• Brain City Ambassador Steffen Terberl, Head of the Future Locations office

    Steffen Terberl, Berlin Future Locations office

Brain City Berlin has eleven Future Locations (“Zukunftsorte”). Science and business work closely together within these thematically specifically defined areas. The research institutions and companies located there are supported in bringing research-based innovations and products to the market – by means of incubators, technology and start-up centres with laboratories, technical infrastructure, but also by means of access to capital, customers and mentors. As Head of the Future Locations office, Brain City Ambassador Steffen Terberl is responsible in particular for networking among Berlin’s Future Locations.

“We want everyone to know what Berlin’s Future Locations stand for and how research-based innovations have a positive impact on our lives,” says Steffen Terberl, who has been in charge of the office at the network since March 2022. What fascinates him most about his new job is the variety of innovative research and its possible applications. “It is always interesting to see which ideas and inventions researchers develop. Putting it in simple terms, it is not so easy to bring this from the laboratory to application so that society can benefit from it. That is why I find it exciting and challenging at the same time to create the right ecosystems for a transfer from research to application.” The Future Locations show how this can work. They are so diverse that they complement each other instead of competing with each other. “Our mission for the next few years is to create a leading European innovation space in the capital region, in which several thematically focused Future Locations are interlinked via a network,” explains Steffen Terberl.

The Brain City Ambassador brings with him a wealth of experience in the field of knowledge and technology transfer, most recently as Head of Profund Innovation, the start-up service of the Freie Universität Berlin. “For more than 15 years I have been supporting start-ups, utilising patents and initiating industry partnerships. On the one hand, it was obvious to me, but on the other hand it was also a challenge to help shape strategic and political processes throughout Berlin at an interface between politics, business and science. I have seen a lot in practice that is already going well. However, I also see development opportunities that Berlin should use to catch up with other leading economic areas.” He sees development potential for the Brain City Berlin above all in a knowledge-based, sustainable economy. “In my view, Berlin plays a leading role within Germany. This is where the concentration of bright minds from all over the world is highest. At the same time, there is not as much focus on path-dependent systems as in the leading German industrial locations, which view innovations primarily in evolutionary terms and often underestimate the disruptive character of new technologies.”

Berlin has a high concentration of bright minds and unique places where people are creative together and think beyond their own horizons.

The projects and topics that Steffen Terberl and his team are working on usually affect several Future Locations. “Such projects almost always involve technology- and topic-specific cooperation, where complete innovation ecosystems and value chains can only be mapped through networking and cooperation,” says Terberl, citing the field of biotechnology as an example: “The future technology and start-up centre in Dahlem (“FUBIC”), the BioCube in Berlin Buch and the development of the Potsdam Science Park in the immediate vicinity of Berlin will significantly enhance the area. In addition, Bayer and Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin recently signed an agreement for a joint cooperation centre. A space is therefore potentially emerging in the region between Buch and Golm, in which the activities of players in the field of biotechnology can interlink.” Models for this “Biotech space” could be concepts such as the innovation axis between the Technology Park Adlershof and Lusatia, which focuses on topics such as “energy” and “new materials”.

Steffen Terberl came to Berlin back in 2010: “I applied for the position of Head of Profund Innovation in the traditional way and got the job. Before that, I was working in a similar position at the University of Paderborn.” His current spouse, born in Berlin, accompanied him to the capital. Although Steffen Terberl now lives in Brandenburg because he loves the contrast between nature and urbanity and it is only 30 minutes by train to the city from there, he still feels at home in Berlin. There is a good reason for this: “It is the high concentration of bright minds and unique places in Berlin where people are creative together and think beyond their own horizons. These people are an inexhaustible source of potential innovations for my work and create good conditions for their realisation.”

However, according to Steffen Terberl, newcomers can quickly be overwhelmed by the city. “You often see that scientists stay in their silos and communities. But the great thing about Berlin is that everything is here and you can find experts for every subject. In this regard, I advise everyone to research which communities and networking opportunities exist in Berlin that are useful for them. They can then get into conversations with people who they did not know before.” The Brain City ambassador has another tip ready for all those who would like to start their career in Berlin science: “I notice time and again that many young researchers think about their career prospects after their doctorate at a very late stage. There are excellent opportunities to obtain information and train. That should happen at the latest when entering the postdoc phase.”

It is important to be honest and open with yourself. “There are excellent career opportunities in science management or even in your own start-up. Look at your research laterally and be inspired by people outside science. After all, according to Steffen Terberl’s experience, scientists today have to be subject specialists on the one hand, but on the other hand they also have to bring along a broad repertoire of key competences.

In order to enable young people in science to have such a change of perspective and to make new career paths visible, however, Steffen Terberl believes that today’s science system must also change: “It has to become more permeable.”  (vdo)



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