From vineyard to high-tech site
The site of the Technology Park Weinberg Campus in Halle has an interesting history - it has in the past been a vineyard, a racing track and barracks. Now, it is home to eastern Germany's second-largest technology park. Such a close network of businesses and research facilities which have set up operations here since 1993 is quite simply unique: Fraunhofer and Max Planck institutes and facilities run by the Helmholtz and Leibnitz Associations are side-by-side with university institutes and business incubation centres. The Invest Report Saxony-Anhalt spoke to one of the pioneers of this unique research environment, Prof. Wolfgang Lukas.
The Weinberg Campus started up in the 1990s. Did you ever think back then that it would grow so successfully?
Lukas: When I was asked to coordinate a new technology and business incubation centre, I did not even really know exactly what the term meant. What we did know was that it was eligible for funding, so we simply got going. The first research building was completed just a few months later, a modest 3,500 square metres.
That was, as we now know, that start of an impressive development.
Lukas: Indeed. The "Technology and Founder's Centre" now has five buildings, which house a whole range of small and medium-sized businesses. Some are new start-ups by former students at the university in Halle. Others come from other regions, and even from abroad. They now have 27,000 square metres. What they have in common is the desire to put innovative ideas into practice, and the park offers the best possible environment for this - as our figures show: since our launch, we have supported 164 start-ups.
How do you see the proximity to the university and non-academic research institutions?
Lukas: It is a real blessing. Many institutions work on similar projects. One of our stated focuses is protein research. This opens up great potential for partnerships. I am, of course, extremely pleased that the campus is soon to get another building. The university in Halle is planning a major new investment over the next few years. 30 million euros are to fund a new protein centre at the Weinberg Campus. This will be an excellent addition to our existing research infrastructure.
What is your recipe for success?
Lukas: Our key advantage is our flexibility. Another important factor is the good sector-specific structure, which produces great synergies. We are also the only site in eastern Germany which has dared to enter certain highly specialised areas, employing techniques others hesitate to introduce. For example, clean rooms. Laboratories offering this standard are extremely challenging to set up and operate, but they are vital for research.
In 2004, you set up the Weinberg Campus association. Why?
Lukas: It is intended to serve as a form of umbrella organisation; a common brand under which we all operate and pursue certain stated goals. I was looking for some kind of network which would give us a stronger voice and enable us to lobby together. Incidentally, I had the idea when on holiday in Norway. In Trondheim, I saw for myself just how well something like that can work.
What has the association already achieved?
Lukas: We started up in 2004 with just eight members. Now, we have nearly 100. They include not just scientists and businesspeople, but also regional politicians, which gives us a stronger voice in Magdeburg. Much has already been achieved. For example, we have been able to extend the campus to the neighbouring district, where guest houses for external scientists and visitors are now being built. Infrastructure development is one of our main concerns. We have long been campaigning for development of the access road to the campus, Gimritzer Damm.
Are you equipped for the future?
Lukas: Of that I am quite certain, but that does not mean things will run themselves. That is why we are currently working on drafting a concept for the future development of the technology park. The plans are also to enter new fields. We intend to publish our concrete plans in early 2013. Part of our concept for success is also not to focus exclusively on science. Improvements in infrastructure and quality of life and a family-friendly environment are similarly important, and we intend to continue working on this aspect in future.
Are you satisfied with what has been achieved so far?
Lukas: In principle, yes, but we cannot rest on our laurels. Your position can never be strong enough. That is why each new development is good news, for it is often the companies themselves and their research findings which give the technology park its national and international name. And that should remain the case in the future.
Author/photo: Ines Godazgar
Technologie- und Gründerzentrum
06120 Halle (Saale)
Prof. Wolfgang Lukas