Best Practices and Breakthrough Models
Edited by Sven H. De Cleyn and Gunter Festel
Chapter 3: TU Berlin – an entrepreneurial university in an entrepreneurial city
The regional economy of Berlin, the capital of Germany, is notably affected by structural transformation, mainly resulting from the shrinking of traditional heavy industry and the construction sector. Many of these traditional and labor-intensive industries no longer exist or have relocated their activities to low-cost countries. As a consequence, Berlin currently has an unemployment rate considerably higher than the average rate in Germany. At the same time, new industries are developing in Berlin, such as renewable energy, biotechnology, medical technology, microsystems technology, information and communication as well as traffic and mobility technologies. In the last ten years, they have been collectively responsible for the creation of tens of thousands of new jobs in the Berlin region. Future-oriented and innovation-driven, these industries are expected to be more sustainable than their traditional counterparts and to generate long-term economic, social and environmental value. This is because they create jobs for highly qualified employees and, unlike traditional industries, they rely to a lesser extent on natural resources and to a larger extent on human knowledge and efficient technology. Further development of these industries depends on the availability of human capital and requires the strong presence of research institutions, particularly with a technical focus. In this respect, Berlin seems to provide very favorable conditions because it is home to several universities and applied sciences universities with nearly 140,000 students. Major research institutions, such as the Max-Planck-Society and Fraunhofer Society, are located in and around Berlin. The city also has two major technology parks, Campus Berlin Buch and Adlershof, the latter being one of the largest science and technology parks in the world. These institutions, however, represent only a fraction of Berlin’s sophisticated scientific and economic infrastructure, which currently consists of nearly 600 public science and research related organizations (Berlin Sciences Navigator 2014). Entrepreneurship and spin-off activities of students, research assistants, scientists or professors associated with these organizations are important. By founding companies, researchers introduce scientifically grounded technologies, innovative products and services or superior manufacturing processes into the economy (Festel 2013; Festel et al. 2014). In addition to technological advancement, there is also societal gain because those start-ups often grow into leading companies that create jobs and pay taxes. These entrepreneurial activities are powered by a distinct and vibrant founding culture in Berlin, the city with the most start-ups in Germany with regard to the economically active population. In 2009, more than 7,500 companies were founded in Berlin, which corresponds to 1,310 start-ups per 10,000 existing companies. Berlin also has concrete entrepreneurship support systems in place. The city financially supports promising start-ups as well as industry-specific centers for technology and entrepreneurship. The Berlin-Brandenburg Business Plan Competition is the largest of its kind in Germany. This competition not only rewards business ideas but also academic initiatives to nurture and enhance entrepreneurial spirit and the founding of new businesses.
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