• Campus Wilhelminenhof at the river Spree, Brain City Berlin

    A place of innovation and transformation

At the business and science location Berlin Schöneweide, tradition meets the ideas and solutions of tomorrow. The mixture of applied research, high technology and creative industries is characteristic of the third largest future location in the south-east of Brain City Berlin. The scientific nucleus of the area: the Wilhelminenhof campus of the HTW Berlin University of Applied Sciences. 

“Chicago on the Spree” – that is what Berliners called the industrial area that was built in the 1890s on a greenfield site in “Schöne Weyde” southeast of Berlin. Similar to the American boomtown, one of the world’s most important centres for the electricity and electrical industry developed rapidly here at the end of the 19th century in the “Electropolis” Berlin – conveniently located near the water. Electrical cables, lines and transformers in particular were produced in the workshops of the Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft (AEG). And in the production halls of the AEG subsidiary Nationale Automobil-Gesellschaft (NAG), cars, trucks, buses and even racing cars rolled off the production line. Schöneweide quickly grew into an industrial town, with housing for workers and employees, its own schools and sports grounds. Until the 1990s, the area stood for production, innovation and inventiveness. But the political, economic and structural upheavals after the fall of the Berlin Wall also left their mark here, and the traditional industrial location collapsed. 

Meanwhile, the tide has turned again. The business and science location Berlin Schöneweide is located today on the approximately 132-hectare historic site in the Treptow-Köpenick district: After the neighbouring Adlershof Science and Technology Park and the Urban Tech Republic TXL, which is being built on the site of the former Tegel Airport, it is the third largest of the eleven Zukunftsorte Berlin (Berlin future locations). The location is flourishing again – and this is mainly thanks to the close connection between the companies based there and science. Since 2006, the HTW Berlin has been located in the heart of the future location Schöneweide, at the Wilhelminenhof Campus. 9,000 students from over 100 nations study and research on campus in the fields of business, engineering, computer science, but also in creative areas such as design and culture.

Research and work on the banks of the Spree

“Schöneweide is a place of innovation and transformation with a focus on Industry 4.0, digitisation and the creative economy,” explains Prof. Dr. Annabella Rauscher-Scheibe, President of the HTW Berlin. “A unique selling point of the location is certainly the combination of tradition and the future, which can still be seen and experienced in the elaborately renovated industrial buildings. And of course the direct location on the Spree with the beach. That makes for a very special campus feeling.” HTW Berlin also fits in wonderfully with the art and culture location Schöneweide, which developed here after the fall of the Wall in wastelands, niches and industrial ruins, with creative-oriented degree programs such as fashion design, industrial design, communication design, clothing technology or game design.

In addition to the media and creative industries, the core business areas of Schöneweide are the high-tech areas of traffic engineering & mobility, energy & environmental technology, photonics & optics, IT & automation as well as microsystems & materials. More than 300 companies with over 3,000 employees have settled here since the late 1990s, when the location underwent a strategic reorientation – until it was officially named as a Berlin Zukunftsort (future location) in 2012. These include established stakeholders such as First Sensor AG, a supplier of electronic components, BAE Batteries GmbH and the Wilms Group, which manufactures products for cable production and plastic granulate in Wilhelminenhofstrasse.

Ideas in Action

However, the proximity to science and the creative industries, which is typical of Schöneweide as a business and science location, is not only interesting for the predominantly medium-sized companies based here, but above all for founders. One of the most established hubs at the location and at the same time one of the largest start-up centres in Berlin is the Technologie- und Gründerzentrum Spreeknie (TGS, German only), German only) Around 50 technology-oriented companies are based there on around 21,000 square metres of rentable office, workshop and laboratory space, around 8,000 square metres are reserved for science and research. The HTW Berlin has also accommodated courses and facilities here – in the immediate vicinity of the Wilhelminenhof campus. An example of the promotion of an interdisciplinary start-up culture among students and employees on campus is Ideas in Action (IDiA, German only). As a “precelerator”, the project provides ideal, spatial and financial support for innovative approaches in the early stages of implementation. “In this context, we have just set up the Maker Space as a creative and interdisciplinary centre on the Wilhelminenhof campus,” says Annabella Rauscher-Scheibe.

The university also promotes knowledge transfer and start-ups through an entrepreneurship professorship and numerous advisory services and formats. “These include the EXIST start-up grants, the Berlin startup grants and the Startup summer university. Under the project management of the Vice President for Research, Transfer and Science Communication, we also set up the InnoTechHub, an incubator for technology-oriented start-ups.” With success: Numerous start-ups were launched on the campus. For example Kiezbote (German only), a delivery service that transports packages in an environmentally friendly way by cargo bike. Spin-offs in the B-to-B sector are yoona.ai, an AI-based software solution for digitising and automating design processes in the fashion industry, Cleverlohn (German only), a digital payroll accounting solution or AiSight, an app with which machines in production can be monitored via the Internet.

Another plus of the Wilhelminenhof campus: At the same time, it is a real laboratory in which smart and sustainable solutions for the city of the future can be tested: “Examples are the Haus der Transformation (House of Transformation, German only) with a variety of activities, as well as the greening and redesign of the campus. This not only increases the quality of stay, but also tests new ways of adapting to climate change and improving sustainability,” says Annabella Rauscher-Scheibe. The campus buildings are also part of the concept. In the summer semester of 2023, four newly designed seminar rooms were opened as real laboratories. “Here, innovative and hybrid learning and working environments are not only developed, but are also tested and further developed in daily teaching.”

The visions for the Berlin Schöneweide future location tie in with the former heyday of the location. Up to 10,000 new jobs in the high-tech and creative industries are to be created at the location by 2030. Business and science should continue to grow together and discover and test innovative theme worlds. For example, at the Innovation and Technology Centre for the Digitalisation of Business and Industry 4.0. (ITZ 4.0), which is to be built near the Wilhelminenhof campus. Or in the Centre for the Textile Industry, also planned at the location, which is intended to activate HTW Berlin start-ups in this growing economic segment. The creative and cultural scene will also continue to have a stage in Berlin Schöneweide. An exciting mix. (vdo)

Berlin Schöneweide

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