The IT industry in Bremen is thriving. According to recent figures, the city is currently home to 1,330 IT businesses generating a combined annual revenue of €1.12 billion. In a comparison of federal states, Bremen ranks sixth for percentage of workers employed in the IT sector (German), and, in a ranking of the largest online agencies, the Bremen-based team neusta comes in at third place. The top spot is taken by the Plan.Net group which includes the e-commerce specialists hmmh – also located in Bremen. Impressive statistics – but why have so many IT companies chosen to establish themselves in Bremen? We asked five key business figures and researchers from various organisations to tell us what makes the city such an attractive location for the IT sector.
"It's the steady supply of specialists, without a doubt," replies Christoph Ranze, when asked to name Bremen's greatest asset. The managing director of the mid-sized IT firm encoway is based close to the university, where he previously worked as a researcher. "There are numerous institutions here producing extremely well-educated graduates, who are also keen to remain in the area. It means there's a great selection of IT personnel for businesses to choose from."
The area has plenty of institutions to speak of, from traditional universities to Hochschulen that tend to focus more on applied sciences. Besides those in Bremen itself (the University of Bremen, the Bremen University of Applied Sciences, Jacobs University, and the FOM Hochschule), Ranze also views the universities of applied sciences in the nearby towns of Bremerhaven, Oldenburg and Wilhelmshaven as ideal recruitment pools. In addition to which, education and vocational training in Bremen has an intensive focus on IT.
Besides producing sharp-minded individuals, the universities play a great role in contributing new knowledge. Many of Bremen's companies cooperate with them on joint research projects, benefiting from the knowledge and technical accomplishments that such projects result in. It's an excellent place for research – quite literally, thanks to the University of Bremen's status as a university of excellence – and one that attracts talented individuals from all over the world.
International researchers and new students alike consciously choose Bremen as a destination – something that Richard Sethmann, an IT professor at the Bremen University of Applied Sciences, is well aware of. The degree apprenticeship it offers in information technology combines academic study with employment.
"For the participating businesses, the degree apprenticeship in information technology effectively complements the recruitment and training of highly qualified young talent. By combining academic and professional training with work experience in an actual company, we offer an appealing form of training for individuals with high potential," says Sethmann. "This appeal has meant that strong applicants from far beyond Bremen have shown an interest in these forms of training, and we have been able to recruit them."
The Bremen Innovation and Technology Centre (BITZ) is located at the technology park right next to the university. Here, entrepreneurs can get their new businesses off to a good start. Thanks to its excellent infrastructure, fast internet connection and close proximity to the many technology companies that have based themselves around the park, the centre has become an attractive site for the IT sector. It's a place where business and research go hand in hand.
Bremen's inhabitants are fond of talking about 'kurze Wege', or 'short paths'. Taken literally, the city's compact infrastructure ensures that you're never too far away from anything you need. But it's not just about the physical distance – city states such as Bremen play host to a close-knit network that brings everyone closer together. Businesspeople here quickly get to know the most important individuals in their field, as good connections are crucial for success. Factor in the close ties that businesses here have to politics and academia, not to mention the dedicated work of IT industry interest group bremen digitalmedia, and one thing is clear – the key players here are making decisions and bringing about change.
"The Überseestadt is an attractive option for companies in IT and creative industries. It has a unique atmosphere, a lively mix of all kinds of businesses," says Christian Gorldt, a department head at BIBA, the Bremen Institute for Production and Logistics, which is part of the University of Bremen. And he's right. The conversion of the former dockland area into a completely new district – one of the largest urban development projects in Europe – has attracted nationwide interest, as explained in our article: "The Überseestadt: How a 400 metre-long nucleus was transformed into Bremen's newest district".
The area has managed to preserve its atmosphere as a former port and industry hub while adding in modern architecture and infrastructure, resulting in its unique appeal. Old warehouses and sheds, brick buildings several hundreds of metres long next to newly constructed palaces of glass, all lined up on the banks of the river Weser. And it's not just about the structures, but who's occupying them as well – some of the largest IT agencies in Germany, such as hmmh and team neusta, have taken up residence here. Their neighbours are other young, newly founded companies and there is a thriving start-up culture, supported by key players from the likes of the co-working space provider weserwork.
An airport that's just a few minutes' tram ride away from the city centre. A multitude of business parks and industrial estates that lie just off the autobahn. Modern office blocks located in hubs like the Überseestadt. These are all good reasons to base yourself in Bremen, according to Ronald Wermann, chairman and co-founder of abat, an SAP service provider that operates in the city:
"We were confident about choosing Bremen as a location because the infrastructure here is ideal. As an IT service provider, we specialise in the automotive and logistics sectors, and consequently we work on projects worldwide. The good connections to the autobahn, airport and rail network enable us to get to our clients in a very short space of time, not just those in Germany but all across the world. Bremen also provides us with the ideal conditions to grow and further strengthen our position as one of the leading SAP partners in the automotive industry. Bremeninvest gave us plenty of support from the moment we began to establish ourselves here, which made the location even more appealing for us. We feel very much at home here."
Bremen is the embodiment of industry and trade. As Germany's eighth-largest industrial hub and the federal state with the highest rate of exports, it's no wonder that many companies from major sectors of industry have chosen to base themselves here. In order to ready themselves for digitalisation, all these businesses require expert knowledge – and there's no better place to find it than in Bremen itself, according to Björn Portillo, chairman of the bremen digitalmedia association:
"One of Bremen's key assets is its high number of skilled IT service providers, many of whom top the national rankings of internet agencies every year. Another is that the region is also an exciting area of activity for the sector: the proportion of the industry that makes up the business landscape here is higher than usual, meaning that there is great demand for digitalisation projects. The same applies for the many trading companies that operate internationally." It's always an advantage to have a large market right on your doorstep, even in the digitalised world.
If your ideal workplace comes with the opportunity to splash your feet about in a nearby river with a Beck's in your hand, then Bremen is the place for you. Germany's greenest city has plenty of parks and recreational areas where you can kick back and relax, such as the 200 hectare Bürgerpark located directly in the city centre. Or there's always its thriving theatre and music scene. Or if you're into technology, you could get involved in the Hackerspace Bremen, the Fablab 3D-printing laboratory, or… well, in this city, you're bound to find something that appeals to you, whatever your interests.
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