Hit the Ground Running in Berlin
One of Berlin’s clusters for economic development is ICT, Media and Creative Industries.
To find out more about the information and communications cluster encompassing media and the creative industries in Berlin, we spoke to cluster manager Amira Gutmann-Trieb. With unbounded energy and enthusiasm she manages strategic partnerships and connects Berlin newcomers to industry, science and governance.
Amira, where are you from and why did you settle in Berlin?
I am from England, from Dorchester, the heart of [Victorian era novelist] Thomas Hardy’s “Wessex” country. But I moved with my parents to Vienna, which was a perfect place to grow up. And I have lived and worked in Boston, New York, and London before finally settling in Berlin.
Berlin immediately felt like home. This is a place full of history and culture where you can think out of the box. It’s a great place to try out new things and transform your ideas into reality. There are strong ecosystems here in so many different fields. I came here and felt that I’d hit the ground running.
In my role as Cluster Manager for ICT, media and the creative industries I try to make the people and companies I support feel the same way when they come here, like they’ve hit the ground running.
What is the ICT cluster, what does it cover, what doesn’t it cover, and why is it important?
Our cluster Information and Communication Technology and Media and Creative Industries covers a huge bandwidth, 12 sectors in all. Especially in light of corona one can say at the heart of the cluster are the technologies that make up the backbone of the digital economy. With new tools available to address their customers globally, it is now effectively possible for any person to offer any product or service using lean, efficient processes for their business. This cluster is about supporting and connecting people in business, research, public administration who do that. Berlin’s lively startup scene is a sign of this. Our team helps by funding their ideas, connecting them to the ecosystem and networks in their area of expertise, and so create innovation and make steps forward.
Core tech fields in the cluster are of course AI, Blockchain, IoT, and VR/AR/XR to HMI. Berlin is a city of talent with a young international population and excellent universities and research institutions alike, as well as a lively startup scene. For the first time the startup heatmap 2021 put Berlin in front of London, interviewing founders over 29 countries. We can therefore couple research expertise with founding advisors, for instance.
Our strength is knowing and growing the ecosystems, which simply means working with and connecting the right people at the right time. Bringing people together is the heart of what we do. Which means we use our knowledge to get people into conversations so that they realize their innovations on the market.
I think about 42% of 314 financing rounds last year in Germany happened in Berlin. This city and region is about putting your ideas/innovations into reality. Just as an example, Adrian Locher und Rasmus Rother – founders of Merantix, an AI company builder – talked about setting up an AI hub in Berlin. Today the AI Campus is a reality already, a focal point where startups, research and business acumen come together!
As a capital region Berlin and Brandenburg are two halves of a whole. You can see that in terms of the smart city, smart country joint approach. Have a look at our brand new website to find out more about what we do in our cluster, digital-bb.de/en.
Berlin has always been about creativity and culture. Now we are shaping the profile of the city to add the technology element too.
How exactly do you support companies coming to Berlin?
Like the other clusters, we have a comprehensive service portfolio. So whether you want to find an office, or grow your team, or you require specific cluster benefits like access to certain networks or ecosystems, we can help you. We provide support whether you’re preparing to apply for the founder bonus, or a European call.
For example, we scan the calls that come out from the EU and from Germany and get in touch with people or companies when we see a potential fit. Then we provide a platform to inform yourself on details, pitch your ideas, and support you in finding suitable partners or establishing the proper consortia.
As I said, our work is all about connecting people, with the right timing to facilitate practical added value. Berlin Partner services kinda lock into each other. So I am ICT, with a special interest in the tech aspect, and my expertise is the ecosystems in this space. But we work closely with the other clusters Energy, Transport, eHealth and Photonics too. “Cross cluster”, we call it. When you bring two clusters together, you get the best innovations! It’s just one little facet of the innovation strategy 2025.
We support networks and cooperate with particular events, and hold many of our own. Now we are doing even more online events, which has the advantage that you don’t even have to be physically present in Berlin yet for us to potentially help you. There’s the Monday AI meet-up, for example. Or the Berchain Blockchain-in-use conference.
