From its humble beginnings in 2006 with a single laboratory and two employees, this organisation has developed into a true success story. Today, over 200 staff are employed in Bremen at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), supported by more than 100 student assistants. They develop mobile robotic systems that can independently solve complex problems on land, in water, in the air and in space. The driving force behind this project is Professor Frank Kirchner, who was involved in establishing the Bremen facility and is now opening up new perspectives with his idea for a company.
While studying at the University of Bonn, Kirchner attended a lecture which gave him a lot to think about. The topic? Theoretical computer science. Kirchner was fascinated by the idea that systems exist which cannot be accounted for by mathematics. Alongside this, he studied the scientist Alan Turing, who was researching artificial intelligence at the start of the 20th century and developed a test which can be used to compare the intelligence of a machine with that of a human. “If they are equal, does that mean that humans are also machines, and can therefore be manipulated? This question astounded and scared me at the same time, but it piqued my interest. At the same time, even then I knew that researching artificial intelligence means that we are obliged to keep people continuously informed about the status of our research,” says Kirchner.
At the end of the 1990s, Kirchner moved to the USA and accepted a professorship in robotics at Northeastern University in Boston. “Artificial intelligence was always my focus. It’s not a computer program – it is embedded in a robotic system which is made of aluminium and copper wires and which has contact with the real, unpredictable environment. Finding the solution to this challenge is our core task.”
While Kirchner had been studying, completing his doctorate and moving to the USA, computer science in Germany was advancing rapidly. In the 1970s, the first computer science professorships were established at universities. Thanks to the contributions of scientists such as Kurt Gödel and John von Neumann, Germany played a significant role in researching artificial intelligence. For this reason, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) was founded as a non-profit public-private partnership. A number of places tried to attract the new organisation, and it was Kaiserslautern and Saarbrücken that ultimately prevailed. And for good reason: in the early 1990s, scientists in a team led by Professor Wolfgang Wahlster, scientific founding director of the DFKI, laid the foundations for Siri, Alexa and co. with “Verbmobil”, their speech recognition and translation system.
In light of all these rapid developments, in 2002 Kirchner was faced with a choice: to stay in Boston or to return to Germany. In the end, Professor Bernd Krieg-Brückner from the Department for Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of Bremen asked Kirchner to accept the first professorship of robotics in Bremen.
There were two key reasons for my decision to go to Bremen: firstly, I could establish a department of robotics at the university. Secondly, the University of Bremen was the only facility at the time which offered a Dual Career Programme and could therefore offer my wife an interesting position as well.
Professor Frank Kirchner, Head of the Robotics Innovation Center at the DFKI
From 2002, Kirchner held the professorship of robotics in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science. “It was an exciting time – little by little, hardware, sensors and chips were becoming more powerful and opening up more and more possibilities.” Thanks to Krieg-Brückner and his contacts at the DFKI, the idea of establishing a DFKI laboratory in Bremen was born. “Initially, I thought it was crazy, but I was soon convinced. The authorities in Bremen and the regional government’s commissioner for technology were also enthusiastic,” explains Kirchner. With support from the state of Bremen and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the DFKI laboratory for robotics and secure cognitive systems opened in February 2006. “At the start, I lost sleep wondering whether we would even manage to pay the rent,” recalls Kirchner. The DFKI rented the laboratory at 5 Robert-Hooke-Strasse, where Kirchner began work with just two employees.
In hindsight, these worries were unfounded – the projects kept coming. “We owe our success in large part to our highly-motivated employees. They simply enjoy their work and have always persevered, even if we failed to win a project every now and then.” After three years of successful development work and exceeding target agreements, the laboratory’s preliminary status was lifted in 2009 and Bremen became the third fully-fledged DFKI facility. “At this point we really have to praise the vision of the federal state of Bremen, as they invested in AI at a time when hardly anyone was even talking about the subject, let alone spending billions worldwide on its development. This is the reason why Bremen is among the global leaders in AI today,” Kirchner elaborates.
Just a year later, the space exploration hall was constructed as an extension to the DFKI’s main building, measuring 24 metres in length, twelve metres across and ten metres high. Here, space robots can be tested under realistic conditions – such as on the nine metre wide cratered terrain. Additionally, the ceiling of the hall is high enough that flight systems and interactions between satellites and robots can be tested. The costs for building and fitting out the hall – around €600,000 – were shared equally by DFKI shareholder Astrium, Bremeninvest and the DFKI.
2014 saw the construction of the 1,300m² maritime exploration hall. New robotic technology is tested for use in and on water in saltwater pools, test pools, a virtual reality laboratory and a pressure chamber. The hall was built at the new headquarters of the DFKI at 1 Robert-Hooke-Strasse. There has also been growing public interest in the DFKI’s research activities. Kirchner has remained true to his promise to keep people continuously informed about the current progress of artificial intelligence research. Among other initiatives, the organisation regularly holds open days. “We had five visitors on our first open day – now, we have over 1,000,” says Kirchner. “We couldn’t be happier. After all, 75 per cent of our funding comes from public funds and 25 per cent comes from industry – so it’s our responsibility to show people what we are doing.”
High demand from industry brings huge potential with it. However, as Kirchner explains, “We at the DFKI aren’t allowed to make any profit from the results of our research. But there would be many opportunities to develop marketable products on the basis of our results. The other problem we face is that we are only ever able to offer our employees limited, project-specific contracts and they could earn more by working in industry.” In order to avoid losing long-term employees entirely to industry and to be able to offer them career prospects, Kirchner is planning to found a company. Or rather, his employees will.
