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14 July 2022 - Jann Raveling

Take-off for Bremen: what makes the city a hub for aerospace expertise

Aerospace

The top five factors behind Bremen’s success as an aerospace hub

At home in the skies: flight history in Bremen began over a hundred years ago with the aviation pioneer Henrich Focke. And since the Northern Development Ring (ERNO) was founded more than half a century ago, Bremen has established itself as a global standard-bearer both in aerospace research and the aerospace industry. The city and the region are on the same page when it comes to the significance of this ever-growing branch of industry, and are promoting the innovation cluster. Future-focused technologies and flagship projects such as the Galileo satellites and Ariane rockets bear the ‘Made in Bremen’ seal of quality.

Bremen’s aerospace industry comprises more than 140 companies and 20 institutes, employs over 12,000 people and generates revenue in excess of €4 billion a year. The city has more space aeronautics and aerospace experts as a percentage of its population than anywhere else in Germany, making Bremen the largest aerospace centre in Germany.

What makes Bremen so successful as a location for the aerospace industry?

1. International reach: from Bremen to the world

Airbus’ wing manufacturing process allows different model series to be assembled simultaneously
Airbus’ wing manufacturing process allows different model series to be assembled simultaneously © Airbus

Airbus, OHB SE, Materialise and Rheinmetall Defence Electronics are just some of the major industry players that are based in Bremen. Their products are needed all over the world and they have become big with the industry. These big players in turn attract many small companies that set up as suppliers or start up with new ideas in the shadow of the big ones.

Up to 4,500 people are employed in the various Airbus Group divisions at the Bremen Airbus site. The city is also home to the Airbus high-lift centre, the interdisciplinary platform for all Airbus high-lift systems. It all happens here – from flight physics and development to manufacturing and assembly. The Airbus plant at Bremen airport is where the electrics, hydraulics and moving parts are fitted to the landing flaps of all Airbus models and to the wings of the A330 and A350 long-range airliners. The aircraft manufacturer’s current research projects include 3D printing of metal parts and testing of ‘cobots’, humanoid robots that are able to work alongside humans. 

The Franco-German joint venture ArianeGroup is involved in building the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket. Its successor, the Ariane 6, will also be made in Bremen.

OHB SE is one of Europe’s three leading space technology companies. The Bremen-based firm develops and tests the Galileo satellites. Ten of the 14 Galileo satellites that are currently orbiting in space come from OHB SE. The company is also planning its own rocket station in the North Sea and is currently also building its own launch vehicle with its start-up Rocket Factory Augsburg.

With these greats, Bremen can present itself confidently to the public: as the organiser of international trade fairs such as Space Tech Expo Europe, the Hanseatic city welcomes guests from all over the world every November. And the state itself is also internationally active, at trade fairs such as the ILA or Space Tech Expo USA Bremen shows itself to the world public.

2. A think tank for lightweight materials and climate neutral flight – the ECOMAT development centre

ECOMAT’s eye-catching exterior is minimalist, but instantly recognisable
ECOMAT’s eye-catching exterior is minimalist, but instantly recognisable © WFB/Huthmacher

The ECOMAT development centre is Bremen’s beacon project in the aerospace sector. ECOMAT, the Centre for Eco-efficient Materials & Technologies, opened its doors in early 2019 at Bremen Airport-City. Lightweight engineering, material development, climate neutral flying, manufacturing and testing will all be consolidated here.

The idea is for all partners to use each other’s laboratories and test rigs, to discuss findings with each other and to create new knowledge together – all under one roof. The German Aerospace Centre DLR, Fraunhofer IFAM and the Faserinstitut Bremen e.V. (FIBRE) are some of the partners in the 22,000 square metre building. But companies from industry such as Airbus or TESTIA GmbH are also on site.

