Attracting companies with matching profiles: the future on 300 hectares in Marzahn
A new place of the future, a so-called “Zukunftsort”, with industrial tradition and growth potential is being developed in the north-east of Berlin
“We could have filled this park three times over by now,” says Lukas Becker, chief project manager of CleanTech Business Park Berlin-Marzahn (CBP) at WISTA Management GmbH. The state-run operating company and business promotion agency has been responsible for developing and marketing the park since April 2021. Right now, there are still water buffalo grazing there. Why? Because WISTA’s experience in Adlershof has shown that the sustainable success of such a location requires two things: staying power and a well-thought-out strategy. Under certain circumstances, this may also include water buffalo for conservation purposes. Lech Suwala of Berlin’s Technical University could not agree more. He heads the Urban and Regional Economics department at the Institute of Urban and Regional Planning. “We’re looking at periods of 15 to 20 years before we have an integrated region producing future innovation in Berlin’s northeast, what we call Zukunftsorte (‘places of the future’); attracting companies is only the first step.”
The name Marzahn is Slavic and means settlement in the swamp. Before, in 1973, socialist East Germany decided to solve the “housing question” here by building large-scale, industrially prefabricated residential buildings – the so-called “Platte”, meaning panel –, the area was home to an old village centre, scattered manufacturing companies, and, above all, drain fields. Whenever Marzahn is mentioned, one faces a fair amount of prejudice. However, the projects currently underway point in a different direction: The swampland is bent on becoming a Zukunftsort, a place generating future innovation. Historically, the district is the youngest of Berlin’s twelve districts. It is home to 260,000 people, green, and, compared to other areas in Berlin, relatively affordable. This attracts young families – who move into single-family homes or panel houses, the “Platte”.
Economically speaking, Marzahn also has a lot to offer. However, even many residents know little about all the things that are coming out of their district. Between the river Wuhle to the north, Märkische Allee in the east, and on Boxberger Strasse in the south, numerous world market leaders, start-ups, skilled trade businesses, and almost 200 manufacturing companies are hard at work. At its Marzahn-based branch, the company Knorr-Bremse Systeme für Schienenfahrzeuge GmbH has set up a comprehensive service and logistics centre. Customers from Germany, Switzerland, and Poland are serviced exclusively from the central warehouse in Berlin. Hasse & Wrede GmbH is a world market leader in the manufacturing of torsional vibration dampers for diesel engines. In the middle of all this lies the CleanTech Business Park Berlin-Marzahn. With its 90 hectares, it is the largest cohesive area for manufacturing companies in Berlin, albeit largely undeveloped, and aims at providing future-oriented companies focusing on clean technologies and sustainable products with a place to grow.
“Companies from the fields of environmentally-friendly energy, sustainable mobility and water management, resource and material efficiency, or, say, green chemistry,” says Lukas Becker, outlining his fundamental and most difficult marketing task: carving out a profile for the site. If the park is to succeed, it must attract companies that match its profile. “To do so,” says Becker, “you must not only think about the 90 hectares that make up the park but also the total of 300 hectares of the surrounding commercial areas – the entire CleanTech Marzahn Zukunftsort.”
For this reason, Becker fetched some help. Lech Suwala is a specialist in urban and business development processes and has been a close observer of the development of the Science and Technology Park Adlershof over the past 20 years. Suwala and his students have now taken a close look at CleanTech Marzahn and developed a tentative package of measures. He identified more than 200 companies in the vicinity of the CBP that contribute to its profile. “However, one cannot simply take the Adlershof system and put it somewhere else,” says Suwala. Rather, one must take locally specific action, embrace local traditions, possibly establish an affiliated institute of a university, and create opportunities for combined vocational training and degree programmes in an effort to foster skilled workers and the next generation of staff for specialised technology companies working close to science and research.
The first step is to promote communication and networking: with the companies, between them, and beyond. “We must build awareness among all actors,” says Lech Suwala. “In the short term, we can do this through ‘round table’ events, open night events like a ‘Long Night of the Companies’, summer parties, or stands at nearby local train stations. In the medium term, we could include joint trade fair stands and, in the long term, business hubs for skilled trade firms, what we call “Gewerbestandorte 2.0”, to integrate the neighbourhood. It won’t work if we don’t take all people in Marzahn on the journey with us.”
First ideas have already been implemented. “Most local companies are very open-minded and are able to see the potential and the added value of joining forces and creating networks,” says Lukas Becker. Now a brand message is being developed. The access road to CBP – currently still a cul-de-sac with room for turning – will be extended and integrated, which will make it possible to create smaller subdivisions and plots of land with own access roads. “There is a demand,” says Becker, “the first contracts are already on the horizon.”
“Great for skating.” Becker still remembers the thought he had when he first saw Boxberger Strasse, the street connecting CBP and home to several world market leaders. The district is on the path of becoming an attractive place to live and work. The economic department of Marzahn’s local government is optimistic, too. It has put out a brochure called “Beste Aussichten” – meaning both “great views” and “bright prospects”.
Rico Bigelmann for POTENZIAL