What kind of people reach out to you? Tell us about some of the companies you have helped.
We work with a diverse array of people, from companies, research institutions and public administrations. It could be an individual starting out, an established founder, researchers, business developers or managers from SMEs, or executives of huge corporations trying to improve their innovation management.
For instance, recently I met an Australian woman who has a great application idea for blockchain technology. She met with our team to find out and understand her specific needs and we helped her get the founder funding Berlin offers. She is now integrated into the blockchain community here, growing her business.
Or a professor from one of the universities had an idea, and we introduced him to a partner who became the first pilot customer and helped the idea go to market.
Or a network of SMEs, in the logistics sector, that reached out to us because they were wondering what the potential benefit of AI could be to them and their use cases. So we provided a special kind of training in AI provided by players from the AI field.
Or there’s a startup from France who are in quantum tech. This is a hot topic, from the application perspective as well as from the talent side. The company contacted us and said, “We have a first partner in Berlin, a test case, a pilot.” They needed to find affordable office space, and even more importantly, talent! They had heard that Berlin Partner and our ICT cluster can help. And we are!
Especially when companies already have international teams or connections, growth is possible with our help.
What are typically the tricky bits for the companies and for you?
Well, there is the bureaucracy, of course, such as visa applications, but that's what we're here for, to help people and companies navigate that. Our relocation experts are swift and know how to save you and your company time. And of course there’s framework and often legal issues, well I’m not a lawyer. But if an issue gets tricky, I know who can help!
What’s special about the support you can give?
Every larger city has an economic development agency. Here at Berlin Partner, we try to see the whole big picture across the sectors in order to help the people who get in touch with us, so that we understand their entire value chain, for instance, and can connect them to the right partners or potential customers. We have a number of services in our portfolio, to help for example with settlement, such as location or talent services.
Unique is our cluster approach. We have five in Berlin, of which I represent ICT, media and creative industries. So it’s my mission to help you whether you just want to dip your toe into the water here or make this city your home. My colleagues and I can help before you arrive, when you arrive, in growing your team, introducing you to researchers or potential partners here, providing access to the ecosystem or setting up meetings with players involved in your value chain.
I think it’s important that a city itself leads by example. The public administration is active in innovation, an example is a project that applies blockchain making the “digitalization of report cards” possible. This is a leaner approach for schools, teachers, parents and kids alike. So you know you are in a city looking toward the future and especially after this last year we understood what it's about.
It’s important to remember that we deal with people. The human element is central to innovation and especially to the digitalization of the economy. Especially after this last year we see cities, research, business and founders pull together to learn and improve. Our team supports these efforts of learning, innovating and growing. Our aim is to provide an individual approach to individual needs.
And it’s not just for tech or digital topics. They might be my focus, but if your trade is more traditional and starting to embrace digitalization, we work closely with the Digitalagentur Berlin to support small and medium-sized companies who realize they need to act now.
How much does your support cost?
Cost? It’s free. It’s a service of the capital region Berlin and Brandenburg.
And what (else) is special about Berlin?
Berlin welcomes international people and companies. I think we have about 170 nations represented in Berlin. Many of these international people, about 78% of them, are bilingual. Every fifth founder in Berlin arrived from abroad and is a Neuberliner (according to Migrant Monitor 2021). You can find your community here and the environment to get going and grow your business. And yet you are also free to do your own thing.
And of course Berlin is startup city nr 1 in Europe! Just ahead of London, Barcelona and Amsterdam. For us this means leaning forward and making sure we stay on top.
Amira, thank you for your enlightening and lively insight into the ICT, media and creative industries cluster in Berlin. It’s quite obvious that anyone in these sectors coming to this city will be welcomed with open arms as well as hands-on practical help by you and your team.
Interview: Olaf Bryan Wielk, ideenmanufaktur
Header image: © Berlin Partner