Innovation Hub Potsdam – How the Capital of Brandenburg Translates Top Research into Successful Business

Cooperation is a driver of scientific and economic progress. This is nowhere as evident as in the innovation hubs of our time. The best example? Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg and a city of innovation transfer.

Innovations have always been closely linked to their places of origin. In our portrayal of important scientists and entrepreneurs, we often highlight their exceptional talent or present them as geniuses who succeed by themselves and often »against all odds«. In this, we tend to forget that progress most of the time depends on a completely different human ability: collaboration. New technologies and products have always been created primarily in so-called hubs – cities or regions where universities, scientific institutes, established companies and startups meet, exchange ideas and collaborate in terms of content and space. Thanks to their unique networking capabilities, hubs are also drivers of their local economies. In this way, they not only secure and promote their own prosperity, but also that of their region. To experience such a vibrant place of innovation today, one does not have to look as far as Shenzen in China or San Francisco in the USA. Instead, one may take a look at the capital region of Berlin-Brandenburg. Or more precisely: Potsdam.

High Science Density and a Focus on the Future

In recent years, Potsdam, the capital of Brandenburg has reliably been one of the cities in Germany with the highest science density per inhabitant. Notably, Potsdam is home to more than 40 scientific institutes of the University of Potsdam as well as other renowned research institutions, such as the Fraunhofer or Max Planck Research Societies or the Leibniz and Helmholtz Associations. Together, they also shape the city demographically. More than 10,000 of Potsdam’s over 182,000 inhabitants work in a scientific institution. In total, more than 25,000 students live and study here, with scientists from all over the world bringing cutting-edge research to the city.

The professional spectrum of the institutions located in Potsdam ranges from life sciences and biotechnology to earth and environmental sciences, astrophysics as well as film and media production and urban planning. However, the city’s position as a hub for innovation is also based on the core competencies that are currently establishing themselves within this broader spectrum. Specifically, besides it growing relevance in life sciences and biotechnology, Potsdam is a driver in the areas of sustainability and digitization, two topics that will be important in the coming years.

The Albert Einstein Science Park, for example, is home to the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Research Institute for Sustainability (RIFS), two institutes dedicated to issues of climate change and sustainable politics, business and civil society. At the same time, the Helmholtz-Centre Potsdam GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences is looking for new ways to address global changes, understand natural hazards, mitigate their risks and assess our impact on our planet.

In digitization, overarching initiatives are shaping the city. For example, since 2021 Potsdam is a Smart City model municipality. Additionally, with its inclusion in the »European Laboratory for Learning and Intelligent Systems« (ELLIS), the city is taking on a formative role in the field of artificial intelligence. The new ELLIS unit, consisting of the Hasso Plattner Institute, the University of Potsdam and the Robert Koch Institute’s Center for Al in Public Health Research, focuses on potential applications of AI in the fields of energy, medicine, genomics and infectious diseases, as well as efficient and scalable methods for AI algorithms. As MediaTech Hub Potsdam, the capital of the federal state of Brandenburg has been selected as one of twelve places of innovation across Germany honored by the federal government as part of the Digital Hub Initiative.

Science Becomes Successful Business

Potsdam is a place of vibrant knowledge and technology transfer. Thanks to its consistent focus on linking science, education and business, innovations of local research regularly translate into entrepreneurial momentum. First, new developments from science attract established companies. Alternatively, new ideas also find their way into the market via science-related startups or spin-offs. In addition, the university city presents an attractive talent pool for many companies.

In the current »Gründungsradar« (»Startup Radar«) 2022 – one of the most important indicators of knowledge and technology transfer from universities in Germany – the University of Potsdam achieved third place. In the category of »large universities« with more than 15,000 students, it ranks first in the Berlin/Brandenburg metropolitan region, as it does nationwide in the category of non-technical universities.

With the HPI School of Entrepreneurship of the Hasso Plattner Institute, Potsdam is also home to its own business school that enables its graduates to translate their ideas into sustainable, scalable and customer-oriented products and startups.

In addition, with the »Golm 2040« master planning, an innovative urban quarter is being created in the Golm district around the Potsdam Science Park, Brandenburg’s largest science park. Here, researchers and companies are working together on solutions for the economy of tomorrow. With biocyc GmbH and RIPAC-LABOR GmbH, for example, two of the companies located in the park are currently investing in the construction of new buildings and premises in Golm. Further, the DiGOS Potsdam GmbH, a spin-off of GFZ, will soon build a new building as part of the new the Technology Campus. And with the GO:IN and GO:IN 2 innovation centers, the state capital is successfully working with the municipal technology and business centers Potsdam GmbH to attract more companies and startups. Specifically, various real estate developers are currently planning a further 78,000 m2 of office and laboratory spaces – such as the four-part complex QUADRATUM POTSDAM, which the HEGEMANN-REINERS GROUP intends to start building in 2023.

In a condensed form, the Potsdam Science Park exemplifies how cutting-edge research, business and an engaged startup culture can successfully cross-fertilize each other. On the one hand, the park, which houses five institutes of the Max Planck and Fraunhofer Societies in the immediate vicinity of the largest campus of the University of Potsdam, is an important institution in the fields of life sciences, biotechnology, polymer research and analytics. On the other hand, science-related companies are also a central component of the Potsdam Science Park. So far, around 35 companies and startups have chosen the park, both in the form of spin-offs of established research institutes as well as the university, or newcomers that find the necessary space for their intensive start-up and growth phase here. Thanks to the unique proximity to institutes and other organizations, they find a lively networked campus culture here.

Engine for the Region and Beyond

In May 2023, Potsdam will once again demonstrate its importance as a hub for innovation. With the »Potsdam International Forum – Innovation Hubs for Regional Development: Experiences, Challenges, Solutions«, the Ministry of Finance and for European Affairs of the State of Brandenburg and the Location Management of the Potsdam Science Park will bring together decision-makers and experts from science parks and innovation sites across Europe, as well as participants from the public and private sectors and non-profit organizations. Together, they will actively exchange ideas and success factors on the establishment of regional innovation ecosystems and their communities, soft-landing programs, science parks as drivers of innovation systems as well as the the green shift to sustainability. Other topics include the current innovation strategy and funding programs of the EU as well as regional and international cooperation potentials. On this occasion, Potsdam will once again demonstrate that progress needs interdisciplinary exchange across all levels regional, supraregional and international.

This blog and the projects carried out by Standortmanagement Golm GmbH at Potsdam Science Park are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the Federal State of Brandenburg.


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