Breeze-Team um Co-Founder Robert Heinecke (mittig) © Anne Gaertner

Harburg's founder scene on the rise

Startup Dock in Harburg to enhance Hamburg's renown as "Germany's Capital of Start-ups"

The former Harburg harbour is about to transform from a purely industrial quarter into one of Germany’s most innovative centres. Driven by the joint efforts of institutions such as TUTECH, Hamburg Innovation, the Hamburg Technical University and the Startup Dock, this process is already well underway. Harburg is set to become a place where the economy meets innovative start-ups – in a breeding ground for turning brilliant ideas into commercial success.

It all started in 1978, when the Hamburg Technical University (TUHH) was founded in Harburg. Hardly noticed by the general public, this university kickstarted reforms that eventually spread to Germany’s entire university scene. But above all, TUHH focuses on forward-looking issues such as green technologies, life sciences, aviation and maritime technologies. Establishing entrepreneurship as a new course of study was an innovation for a technical university.

Working space for teams of students

TUHH provides a basis for students and helps them become the inventors and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. To this end, a special workshop space has been established at the university. There, teams of students can realize ideas, develop forward-looking solutions, make essential contacts and form networks. Mentors provide vital business know-how. Special events open up new horizons. All this has led to a founder‘s culture that has made Hamburg an attractive scientific location for students who want to do their own thing.

Startup Dock in inland port

But new technologies and new ideas are only half the story. Equally important is the ability to develop new business ideas and establish an organization to realize them. That is the task of the Startup Dock, which is adjacent to the university in Harburg. Backed by the German Ministry of Economy and Science (BMWi), the project is conducted in co-operation with a comprehensive cluster of institutions and corporations.

The Startup Dock in the Schlossstraße in Harburg is full of founders. This cutting-edge building houses many eager young inventors who are determined to create something entirely new. Some sit in front of huge monitors while others have retreated to a corner to mull ideas. Small group discussions are underway all over the place.

Start-ups aiming for success

A board at the entrance lists companies heading to a new future. Visiolytics, for example, is developing new ways of analysing fluids while is working on solutions to optimize video content on the internet. Another company, Recalm focuses on active noise cancellation for seats. A company named Bluebird Mountain is developing a drone to rescue avalanche victims. Dr. Christian Salzmann, Executive Director of the Startup Dock, said: “Around 80 per cent of all start-ups will be successful,“ and points to Breeze Technologies that recently won the Hamburg Founders Award. Salzmann added: “Harburg offers an almost ideal microcosm for founding a company. This is where young companies find the best conditions for connecting to existing structures and profiting from an industrial environment that represents exactly the technology areas of the future.“

Innovative location in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region

Martin Mahn, CEO of TUTECH, and Hamburg Innovation agrees. Both privately-held companies are owned by the Hamburg Technical University and the City of Hamburg. They act as advisors, brokers, initiators and co-ordinators between universities and corporations in the region i.e. between research institutes and markets. They also promote networking between science, politics, administration and economy.

TUTECH is also backing the transition of Harburg’s former harbour from a purely industrial site into an area for studying, living and business. Mahn remarked: “This will become one of the most interesting innovative locations in Germany. We want to create a solid basis to drive research and the formation of new companies to benefit the Hamburg Metropolitan Region.“ Young companies will be unlikely to leave the region, if they have ideal conditions for their further growth. TUTECH works closely with the Startup Dock and TUHH and provides a co-working space and incubator, consulting, training and coaching services as well as support for business models and business plans.

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