News / Press

03. November 2020

“We are well-experienced”

Roland Sillmann, head of WISTA Management GmbH, about the skilled trades and high-tech, workshops versus working-from-home, and the “Gewerbehof 2.0”

Roland Sillmann, head of WISTA Management GmbH © WISTA

Berlin is characterised as a city for tech and start-ups. When and why did Berlin rediscover the skilled trades?

When you’re promoting technology centres, you need good suppliers and skilled manufacturers. For this, skilled trade businesses are very important. We can’t look at the skilled trades of the future the way we have done in the past. Digitisation and concentration processes are changing the skilled trades, value chains are changing. We must create a framework for this. We are looking forward to this task and are glad that the State of Berlin trusted us with it.

The skilled crafts and trades of the future – what do you think they will look like?

More interconnected than before. Skilled trade businesses will work together with high-tech companies. Sales but also manufacturing processes will become digital. Successful new types of companies, which we might not yet be able to imagine. In the field of technology, we have seen that proximity can create unexpected outcomes.

Which new challenges are the skilled trades faced with?

One great challenge – much like in the high-tech sector – is the struggle for finding workers. Another: Optimising working structures so that commuting – especially in Berlin – doesn’t end up making up 30 percent of the workday. One could also ask: How is it possible to work together – skilled trade businesses with each other, or with technology companies – and to position yourself on the market in a way that ensures sustainable success?

How can WISTA’s expertise help?

We are well-experienced in bringing together different types of companies and creating advantages for all of them. We have been doing so with science and business, young and established companies. We can also apply this expertise very well to connect skilled trade businesses with start-ups and technology companies, or with each other.

Gewerbehof – a local hub for skilled trade businesses – sounds a tad old-fashioned. Does adding the word “hybrid” make it more modern? What’s behind the idea?

It’s not about modernising a word. The idea behind adding “hybrid” is that two very different types of companies – start-up and technology companies, on the one hand, and skilled trade businesses, on the other – can come together in a new structure, which helps them work together and prepares them for the future. This is not going to happen in the old mixed-use courtyard. We want to create something new, something intelligent, something that matches the smart-city-related activities of this country.

So, in these new structures, is there also room for a kindergarten?

Exactly. Every location has different needs. When setting up these local hubs, our primary aim is on business promotion. However, if necessary, we can also integrate a doctor’s office, a space for sports and culture, or a kindergarten, if the surroundings demand it and if it’s not in the way of the hub’s actual work.

How high do you think the demand is for these hubs?

If you look at Berlin’s population numbers, at how scarce and expensive the available space is, and how quickly existing commercial spaces are converted into offices, there is a huge demand. We might not be able to satisfy it with the new spaces we’re creating. But we are creating an impulse and an offering that also aims to inspire, for example, to think about how to house more companies in the same space. With offices, this has long been achieved through co-working.

WISTA’s focus is on turning science into business. How does this go together with carpenters and hairdressers?

It goes very well with carpenters, not so much with hairdressers. Since we’re following a business promotion approach, our focus will be on skilled trade businesses that are integrated into value creation chains with a high potential for directly or indirectly creating jobs. Private investors like Pandion AG are realising similar ideas?

How is that project different from the WISTA’s concept for new skilled trade hubs?

Our primary goal is to promote business, not to generate profits. Our core question is the following: How can we support companies and how can we attract companies that create an added value by working together? We have no expectations for financial returns. Our goal is to create jobs and tax revenue. We expect returns at a city-level.

Which synergies to you expect, not only regarding the skilled crafts and trades, but also for WISTA?

One the one hand, when you bring together different company cultures and transfer those experiences to other fields or sectors, you learn exciting new things. On the other hand, a good structure for suppliers is very important to our technology companies in Adlershof, Charlottenburg, Dahlen, or Marzahn. If our goal is to create a framework for growth, we need access to knowledge and science, and workers. The whole system can only work if we have access to suppliers. For this reason, for securing this supply structure, we support skilled trade businesses.

People need work and affordable housing. What is the situation regarding the fierce battle between residential and commercial construction?

I wouldn’t call it a battle. Urban space is becoming scarce, but, at the same time, we don’t want to fill every last vacant lot. So, there will always be competition. A lot of residential housing was built in Adlershof. It was important to do so. If your aim is to attract talent to a location, it must have a certain urbanity. In this way, residential construction can be a means of business promotion. There are spaces where, surely, it makes sense to build a hub for skilled trade businesses, and there are others that should become apartments. We have to do both.

Interview by Rico Bigelmann for Potenzial – The WISTA Magazine


GEWERBEHOF 2.0 – a local hub for skilled trade businesses

  • Hybrid buildings:
    _ adapted to local needs
    _ ground floor and 1st floor: for trade and commerce
    _ upper floors: for start-ups and technology companies
  • Design:
    _ modular
    _ climate positive
    _ networked
    _ recyclable
    _ flexible
  • First locations: Spandau, Lichtenberg
  • Start of construction: 2021
  • Project developer: WISTA Management GmbH
  • Contact:
    Jörg Israel
    Phone: +49 30 6392-2216
    Email: israel(at)
Potenzial – The WISTA Magazine. Edition Berlin skilled trade hubs 2020