3. The earlier the better – combating the skills shortage by investing in talented young prospects

National and international programmes are a feature of the industry’s research and development landscape – and many of them have very long lifespans. Locally, the aerospace industry is also supported by the Aerospace Research Programme LuRaFo2020. The challenges lie in retaining and building on specific expertise and being among the first to master new technologies. The University of Bremen, the Bremen region’s three universities of applied sciences and the Jacobs University not only carry out aeronautics and aerospace research but also provide a steady stream of highly qualified graduates. The international space master's degree programmes "Space Sciences and Technologies" (Space-ST) and "Space Engineering" (SpE), for example, are among the popular offerings.

Unique in Bremen is the GymProLuR - the Gymnasium Upper School Project for aerospace. This collaboration between the city’s secondary schools, the Bremen University of Applied Sciences and the regional government gives teenagers a chance to try out the industry while they are still at school. Through talks, projects and work experience, they gain real-world insights into the aerospace sector. The benefit for Bremen is that young talents can then be identified and nurtured at an early stage.

In addition, four Bremen schools help to organise the German CanSat competition, which forms part of the European Space Agency’s international competition.

Bremen offers a wide range of degree courses and vocational careers, which helps to retain talented young prospects in the city. They can study engineering, materials science or the natural sciences at the University of Bremen, while the Bremen University of Applied Sciences is among those that run aerospace degree courses up to master’s level, including combined work and study degrees.

Not to forget: the promotion of up-and-coming start-ups. Bremen hosts international events on the topic of New Space, plus the Business Incubator of the European Space Agency ESA, the ESA BIC Northern Germany, where young ideas thrive.

The offer of local information and support to Bremen's start-up scene operates under the umbrella of the Starthaus Bremen and Bremerhaven. Aerospace start-ups are thus embedded in a functioning start-up ecosystem with many functioning public and private activities.

By targeting and nurturing young talents from an early stage, Bremen is combating the shortage of skilled workers in the industry and helping the aeronautics and aerospace sector to explore new horizons.

4. Well connected: clustering for success

Full house: the space world comes to Bremen for Space Tech Expo
Full house: the space world comes to Bremen for Space Tech Expo © WFB/Rathke

Under the motto "more innovation and competitive strength through cooperation in the aerospace industry", Bremen institutions and the industry network AVIASPACE BREMEN e.V. work closely together within the framework of the Bremen Aerospace Cluster. Suppliers, production companies and research institutions are looked after by the Aerospace Cluster of the State of Bremen. The region's community of interest acts as a local mediator between business, research, politics and administration. The cluster's stakeholders are supported in adapting and expanding competencies not only regionally but also nationally. The cluster also represents Bremen's interests in various working groups such as the SatNav Forum, the SupplyChain Excellence Initiative, Innospace, European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC).


The influence of Bremen’s aerospace cluster also extends beyond Germany’s borders. It works together with international associations such as the European Aerospace Cluster Partnership, Enterprise Europe Network, International Astronautical Federation, German Canadian Concourse, Network of European Regions Using Space Technologies, and Women in Aerospace EUROPE.

View from the drop tower down onto the Technology Park at the University of Bremen
View from the drop tower down onto the Technology Park at the University of Bremen © WFB/Ginter

5. Infrastructure: Bremen is a city where your research partners are often also your neighbours

Bremen’s compact size has always been one of its key strengths, and the short distances between its various institutions in industry, education and science make it that much easier for them to work together.

There are so many benefits to this geographical compactness, and Bremen now has two hubs of aerospace expertise in the shape of Bremen Airport-City and the technology park.

Bremen Airport-City and the airport itself are just a stone’s throw apart and are just a few minutes’ drive from Bremen city centre. Over 500 companies employ more than 16,500 people here, and ambitious new businesses in the start-up centre rub shoulders with global players such as Airbus. One of the companies based at Bremen Airport-City is Airbus Safran Launchers, which makes the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Bremen Technology Park is one of Germany’s leading technology hubs. The German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the Fraunhofer Institute and the University of Bremen, as well as more than 15 other research institutes, work side by side here on aerospace projects together with commercial giants such as Siemens and OHB. At the heart of it all is the Fallturm drop tower, the park’s signature landmark and the only facility of its kind in Europe. It is used by the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity to test processes and materials in zero gravity.

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