From Worms to Hi-Tech
It all started with silkworms, before Adlershof was even given a name. Now the Berlin district is known for its huge and highly successful technology park.
In the south-east of Berlin, between the city centre and the pretty Müggelsee lake, lies Adlershof. The name means court of the eagles, and was bestowed on the area in 1754. Although the production of silk by cultivating mulberry trees and silkworms was largely given up, entrepreneurial spirit and scientific endeavour prevailed in this locality.
In the nineteenth century the railway came, and also the Treptow canal, connecting the area with the north and the east and thereby cementing the foundation for this as an important industrial and commercial area. Chemicals, insulated cables and tar began to be produced in Adlershof.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Adlershof infrastructure got another massive boost by the creation of the Johannisthal air field. In fact, the DLR, the German Aerospace Center, still has a number of departments here, including the Institute of Planetary Research, Transport Research, Transportation Systems, Vehicle Concepts, and Optical Sensor Systems.
Then came companies and organisations concerned with the development of radio and television, and in GDR times the establishment of a prestigious science academy. Products and innovations like ultra-short pulse lasers, time-resolved optical spectroscopy units, trifocals, and contraceptive pills were produced and to some extent even invented in Adlershof.
City Within The City: An Integrated Scientific and Business Landscape
With all this history, it is no surprise that Adlershof has today become the home of one of Europe’s prime science and technology parks. The Innovation and Business Incubation Centre IGZ led the way in 1991, quickly followed by the Centre for Photonics and Optical Technologies, the Centre for Environmental, Bio and Energy Technology, the Centre for Information and Media Technology, the Centre for Materials and Microsystems Technology, the East-West Co-operation Centre for Middle and Eastern European entrepreneurs, and many, many more.
Administered by WISTA, the tech park covers over 4 square kilometers and is home to well over a thousand companies, research centers, scientific institutions, the business incubator, a super-modern library, university departments, and the BESSY synchrotron.
A synchrotron, for those who didn’t know, is a sort of circular particle accelerator. In it, different sorts of particles can zoom around in a loop, which allows scientists to study their behaviour, composition, and electrical or magnetic properties. This is invaluable for research in biology, chemistry, physics, nanotechnology, medicine, pharmacology, geology, and more. BESSY and the 600 scientists who look after her are hard at work 24/7 slinging particles.
Furthermore, six departments of the Humboldt-University Berlin (chemistry, computer science, mathematics, physics, psychology, geography) with over 6000 students and nearly 1000 staff (including 130 professors) are based in the park. Then there are the dozen science centers or research institutes, many of them backed by Berlin or the Federal Republic of Germany, with over 2000 employees and post-graduates. Small wonder that science companies settle here, over 500 hundred of them so far, employing nigh on 8000 people.
One of the most modern libraries in Europe, the new Information and Communication Center "Erwin Schrödinger-Zentrum", is a computing center, library and a technology transfer point open to university and non-university institutions. Unfortunately, the library cat recently went missing.
It is not all hard-core science in the technology park. The Media City alone, for instance, covers 19 hectares (47 acres). There are around 190 media companies with almost 3000 employees in the television and media park.
Add to that the hundreds of commercial business and services and support companies with thousands more employees. The hundreds of millions of private and public funds that have been invested in Adlershof have paid off. All told, the 1200 companies and other institutions at Adlershof employ approximately 23,500 people and generate an estimated turnover of well over 2.5 billion Euro annually.
And what’s more, these many companies and institutions benefit from the proximity of their neighbours. Almost 90 percent of the companies cooperate with at least one partner, and 60 percent with three or more partners at the site.
Where Eagles Care to Live and Work
There’s more to Adlershof than just business and science. Around 20,000 people live in Adlershof, either in the modern part that has sprung up around the tech site, or in the old part that has managed to retain some of its charm. The residential areas are attractive because of the easy access they offer to Berlin city center as well as in the other direction to the countryside.
As Marcin Ratajczak, founder and CEO of Inuru, a tech startup that settled in Adlershof, says, “We tend to forget that work is done by human beings and these people need a good place to live. Adlershof is located in the best tech environment with proximity to our long term partners from AG KOCH and AG LIST KRATOCHVIL at the Humboldt University, has nature on the campus, and is just 30 minutes away from everything else that the human being desires.”
Asked what exactly he thinks the human being desires, Marcin says, “Berlin for me is long nights in dark smoky bars and cheap alcohol; Berlin is also nature, the Wannsee and its clear waters, and the woods surrounding it, as well as endless walks through parks.”
For the people working in Adlershof who do not live there, the location has the benefit of being easy to get to by road or public transport, and we have heard it say that many are glad that they do not have to commute into the city center to get to their jobs.
And speaking of access, here is a bit of trivia. The longest street in Berlin, the Adlergestell, begins in Adlershof and goes on for 11.9 kilometers, leading in an almost straight line all the way to the meeting of the three lakes at Schmöckwitz.
Text: Olaf Bryan Wielk, ideenmanufaktur
Header image: © WISTA.Plan GmbH/Fotograf Dirk Laubner