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13 November 2019 - Anne Enderle

Tradition meets innovation

Bremen
Business hub Bremen – these are its strong sectors
Bremen offers good infrastructure, a wide range of commercial premises and a skilled workforce
Bremen offers good infrastructure, a wide range of commercial premises and a skilled workforce © WFB/Jonas Ginter

The business hub Bremen can convince with some advantages. Almost 22,000 companies provide more than 325,000 jobs. Below, we introduce some of the strong sectors that make Bremen such an excellent business location.

Germany’s smallest federal state attracts businesses through locational factors such as good infrastructure, a wide range of commercial premises and a skilled workforce. Read on to find out which sectors are the commercial heavyweights and what sets them apart.

#1. Highest proportion of employees in the aerospace sector in Germany

Bremen has a long and proud tradition in aviation and space travel. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the number of employees in this sector as a proportion of the population is the highest in Germany. More than 140 aerospace companies are based in Bremen, including major players such as the Airbus Group, ArianeGroup, Rheinmetall Defence Electronics and OHB. Together with more than 20 research institutes, including the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Bremen Fibre Institute and many others, the sector employs 12,000 people and generates over €4 billion a year. Wing systems for Airbus aircraft, the upper stage of the Ariane rocket and the Galileo satellite navigation system are all manufactured in Bremen.

Lightweight construction is a key technology for the aerospace industry. The EcoMaT Center for Eco-efficient Materials & Technologies, located right next to Bremen Airport, is working on the technologies of tomorrow. Over an area of around 22,000 square metres, it will house offices, laboratories and a technology centre, and provide space for around 500 employees. This alliance of industry and science is dedicated entirely to cross-disciplinary research into lightweight construction and its relevance for all aerospace systems.

The sector is represented by its association AVIASPACE BREMEN e.V. This network promotes the development of the aerospace industry by linking it to the automotive, wind energy and shipbuilding industries.

The wide range of courses on offer in Bremen equip students from around the world with the skills they need for a career in the aerospace industry. Bremen’s University of Applied Sciences offers four of these courses, including a degree apprenticeship. Since 2017, the University of Bremen has run two English-language master’s programmes in space engineering and in space sciences and technology. Both universities work closely with local research institutes and businesses.

#2. Bremen – the gateway to the world

Bremen and the sea has been a centuries-old success story. Shipbuilding in Bremen? Absolutely – there is at least one company in Bremen or Bremerhaven for every area of the production chain. The state of Bremen is Germany’s second-largest port location and home to 1,300 companies employing around 40,000 employees. On top of that, there are at least a further 34,000 jobs that are indirectly dependent on the ports. Both seaborne and inland waterway transport operates here.

The ports in Bremen and Bremerhaven are the fourth-largest container hub in Europe. Bremen has the highest export ratio, 65.4 per cent, of all German states, equivalent to almost 74 million tonnes of goods in 2019.

Storage space and infrastructure is also needed alongside the ports to distribute the goods throughout the country. Five logistics centres with a total of 1,486 hectares of space, home to more than 1,300 companies employing 20,000 people, ensure the smooth transshipment and transport of goods by road, rail and air.

The Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ) provides an additional one million square metres of warehouse space. It is Germany’s largest and Europe’s second largest centre of its kind, and a location of international importance. 150 companies employing around 8,000 skilled workers are based here.

#3. An important hub for the automotive industry

Petrol runs through Bremen’s veins – and now electricity does too. The city boasts more than a hundred years of history as a hub for the automotive industry. Today, Mercedes-Benz is the region’s largest employer, and its 12,500 staff manufacture 400,000 vehicles a year. In addition to traditional cars with combustion engines, electric cars are also manufactured in Bremen under the new EQ brand. Production of the EQC, a fully electric SUV, started in 2019.

Alongside Mercedes-Benz, more than 40 suppliers provide around 5,000 additional jobs, including leading companies such as Hella Group, Lear Corporation and Brose Group. The Bremen Hansalinie Industrial Estate offers the sector an ideal location with direct access to the A1 motorway and a fast connection to the Mercedes-Benz plant.

Bremen is where the vehicles are manufactured, while Bremerhaven is where they are shipped out to the world. In 2019, 2.2 million vehicles from all over Germany were handled at the car terminal. This makes Bremen Europe’s second-largest car handling centre. In addition to Europe’s leading automotive logistics company, BLG, other major players based here include reimer logistics, Ipsen Logistics, PWL (Peter W. Lampke GmbH & Co. KG), Stute and Weserport.

The Automotive Nordwest network brings together manufacturers, suppliers and organisations involved in research and training. It functions as a platform for cross-sectoral communications and collaboration in the Bremen region.

#4. Well connected in the wind energy sector

The complete value chain of the wind energy sector is present in Bremen and Bremerhaven – from research, development and manufacturing to aftersales and maintenance. This network provides everything needed to set up and operate onshore and offshore projects. Over 100 companies and institutions have settled in Bremen and Bremerhaven, half of whom work in the offshore wind energy sector. Today, the state is an internationally renowned innovation centre for the industry.

