Friederike C. Kühn & Björn Ipsen: Schleswig-Holstein as a business location

Schleswig-Holstein has a great future. This will require an inflow of the ­necessary skilled workers and consistent, continued developments in education, transport, communications, trade and services. Its three Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Flensburg, Kiel and Lübeck have accepted these challenges and are ready to make an active contribution to Schleswig-Holstein’s future. The best prerequisites for positive development already exist.

Schleswig-Holstein is characterised by its location between the North Sea and Baltic Sea and as the gateway of western Europe to and from the Baltic region. It also connects the Hamburg and Copenhagen metropolitan regions. It makes Europe and the world sit up and take notice with its visible commercial solutions for converting the wind into a usable energy surplus for the whole of Germany, with its broad range of products and services in the maritime industry and with tourist locations, which are among the most attractive in Germany. Its competence in science, know­ledge and technology transfer is based on a competent tertiary education scene, which is complemented with several Fraunhofer, Leibniz, Max Planck and Helmholtz research centres, a university clinic in two locations and over a dozen research and tertiary education locations. And the real North scores points with intact landscapes, attractive urban centres and all the space anyone could ever need to work, learn and live in (Figure 1, Location Map).

In its strategy paper “Schleswig-Holstein 2030”, the Schles­wig-Hol­s­­tein Chamber of Commerce and Industry got to grips with the issue of where the strengths and future prospects of this state between two oceans lie and how these could be reinforced and exploited. The answer was, Schles­wig­­-Holstein must become a state where people, education, industry and services etc. move to. It must become a state of an inflow of committed and motivated skilled employees who are looking for – and can find – an attractive and intact environment to live, learn and work in.

So how does all this look in a state in which, according to the “Deutsche Post Glücksatlas” (the German Post Office’s “Hap­­pi­­­ness Atlas”) the most satisfied of all people in Germany live?

Pretty favourable! Schleswig-Holstein offers a varied range of intact cultural landscapes, added to by the expanse of land be­­tween two oceans and by Germany’s only island in the open sea – Helgoland. This means peace, quiet and inspiration for the spirits and eyes of creative minds. And for people who need to really get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life for the sake of their creativity in the way they need air to breathe. Schleswig-Holstein also scores points with its geographical location, which makes it a hub between Germany’s major urban centres and the Baltic Sea region. Denmark and the Danish-Swedish Öresund region in particular are important partners in the north as Hamburg and its metropolitan region to the south. To exploit this position as a locational advantage, Schleswig-Holstein is working at top speed on a first-class infrastructure connection with all transport modes. This applies to the Kiel Canal as the world’s most important artificial water way, to Germany’s nationwide autobahns and the rail network in the north. When the work has been completed, these transport axes will become even more important development axes and will make it easier for companies to gain access to markets to and from all directions.

An economic and settlement-friendly infrastructure includes efficient data networks – in the urban centres and the regions. This is true today and, with the challenges of ever-­­accelerating digitalisation, is becoming an existential challenge for any business lo­cation which intends to play in the front row in the future. The buzz­word “Industrie 4.0” in this context is of major significance as industry is the main driver of added value and employment in any location, including because of the many dependent jobs in the services sector. Without a corresponding connection to the data networks, it will not be possible to feed decentralised work into excellent R&D or to let the advantages of efficiency-en­­hancing work processes in this context flow into commercial success. In Schles­­wig-Holstein, this has been going on successfully for some time.

netzanbindungsarten-von-offshore-windparksTop-level research and development can be found in companies in the medical engineering sector, the maritime industry and re­­new­­able energies. These companies are linked via a dense network with the state’s tertiary education institutions. Some examples: In the field of renewable energies, the West Coast Institute of Tech­nology, the Fraunhofer Society and Schleswig-Holstein Netz AG have initiated the “Pellworm Smart Region”. This is a kind of field test for a “smart grid”, or the intelligent networking of the generation, transport, storage and consumption of energy. The geo-­scientists at Kiel University are carrying out underground research on energy storage in the “Angus+” project. The Center for Sustainable Energy Sys­tems, funded by the two universities in Flensburg, with its “Furgy Clean Innovation” project, is focusing on various different areas including intelligent energy systems and in storage technology.


