge and research potential of the region have to be presented in a clear way and made accessible to the general public; rather, in addition, the identity and image of the Frankfurt RhineMain knowledge region has to be strengthened further. The main challenge is, however, to link the research capacities of the universities and research facilities even more closely to the development, production and marketing capacities of the industrial companies. A variety of points of contact exist to this end in the publicly financed clusters as well as in the regional networks.