Thanks to its coastal location, Bremerhaven has become a key hub for the offshore wind energy sector. The ports are an important link and specialise in large and heavy cargo, or breakbulk. Many suppliers, planning offices, project planners and service providers are based in Airport-Stadt Bremen.

WAB Windenergie-Agentur is a network that facilitates partnerships and the sharing of expertise within the offshore wind energy sector and acts as its regional point of contact.

#5. Full throttle towards the digital age

Bremen has one of the strongest IT sectors in Germany, generating over €1 billion in revenue according to the latest figures. More than 1,300 companies are based in Bremen, including key players such as team neusta and e-commerce specialists hmmh. A range of locational factors make moving to Bremen attractive, such as the supply of skilled workers and the good working relationship between industry and the research community.

The Alte Schnapsfabrik building in Bremen’s Neustadt district is home to many creative and innovative companies
The Alte Schnapsfabrik building in Bremen’s Neustadt district is home to many creative and innovative companies © WFB/Frank Pusch

All businesses – other than those that are already specialists in the digital world – are busy with their digital strategies. Work 4.0, process optimisation, new technology environments and changing markets: these are all important competitive factors for companies of all sizes. Large companies operate their own innovation labs in Bremen, such as Daimler’s Innolab and BLG’s Digilab.

Small and medium-sized enterprises can turn to the SME 4.0 Centre of Excellence for support and funding. It is one of 23 centres across Germany that are funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The centre is the first port of call for companies looking for assistance in delivering digital transformation.

#6. Innovation from creative minds

Besides hard facts such as revenue or employment figures, a city’s creative economy is an important locational factor. It takes up the challenges of the future and identifies needs and trends, while its close links to the digital industry encourage innovative developments.

There are around 1,800 creative companies in Bremen employing more than 10,000 people, including international players such as Urban Screen. The districts of Überseestadt, Neustadt and Ostertor are the hotspots of the creative industry. Young talent is fostered at the University of the Arts in Bremen’s Speicher XI building.

Young creative talent is fostered at the University of the Arts in Bremen’s Speicher XI building
Young creative talent is fostered at the University of the Arts in Bremen’s Speicher XI building © WFB/Frank Pusch

nordmedia finances film projects across Lower Saxony and Bremen. The organisation supports film and media makers through funding, workshops and networking events, and is represented in Bremen by a regional office in the Weserhaus building.

The city also has many co-working opportunities for young entrepreneurs and freelancers. A wide range of funding options and the crowdfunding platform Schotterweg help entrepreneurs to bring their innovative projects to life. The first port of call for budding entrepreneurs is the Starthaus.

#7. Successful retail trade in the city with a long tradition of commerce

To this day, Bremen’s merchants live by the slogan ‘Buten un binnen – wagen un winnen’, which means ‘outside and in – venture and win’ in the local dialect. The slogan is emblazoned above the entrance to the Handelskammer, Germany’s oldest chamber of commerce. Retail in the city is characterised by good accessibility and wide choice. For the first time ever, the sector generated over €4 billion in revenue in 2017/18. Bremen is home to more than 700 shops, 200 places to eat and 50 cultural and entertainment venues. The city offers everything from large international chains to small independent shops that have been in business for decades.

There is a lot happening in the city centre – private investors are pumping around €1 million into several projects aimed at increasing Bremen’s attractiveness. The communication campaign Bremen wird neu (Bremen reborn) provides information on all projects and building activities. The Schnoor quarter and the Viertel are further popular shopping areas in the centre. A number of retail parks and shopping malls in Bremen’s districts round off the city’s retail experience.

#8 Of coffee beans, fish and other tasty treats

It is not just cars that keep the ports in Bremen and Bremerhaven busy. Almost half of all coffee beans imported to Germany arrive via Bremen, making the ports the leading centres for importing coffee to Germany. Bremerhaven is also the country’s biggest fish processing centre and has a market share of 50 per cent. The city is known as ‘Europe’s freezer’, thanks to companies such as FRoSTA, Nordsee, Frozen Fish and Deutsche See who operate their deep-freeze warehouses and processing centres here. Fish fingers, loved around the world, are also produced in the city on the Weser estuary. Together, FRoSTA and Frozen Fish make 2.7 billion of them every year. If they were all laid down end to end, they would reach around the world five times.

Bremen has a high brand density, including major players such as Becks, Hachez, FRoSTA and Melitta, but the city is also a great place for innovative food start-ups. And even if Bremen is not exactly renowned for its wines, the city can still boast one related record – Bremen’s Ratskeller houses the world’s largest collection of German wines.

The food and beverage industry, together with wholesalers, generates total revenue of around €2,5 billion a year and employs approximately 10,000 people. In addition to the processing industry, several logistics, warehousing and transport service providers have established themselves here, along with testing laboratories and specialised research institutes.


If you have any questions about relocating to Bremerhaven, then BIS Bremerhavener Gesellschaft für Investitionsförderung und Stadtentwicklung mbH is here to help with advice and assistance.

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