The maritime industry is using the reputation and competence of organisations such as the Institute of Coastal Research at the Helmholtz Centre in Geesthacht and the GEOMAR Helmholtz Cen­­tre for Ocean Research in Kiel. At GEOMAR, the “HISEM”, a new kind of under-water measuring system, was developed for use in measuring leaks in offshore oil and gas extraction and is already available on the market. In the field of biotechnology, the Coastal Research & Management organisation (CRM), supported by the GEOMAR-headed project “Interreg Baltic Blue Biotech­nology Alliance”, is working on a new product based on macro-algae extracts. The active ingredient is to be used in cosmetics to protect the skin from free radicals. The sector has a platform – the Maritimes Cluster Nord­deutschland (Northern German Maritime Cluster, or MCN) – which consolidates the maritime industry in five states – a practical approach which hardly exists anywhere else in Germany. Some 325 members and over 20 cooperative partners ensure that their interests are represented with other organisations, to ensure short decision-making processes and close cooperation with each other. The “Munitec” pro­ject for the efficient and hazard-free removal of unexploded ammunition in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea is one example that covers both aspects. This is added to by many – including bilateral – cooperative programmes between MCN members and cooperative partners, which lead to regionally based initiatives or actual business relationships.

Generally, all partners stand for the intensive transfer of knowledge and technology, which promotes innovation. Focal points of these activities, which are combined in Schleswig-Holstein at WTSH GmbH, are nanotechnology, the development of control software and industrial image-processing as further key technology, which are discussed again in the following paragraph. Then there is electro-mobility with its interfaces to energy production and storage.


02_35_zelleIntensive cooperative efforts are also characteristic of the healthcare sector, with two medical faculties and the Schles­­wig-Holstein University Clinic, which, together with the Research Centre Borstel – Leibniz Center for Medicine and Biosciences, support the inflammation medicine excellence cluster with numerous cooperative projects in the fields of tumour and cancer research.  All this scientific know-how is rounded off by the Fraunhofer Facility for Marine Bio­­technology (Fraunhofer EMB), which emphasises research into cell-based medical technology, and the MEVIS project group (also attached to the Fraunhofer Society), which is dedicated to medical image-processing. With Life Science Nord, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg also have an efficient cluster in the fields of biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical engineering, with over 500 companies in the region.

Besides these consistently technology-oriented sectors, tourism plays a significant role as a commercial factor in Schles­­wig-Holstein. In many areas, it significantly characterises economic life as well as the state’s image. This applies especially to the islands and holms (tidal off-shore islands) and the coastal tourist centres. Over 140,000 employees in over 16,500 tourist operations ensure that – according to the most recent figures – some six million guests enjoyed over 23.5 million overnight stays. For Schleswig-Holstein, tourism is important not only for its revenue but also because this revenue is distributed between numerous sectors and because tourism-related jobs are locally bound and hence pretty well un-transferable. In addition, tourist offers contribute to a positive image for Schleswig-Holstein – an asset which also has an effect on other economic sectors, location marketing and not least attracting skilled employees. And for the locals as well, they are a considerable and major part of the local quality of life. 

This perceived quality of life – which closes the circle to the basic principle of the strategy paper of the Schleswig-Holstein Chamber of Industry and Commerce – is becoming increasingly important for skilled employees and their families in choosing where to put down roots. And as these well-trained, committed and motivated skilled employees will be the crucial bottleneck factor for many companies, in future, they, too, will probably not only look at the hard location factors such as transport and data-related accessibility or the availability of areas to establish commercial sites. They will also make sure that a location can offer the staffing they need. And this will depend to a large extent on how attractive people perceive the environment that awaits them there. An attractive geographical location, intact and diverse natural surroundings and a wide range of sporting, cultural and leisure activities improve the basic situation considerably. The opportunity to choose between locations close to metropolitan centres, urban but nevertheless dynamic tertiary education locations, or a consciously quieter residential and/or working atmosphere, is an arguments with a positive effect for Schleswig-Holstein. From this perspective, there is no reason not to decide in favour of Schleswig-Holstein.

autorenbild-kuehn_copyrightFriederike C. Kühn
Friederike C. Kühn, born in 1962, completed studies as a communications expert at the Kommunikations Akademie Hamburg. In 2004, she was elected to the plenum of the Lübeck Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She has been president of the Lübeck Chamber of Commerce and Industry since 5 February 2013 and was appointed president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Schleswig-Holstein on 19 April 2013.

autorenbild-ipsenBjörn Ipsen
Björn Ipsen, born in 1969, studied law at the universities of Bochum, Kiel and Tours (France). He worked for the Kiel Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 2000 to 2016, most recently as manager of the business start-up and promotion department. Since June 2016, he has been general manager of the Flensburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry and of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Schleswig-Holstein.