• “So that innovation history can be written in Berlin again”

What do “Sciencepreneurs” appreciate about Berlin? Why is the connection between business and science so important? And what role do Berlin’s future locations with their ecosystem for science-based companies play in Brain City Berlin? The short film “Science-Tech Start-ups in Berlin” provides insight into the start-up scene at the eleven Berlin “Zukunftsorte” (“future locations”) as a prelude to the “Science-Tech Campaign”.

Steffen Terberl, Brain City Ambassador, Head of the Zukunftsorte Berlin office, tells us in a Brain City interview more about the Zukunftsorte project, with which the Senate Department for Economic Affairs, Energy and Public Enterprises aims to strengthen the city further as a location for future industries and technologies, and he also speaks about the new film.

Mr. Terberl, in the current Science-Tech Campaign you represent the Berlin Zukunftsorte Berlin-Buch, Siemensstadt Square, the Technology park Berlin-Humboldthainthe Science and technology park Adlershof, the Campus Charlottenburg and the Business and science location Berlin-Schöneweide. What makes these six locations so special? 

The six future locations that appear in the film are characterised by numerous existing scientific institutions and their start-up ecosystems in the science-tech sector. With their networks, start-up centres and transfer support, they offer an ideal breeding ground for deep-tech start-ups.

What do you want to achieve with the short film?

With this film, we want to make even more people aware of this ecosystem and get them involved. Berlin is an important founding location for start-ups in the science-tech sector. Not only delivery services and online retailers are being founded here, but also many innovative companies that could significantly change our future for the better with Artificial Intelligence, cleantech and biotech.

What connects the eleven Berlin future locations? Thematically they are defined differently. 

That’s right, the future locations cover a very broad range of topics and are at different stages of development. What connects them is the interaction between science and business. Spatial proximity simplifies collaboration between relevant stakeholders: Here research happens at the location of value creation; the path from the idea to the finished product is short and effective.

What is the aim of the future locations? And what does their innovative strength come from?

Around 1900, Berlin was Europe’s largest industrial city; production, development and experimentation were already taking place here. The aim of future locations is to create the ideal conditions for innovation history to be written again in Berlin. The use of synergies is playing an increasingly important role. Today we know that knowledge sharing and collaboration between diverse teams ensures higher performance and promotes creativity. That is exactly what the future locations embody.

What makes Brain City Berlin generally so successful in the area of knowledge and technology transfer?

From my point of view, there are three main factors:

  • Firstly, we have a critical mass of stakeholders with the necessary expertise for almost all topics. This is important for research alliances, for example, but also in order to be able to cover the relevant transfer topics of our time as fully as possible with the necessary expertise. The scientific institutions are increasingly positioning themselves in associations in such a way that external stakeholders from business and society can access the entire offer as easily as possible – see, for example, the Berlin University Alliance, the IFAF as a joint research and transfer institution of applied universities or BR50 as a network of non-university research institutions.
  • Secondly, we have a very dynamic environment with numerous important external stakeholders who are potential application partners. These include the numerous important political institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), outstanding cultural institutions and one of the most active start-up scenes in all Europe.
  • Thirdly, we have the necessary infrastructure and networks in the future locations so that the local transfer can be particularly successful and effective.  

What significance do Berlin universities and universities of applied sciences have for Berlin as a business and innovation location?

It is well known that the German economy is only internationally competitive if it constantly reinvents itself and brings innovations to the market. Scientific institutions are important partners in the development of such innovations. Above all, they provide the urgently needed workforce with their graduates. Artificial intelligence and increasing automation mean that the proportion of creative innovation work is increasing, making highly qualified academics indispensable for the labour market. The numerous spin-offs from Berlin's scientific community should also not be underestimated. As we have very few large companies in the region compared to most regions in western and southern Germany, we need the many start-ups all the more for the economic development of the region.

Can you give examples of successful start-ups from within the university?

We show some examples in the film. We have deliberately selected very young start-ups such as the biotech start-up MyoPax or Yoona.AI, which still have to prove themselves on the market. However, there are also science-based spin-offs in Berlin, such as SicoyaXolo or T-Knife, which are already a significant step ahead, have already raised larger financing packages and are expanding internationally. It has to be said that the ecosystem of science-based start-ups is only just growing out of its infancy and is only now really gaining momentum.

Scientific spin-offs often face particular challenges. Rare laboratory workstations are one of them. What special support and funding do start-ups receive from research at Berlin’s future locations? 

Yes, a lack of laboratories is a major bottleneck that will only be resolved with the recent opening of the BioCube in Berlin-Buch and soon with the FUBIC innovation campus in Dahlem. Infrastructures such as maker spaces, testbeds or 5G campus networks, which innovative start-ups need, especially in the initial phase, are also important. They also receive support from the incubators at their colleges and universities. These include, for example, access to financial support such as the Berlin Startup Scholarship or EXIST, scientific expertise, access to premises and equipment, mentoring and coaching as well as contacts with business angels and investors. The networks with other young and established companies in the future locations are also very important.

We are about to start 2024: What would you like to see for the future of the Zukunftsorte Berlin?

Most Zukunftsorte are still at the beginning of their development. In fact, the development processes are very lengthy and complicated. FUBIC will have taken over a decade to complete when it is launched in 2025. And at Urban Tech Republic there are still many question marks regarding further implementation – to name just two examples. For the future, I would like the development of the Zukunftsorte Berlin to be given higher priority in politics and administration; after all, our future also depends on the innovations and jobs that will one day be created there. (vdo)

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