Heinz Fenrich: A climate for growth – the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion

The Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion (TRK) lies at the intersection of two of the most important European transport corridors, the Paris – Budapest/Bratislava axis and the Rotterdam – Genoa axis. Techno­log­i­­­­cal­­ly, economically and culturally it be­­longs to the European top class. In the midst of the superb natural landscape be­­tween the Black Forest, the Rhine and Alsace in France, Germany’s sunniest region offers an ideal working and residential environ­­ment with ideal trans­­port connections, a well-developed in­­fra­­structure, attractive cultural pursuits and great shopping. Many international­ly well-known compa­nies have their head offices here and ben­­efit from the internationally important edu­­cational and research scene. The Karlsruhe Techno­logy­Region occupies one of the leading po­­si­­tions in the competition with the most important business centres in Germany, the rest of Europe and the USA.


Networking and cooperation as guarantees of success. The TRK Action Group comprises ten towns, four administrative districts and one re­­gional association. Its task is to optimize cooperation between business, science, culture and the authorities and promote regional political interests. Back in 1987, the TRK was formed by the main urban centres and both administrative districts in Baden in order to face the challenges of the future to­­gether. This suc­­cessful mod­­el was joined by more members in the years that followed and the TRK’s last ex­­pan­­sion was onto the western bank of the Rhine to the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate. Today the TRK has a total of over 1.2 million inhabitants on a surface area of 3,240 square kilometres. Its econom­­ic per­for­­mance has been over the average for Germany for years. Of every 1,000 economically active people, 172 work in technology-intensive sectors – a level scarcely found in any other region in Europe. Investors have access to 350 hectares of industrial and commercial land that can be built on immediately. Our cities and towns offer well-developed com­­mer­­cial locations. The offer ranges from land-conversion areas such as the Cité in Baden-Baden or the Baden-Airpark in Rhein­­münster through distinct in­­dus­­trial areas such as Wörth am Rhein to the Technology Park Karlsruhe or the Tech­­nologie- und Ökologiedorf Bruchsal (Tech­­nology and Ecol­­ogy Village in Bruchsal).
Central tri-national
integration. Due to its central lo­­cation in the South­­ern Rhine region, the TRK functions as a hinge between Germany, France and Switzerland and between two linguistic regions, opening up major potential for development in a Europe that is growing together.

The tri-national Southern Rhine region is well on the way to becoming the Tri-Na­­tion­­al Southern Rhine Metro­po­litan Region. The Southern Rhine re­­gion con­­tains over 600 business-linked re­­search centres, and over 60 universities, univer­­sities of applied sciences and higher universities of applied sciences offer courses for more than 130,000 students.


Special strength: technology transfer to the business community.
Ideas from Karlsruhe and the region change the world – this happened in the past and has stayed that way to the present. In the series of great names we find the Karlsruhe native Carl Benz, the inventor of the motor car, and Freiherr Drais von Sauerbronn, the in­­ventor of the running wheels, who hailed the introduc­­tion of the age of mobility. Heinrich Hertz laid the foundation stone of our modern information age with the invention of electro-magnetic waves at the Universität Karlsruhe (TH) at the end of the 19th century. And the Karlsruhe scientist Karl Steinbuch start­­ed the con­­cept of “computer science”. Fifteen years later, Germany’s first fac­­ulty of computer science was formed at the Universität Karlsruhe and today it is still the largest and best-known in the German-speaking regions of Europe. With the conversion to the Karlsruhe In­­sti­­tute of Technology (KIT), the Uni­ver­­sität Karlsruhe and the Forschungs­zen­­trum Karlsruhe (Karlsruhe Research Centre) have removed the traditional barriers between university and extra-mural research cen­­tres. The partners among the world’s ma­­jor research centres, which have proven them­­selves over the decades, will position themselves in this joint organization.

Not only the numerous universities, col­­leges and research centres are particu­­larly well-linked, technology transfer to the commercial community is one of the region’s particular strengths. Eleven trans­­fer facilities of the Steinbeis Foun­­dation have been established at the Hoch­schule für Technik und Wirtschaft Karlsruhe (Karls­­ruhe College of Tech­nology and Busi­­ness) alone. The nanoValley.eu ini­tia­­tive has its origins in the close cooper­ation between the TRK and the Rhine-Neckar metropolitan region. Operationally it is equipped and sup­­port­­ed by partners in Baden-Württem­berg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hessen. Si­­mul­­taneously the partners regard them­selves as protagonists of a European science and technology region competing inter­­­­nationally for knowledge and personal­ities for research and the business community. This is the reason they are active across political and institutional borders in their attempt to achieve a joint nanoValley.eu.


The IT region with the largest European software cluster. Spin-outs are pushed not only by the KIT and the universities. In the old tradition of helping young companies gain a foothold in the market, the Karlsruhe KEIMforum alone has helped more than 180 compa­­nies get started. The region is character­­ized by a positive start-up climate at uni­­versities and research centres, not least because it has won the EU’s “Award of Excellence for Innovative Regions” three times.

The CyberForum has become one of the big­­gest and most successful high-tech en­­tre­­preneur networks, in which 750 mem­­bers of the so-called “times” sectors (tele­­commu­nications, information technology, media, entertainment and security tech­­nology) now work together. Thanks to the great commit­­ment of the CyberForum, the Karlsruhe IT region is one of the winners in the German government’s Clusters of Ex­­­cel­­lence Com­pe­­tition. Together with Darmstadt, Kaisers­lau­­tern, Saarbrücken and Walldorf, Karlsruhe forms the cluster “Software­inno­­vationen für das digitale Unternehmen” (“Soft­­ware Inno­­vations for the Digital Com­­pany”), the biggest soft­ware cluster in Eu­­rope. This was a decision that will speed up the link between the business community and research centres in the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion even more quickly; it will also guarantee innovative new products for the companies of the fu­­ture and more skilled jobs in our region.

Foto-OB2008The author was elected deputy mayor of the city of Karlsruhe in 1991 and Lord Mayor in 1998. He was re-elected in 2006. He was previously a bank officer and graduate accountant in the Baden-Württemberg state public service, the state legislature’s parliamentary service and at the Baden-Württemberg State Credit Bank.