Elaborations by Valerie Daldrup, zentrale Koordinierungsstelle, Thüringer Hochschulgründernetzwerk
3-Sentence Pitch on the local Startup Ecosystem
Thuringia has a very diverse startup ecosystem with a fertile ground for young entrepreneurs to push forward their ideas. Unique is the concentration of creative forces rooted in the Bauhaus tradition in Weimar and the high-tech industries especially clustered around the universities and research institutes in Jena, Ilmenau and beyond. Although Thuringia is a quite small federal state, its startups are regularly very successful in startup competitions around Germany and establish as solid cornerstone of the corporate landscape.
The main metropolitan areas are mainly along the auto route A4 and railway line – starting from the West with Eisenach as the main automotive location, going through Erfurt as the main capital, Weimar, Jena and finally Gera. But also beyond this central city chain, cities like Ilmenau offer important research clusters for startups. The Thuringian cities are located in 1 to max 3 hr. radius from cities like Frankfurt, Berlin, Leipzig, Dresden or Nürnberg.
Sectoral Focus of the Startup Ecosystem
Thuringia offers a diverse ecosystem of startups from IT, high-tech industries like optics/photonics or life sciences in Eastern Thuringia, applied engineering in south and eastern part and a strong media and creative scene in central Thuringia. The mainly reflect the research and industrial focus of their geographical locations and support a steady rejuvenation. Startups in Thuringia are mainly active in the B2B sector.
Local Financing Landscape/Presence of VCs
The beteiligungsmanagement thüringen GmbH (bm-t) is the second strongest VC player that is publicly funded on federal level in Germany. Each year the Investor Days in Erfurt are in focus of VCs from all over Germany and give startups a perfect platform to pitch on the stage and talk to investors. Also several local initiatives of university campuses are perfect to meet investors, e.g. like the VC campus in Ilmenau. The business angel scene is not as strong as in other federal states but for smaller ventures a perfect match.
Presence and Industrial Focus of Established Industries
Multinational powerhouses such as Carl Zeiss and Schott started their business in Thuringia. Today, they set international standards worldwide. Jenoptik is the largest high-tech manufacturing company in the Eastern federal states with operations worldwide. Large companies like Bosch, Opel, Continental or Siemens are present in Thuringia but mainly for services and manufacturing. The real strength of the mainly SME dominated corporate landscape is its agility to organize in networks which also include young startup companies. For more company information also see http://www.invest-in-thuringia.de.
Presence of Incubators/Accelerators
The main incubators or accelerators are not located in Thuringia but the universities offer free office space, infrastructure and advice for startups that are linked to the university or its ecosystem – here international applicants are always welcome (more information: www.hochschul-gruendernetzwerk.de). Also the ThEx – the Thuringian center for startups & entrepreneurship – pools infrastructure and advice of many cooperation partners that dedicate their work to startups under one roof (for more see http://www.thex.de/).
In the metropolitan areas also several application center as well as technology and startup center are located that offer high-tech infrastructure at a reasonable price (for more see: http://www.cluster-thueringen.de/innovationsstrategie/partner-akteure/technologiezentren/).
Presence of Research Institutes and Universities
Around 40 institutes, institutions of higher learning, and research initiatives are located in Thuringia, including nine state-sponsored universities and universities of applied sciences. They cover all fields of interest from a technical focus, applied engineering to life science or architecture and music. On top, there are several institutions of the Fraunhofer Society, Max-Planck Society for the Advancement of Science, Leibniz Association, and Helmholtz Association. At the Beutenberg Campus in Jena over 3,000 researchers and roughly 50 biotech and medical technology companies are clustered.
More information about the startup activities of the universities is linked on the page of the University Start-up Network Thuringia (www.hochschul-gruendernetzwerk.de).