Elaborations by Axel Koch, Managing Director of the Office for Knowledge and Technology Transfer of Saarland University
3-Sentence Pitch on the local Startup Ecosystem
After having been dominated by mining and steel-producing industries until the 1960s, the Saarland transformed into a region featuring R&D within universities and research institutions and on implementing cluster structures in future-oriented fields identified as essential for the region such as IT, life science, materials, automotive and production technologies. In all these areas, the Saarland is particularly competitive and also offers good opportunities and support for start-ups.
Saarbrücken is the main hub with Saarland University and many other research institutions as well as the “Gründer-Campus Saar”.
Sectoral Focus of the Startup Ecosystem
The wide range of research subjects in computer science of Saarland University – extending from computer graphics over IT security to Artificial Intelligence and software engineering – is also reflected in the spectrum of regional start-ups.
Local Financing Landscape/Presence of VCs
There is the “Saarländische Wagnisfinanzierungsgesellschaft mbH” (www.swgmbh.de) as the only regional VC-institution.
Presence and Industrial Focus of Established Industries
With under 1,5 % of regional GDP, Saarland’s R&D ratio brings it on the slow end of all federal states. This is mainly due to the fact that a considerable share of large companies is headquartered external to the region, thus maintaining production facilities in the Saarland, but performing R&D outside the region. Among the largest companies are:
- ZF Getriebe AG (driveline technology),
- Ford Werke AG (vehicle manufacturing),
- AG der Dillinger Hüttenwerke (heavy plate production),
- Fresenius AG (medical technology),
- Villeroy & Boch AG (ceramics).
Presence of Incubators/Accelerators
A sustainable start-up culture in teaching, research and administration has been established through the supra-institutional initiative “Gründer-Campus Saar” which comprises Saarland University as well as the other regional research institutes and other institutions of higher education. There is a university incubator called “Starterzentrum” and two “Science Parks”. These incubators in close vicinity to the university make it easy for the entrepreneurs to cooperate and to exchange experience in the field of research and development. The “IT Incubator” has been set up on the University campus as an accelerator to bridge development gaps which are frequently encountered in the field of computer science. If there are any vacancies, all these accelerators are also open to foreign start-ups.
Presence of Research Institutes and Universities
Saarland University ranks among the best colleges worldwide in the field of computer science. This successful development is the result of the close integration and interaction between the University and research institutes on campus. The prestige enjoyed by Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Künstliche Intelligenz (DFKI) – German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence, by the two Max-Planck Institutes for Informatics and Software Engineering speaks for itself. The outstanding quality of the IT location Saarland is underpinned by numerous national and international cooperation projects in research and industry. For many years computer science has achieved one of the top spots in the rankings based on research reputation, research funds, student mentoring and conditions of study. A large number of spin-offs have already been created from the field of computer science.
SOG-Messe (http://www.gruenden.saarland.de/1671.htm): a bi-annual Fair for Entrepreneurs / Round table meetings / Saarland pitches / Startup weekends / Entrepreneurship workshops/ Consulting days with external experts. The dates can be found under www.gruender-campus-saar.de.