Germany has the largest national economy in Europe. But recent figures reveal that “Made in Germany“ is losing appeal. “Standort Deutschland”—or the attractiveness of Germany as an economically strong location—is declining. Foreign direct investment is lower. And countries like the Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden now all rank above Germany as the most innovative in the world.
Concerningly, a more closed culture appears to be taking root. Positive images of German and foreign fans celebrating the World Cup in 2006 are reminiscent of a significant time: One when not only Germany’s image became international—but the country’s outlook.
Take Bavaria: Of the 400 world-market leading German companies, 101 of them come from this region. But there are many more that remain “unseen”. At a metropolitan level, Munich is an undisputed powerhouse. But it shows signs of friction like any other. The start-up culture could be more vibrant. And there’s an estimated skills shortage of over 100,000 workers. Even some of the well-established companies are profiting from previous cycles of investment. And delaying defining their digital strategies.
Cities can rise to these challenges—using space strategically. They must be inviting, offer quality of life, be modern and digital and enable companies to stay competitive. This isn’t achieved through co-working models. It’s about building smarter communities—at scale. Spaces that act as role models for other cities by cultivating a new way of thinking. Where international collaboration and clustering helps companies secure their market positions. Where companies are enabled to grow their innovative systems and culture, attract the foreign talent they need, and ensure the next generation of home-grown talent stays. Multiply the model, and this could truly shape an entire nation’s economic destiny.
This is exactly what LabCampus—the new innovation cosmos being built at the site of Munich Airport—is taking the first step towards. On a site the size of 70 soccer fields, or 500,000m², it’s literally breaking new ground. Over the years to follow—fresh, smart ways of collaborating between businesses and across industries will start to redefine how and with what reach, successful innovation happens. It will offer the right mix of people, industries, trends, creative spaces, amenities, technologies, partners and services. The perfect conditions for innovation. And with excellent international connections on the site’s doorstep, including access to 150,000 international visitors daily, LabCampus puts “Destination Innovation” on the European map.
From a city administrator’s perspective, smart urbanization is about using data-driven intelligence to improve livability for residents. But for economists, we open that up to include helping cities to create the right environments where companies and people can grow. Yes—this will be a smart city concept—already being built with partner MIT Senseable City Lab. But it’s the smarter community within it that may be the key to the attractiveness of Germany as a whole.
Managing Director, LabCampus