Dr. Benno Kaufhold: Economic region of Erfurter Kreuz – Engine of the Thuringian economy

The economic region of Erfurter Kreuz offers the largest settlement spaces avail­­able in the Free State of Thuringia, and the new company settlements and expansions of recent years have allowed it to develop into a 200-hectare area. With an expansion potential of up to 400 hectares of business and industrial areas, the region is well posi­­tioned. The cities of Arnstadt and Ilmenau represent the two main and complementary centres of development in the region. In Ilmenau, the balanced mix of industries and the only technical university of the Free State of Thuringia generate synergy effects and constitute significant location advan­­tages. Tradi­­tional sectors such as mechanical engineering, the glass industry, measurement and electrical engi­­neering are complemented by companies focusing on new technological fields such as the motor vehicle component indus­­try, sensor technol­­­­­ogy and solar industry. To­­day, the tradi­­­tion-steeped “measurement tech­­no­­­­­logy from the Gera valley”, for ex­­ample, stands for in­­novations in the field of temperature meas­­urement and sensor tech­­­nology. In parti­c­­ular, the new settlement of several high-tech companies in the fields of en­­ergy technology and photo­­voltaics has gener­ated a lot of motion at Erfurter Kreuz in recent years. Reasons for the positive devel­­opment in­­­clude not least the central location and infra­structural advantages. The well devel­­­oped network of federal roads brings the A4, A9, A71 and A73 motorways within quick and easy reach. The nearby Erfurt-Weimar Airport provides optimal con­­­nec­­­tion possibilities to the airports of Berlin, Mu­nich and Frankfurt am Main, high­­­­light­­­­­­ing the central location within Europe. The railway connection to the freight traffic shrinks the distances to industrial centres such as Cologne, Stutt­­­gart, Munich, Ham­­­burg, Berlin, Leipzig and Dresden. Numer­­ous internationally active companies such as Daimler AG, N3 Overhaul Services GmbH, Bosch Solar Energy AG and BorgWarner Trans­mis­­sion Systems GmbH have recognised those advantages and invested in this location.


Even in the face of the future shortage of skilled labour, the supply of skilled new recruits in the Technology Region Ilmenau Arnstadt is secured thanks to the nearby Ilmenau University of Tech­­nology.
It trains specialists in technology, natural sciences, economics and the media and cooperates in numerous projects with com­­panies in the region.

TU Ilmenau is innovation centre and driving force for the region. The Ilmenau Uni­­versity of Technology can look back to 110 years of tradition in engineer train­­ing. With approximately 6,400 students and a staff of 1,300, the university is a manage­­­able teaching and research facility, where studies are rapid and research is varied and efficient. Studies in technology, nat­ural sciences, economics and the media are pillars at the University of Technology. The academic education and research are char­­acterised by inter­­disciplinarity, a close practical connection, and an early involvement of the students in current research projects. The close coop­­­eration with a variety of large and medium-sized companies in Germany and abroad as well as the large demand in the industry provide the grad­­­uates with outstanding opportuni­­ties on the labour market. In select fields of expertise as well as fundamental and applied research, the university ranks among the top on a national level and increasingly also on an international level. The interdisciplinary and cross-faculty co­­op­­­eration and ensuing bundling of com­­petencies towards com­­petitive research clusters in nano engin­eering, precision tech­­nology and precision measurement technology, technical and biomedical as­­sist­­ance systems, drive, energy and envi­­­ron­­­mental technologies, digital media tech­no­­logy, and mobile com­­mu­­­nications are particularly characteristic.


Graduates in technical studies enjoy fabulous employment opportunities.

The stated strategic objective of the coop­­er­­ation between university and commer­­cial enterprises is the quick transfer of the results from scientific research to­­­wards eco­­nomic application. Expressions of the partnerships with companies for a durable and sustainable expansion of the range of expertise as well as the con­­­tinuous reinforcement of the university’s scientific pro­­file include endowed profes­­sorships speci­­­­fi­­­cally geared to that purpose. Dedicated to the fields of synthetic material technology, precision measure­­ment technology, photovoltaics and indus­­trial electrical engi­­neering, they relate to economically rele­vant branches of technology. Spin-offs from research facilities are part of innovation and technology trans­­fers and a key means of turning scientific research results into added-value chains. In recent years, approx­­i­­mately 100 technology-oriented companies founded by graduates and staff members have settled around the Ilmenau University of Technology. This has generated several hundred jobs. Those create the potential for additional settlements in re­­search-intensive areas of technology.

Rich cultural and natural spaces. Where economic and scientific potentials de­­ve­­l­­op, there is also a need for excellent li­­ving conditions with a high recreational value. The various museums, churches and cas­­tles of the region offer plenty of opportuni­­ties for adventure and learning about historic personalities of the cultural his­­tory of Germany. They include the work places of the german writer Jo­­hann Wolf­gang von Goethe in Ilmenau and Stützer­bach as well as the composer Jo­­hann Se­­­­bastian Bach in Arn­­stadt and Dorn­­heim. “Mon Plaisir”, the Baroque city of dolls at the New Palace in the district capi­­tal Arn­­stadt is a treas­­ure of art history. Art enthu­­siasts can visit the house of the Thuringian painter Otto Knöpfer in Holz­­hau­sen or one of numerous exhibitions in the Arn­­­­­­stadt art gallery. The country­­side is charac­terised by an extra­­or­­di­nary variety of land­­scape elements, includ­­­ing geo­­lo­gi­­cal pecu­­liar­­ities, exten­­sive forests, rug­­ged and rol­­­­ling mountains, rivers and creeks, mea­­­­dows, fields, and woods, crea­­t­­­ing the con­­­­ditions for a location of particular quality.


LR_DrThe author was chief executive of the district of Ilmenau from 1990 to 1994, then CEO of the foundation for the promotion of Thuringian technology and innovation until 1996, and project manager for tech­­no­­­­­logical development in the Thuringian state development agency from 1996 to 2001. From 2001 to 2006, he led the faculty of studies at the Thuringian university of coop­­er­ative education. Since 2006, Dr. Kaufhold has been chief executive of the Ilm district.