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Technology - the driving force behind business

Karlsruhe is the economic centre of a region which relies heavily on small and medium-sized businesses, despite being larded with such big names as Bosch, L'Oréal, Michelin and Siemens. Karlsruhe may not have survived the national and international slumps of the past completely unscathed, but it has been able to compensate them to a large extent - especially with regard to unemployment statistics. And when it comes to the creation of new, future-oriented jobs, the emphasis has definitely been on the technology sector.

Karlsruhe and the other towns and cities of the Middle Upper Rhine region were quick off the mark: In an age in which Europe is becoming increasingly integrated and business has to think in global rather than just local terms, parish-pump politics can hardly be regarded as a model for the future. In 1987, seven (now eight) cities and two districts joined forces with the fan-shaped city to create the "TechnologieRegion Karlsruhe". Their collective aim was to promote their strengths as a centre for both high tech - with Germany's highest concentration of technical know-how and research - and for high life, both within the region and beyond. The top rankings regularly enjoyed by the region in surveys conducted by renowned institutes, to say nothing of attributes such as "Europe's little tiger" are impressive proof that this was a shrewd move. The TechnologieRegion has been busy within its borders too: Not only has it streamlined its trade fair activities but its public transport network, the Karlsruher Verkehrsverbund, has become an object of praise and envy both at home and abroad. The most conspicuous evidence of the spirit of solidarity and innovative potential of this regional cooperation, however, is the Baden Airpark and Baden Airport in Söllingen.

Any city which sets its sights on innovation and creativity must of course provide scope for the creation of new ideas. The "Technology Factory" on the Haid-und-Neu-Strasse, a kind of breeding ground for top technologies, was the first pioneers' centre of its kind in Germany. Its primary objective is the transfer and application of the nearby university's research findings to marketable products and services. As a point of contact between research and business, the Technology Factory has long since come to rank among the largest and most successful projects of its kind in the country. Once an enterprise has become established, the Technology Park offers both space and scope for it to join in the concert of big names.

The information and communications technology sector has grown steadily over the past few years as more and more new businesses have been established. The "CyberForum" of the TechnologieRegion Karlsruhe is a response to this development: It was founded in July 1997 as Germany's first "virtual centre for business pioneers". With its worldwide data network, accessible at www.cyberforum.de, it now provides young entrepreneurs throughout the world - especially those in multimedia and the Internet - with services designed to help smooth the way to independence. These services include a kind of MOT for new businesses, as well as information on grants and advice on marketing, sales and legal matters. Further training seminars and coordinated image advertising and PR work help young entrepreneurs to stand on their own feet - and stay there too.

Technology and medium-sized businesses:
The region offers future-oriented jobs

The latest brainchild of this regional drive to attract new businesses is the "Karlsruher Existenzgründungs-Impuls" or KEIM, which is an alliance of over 100 partners from higher education, research institutions, private business and public administration. The aim is to encourage students to set up their own businesses and to begin actively preparing for this step even before completing their education. The KEIM concept was among the five winners selected from the 109 entries to the Federal Research Ministry's "Exist" competition, aimed at finding ways of promoting business enterprise among graduates.

Cities and municipalities wanting to secure a competitive advantage as a business location naturally have to do more than just ogle high-tech enterprises. After all, the true quality of a city both as a place to live and as a place to do business is also determined by existing economic structures, meaning trade, industry and the skilled trades too. This is what induced the city council, Chamber of Skilled Trades and Volkswohnung, a municipal housing developer, to set up the so-called Handwerkerhof in 1992: The 4,000 m2 of cheap commercial space is still occupied by young craft enterprises. The Gewerbehof, or trade centre, has also become a permanent fixture in Karlsruhe's economic landscape.

Thomas Nusche

Karlsruhe - a young city in the heart of Europe· The planning spirit which gave the city its face· From the seat of a court to a modern city
The cradle of democracy and seat of justice· A pioneer in science and research · It's always holiday time in Karlsruhe
Art combines the historical with the modern· Together with our partners into a European future· Milestones in Karlsruhe's history
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