Everything should be in place by 2018. The employees will own the company; based on their expertise and the solutions offered by the DFKI’s research, they will develop and market new products. Kirchner has already secured commitments from investors and from the commercial department of the state government. It is clear that this venture has great potential, especially in the Bremen-based aerospace industry, and the project is now moving into the advanced planning stages. However, products will also be developed for other sectors such as underwater technology, Industry 4.0, rehabilitation robotics, machine learning and web-based platforms or tools.
The planned location is 5 Robert-Hooke-Strasse. “For me, this nicely closes a circle, as this is where we at the DFKI first started out,” says Kirchner. To make space, the DFKI employees at number 5 will move to number 1, as a further extension will be built behind this building in the near future, allowing more space for further research into artificial intelligence.
Your contact persons for moving to Bremen are Thorsten Tendahl, team leader for national relocations, +49 (0)421 9600 121, firstname.lastname@example.org and for international relocations Andreas Gerber, team leader of Bremeninvest, +49 (0)421 9600 123, email@example.com.
If you want to know more about Bremen Technology Park, please contact Anke Werner, +49 (0)421 9600-331, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In this article, you will find out why Bremen Technology Park is so successful.
In 2019, many people are seeing their energy costs rising yet again. Intelligent energy solutions that use solar panels and storage batteries can save quite a bit on electricity. And ADLER Solar from Bremen know how.
In January 2018, WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH opened an office in Ho Chi Minh City. Bremen was the first federal state with its own representative office in Vietnam. Manuel Kühn, WFB Project Manager International Settlement, explains in an interview why this proved to be a really good idea.
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Every year, the movers and shakers of the space industry gather at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC). From 1 to 5 October, it will be Bremen’s turn to host the event. A team from the Center of Applied Space Technology and ...
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Good ideas may be rare, but imitators are easy to find. Which makes it all the more important to secure patents for new inventions. Bremen-based InnoWi helps companies and the research community to register new patents, and is also on hand to provide advice and access to funding.
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Fish fingers have been made in Bremerhaven for almost 60 years. Over this period, they have withstood all food trends and are more popular today than ever before. On average, each German consumer eats 24 of them a year. And they were probably made in Bremerhaven, the fish finger capital.
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The depths of the ocean remain one of the last great mysteries on Earth. What is the precise composition of the seafloor? What flora and fauna inhabit it? Where has the delicate balance of the ecosystem been seriously disrupted? We still don’t have complete answers to any of these questions, but four young scientists from Bremen are aiming to change that.
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Bremen is known in China as one of the world’s major ports. But that’s just one of the factors attracting Chinese companies to our Hanseatic city.
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Space is not just a man’s business. The global network Women in Aerospace (WIA) aims to increase women’s leadership opportunities and visibility in the space industry – also in Bremen. An interview with Antonella Sgambati und Michela Cantisani, coordinators of WIA Bremen.
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Chinese honey has come a long way – and in January 2018, ten containers full arrived in Bremerhaven from China. But is it actually organic? It certainly is – Lin Zhao, managing director of Dewin, works closely with laboratories in Bremen to confirm the quality of his honey. The proximity to these laboratories was a deciding factor in his choice of location for his business.
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When it comes to Brexit it’s not about a hard-fought international contest to attract relocating businesses; it’s about coming together to manage the change, says Andreas Gerber of Bremeninvest in our interview.
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Dr Zareer Dadachanji was not going to wait around for Brexit to happen, and has held a German passport since the beginning of the year. He firmly believes that Brexit has no plus points. He and his wife have chosen to locate their new business – Model Quant Solutions – in Bremen, despite the fact that the company’s customers are mainly based in the UK.
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Low property prices and a good infrastructure – logistics real estate in Bremen is the sort of thing many investors dream of. But anyone wanting to take advantage needs to be quick, because vacant spaces are getting increasingly rare, as the 2017 real estate report from Bremeninvest shows.
Quinoa is already very popular, but hardly anyone in Europe is familiar with purple corn powder. Peruvian Alejandro Leon has founded a company in Bremen, Albrecht und R GmbH, through which he imports and export fruits and vegetables from South America, and he is a firm believer in the health benefits of eating purple corn.
Space technologies have advanced greatly in recent years, leading to increasing demands from the business and research sectors. To meet these requirements, Bremen University now offers unique master’s degrees in Space Engineering and Space Sciences and Technologies.
Buoyant mood thanks to record take-up rate, encouraging market trends and strong occupancy levels. The 2017 Bremen property market report shows once again that the city is an attractive location for investors and developers.
Formula Student is a world-wide competition for self-built racing cars, with the season’s final race held at Hockenheim. A Bremen-based team has been taking part in the competition with an electric racing car since 2013, and their ambitious goal is to break into the top ten.
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Stathis Stasinopoulos was unable to find the perfect folding bicycle for his commute to work across Athens. So he developed his own. The bike, called ‘Folding Project’, is lightweight and comfortable and folds up in five seconds. This has given Stasinopoulos an unexpected new direction in life.
The research alliance ROBEX is sending robots up active volcanoes and down into the deepest and darkest seas. Working across disciplines, the 120 scientists of the 16 institutes involved are breaking new ground on this project. They have been eagerly waiting to find out what has happened to the TRAMPER diving robot, which has been exploring the deep seas around Spitsbergen for a year. Now they are ready to bring it back.
A growing number of companies are becoming more aware of their social and environmental footprint, and are looking for ways to act with greater environmental and social responsibility. Germany’s north-west is set to become the national centre for social entrepreneurship in logistics. A new platform is under development and the first round of events is being planned to achieve this goal.
This new master’s degree at Bremerhaven University of Applied Sciences prepares students for the future and offers them excellent job prospects.
As both Airbus and Mercedes already know, when it comes to infrastructure and commercial property, businesses should look to Germany’s north-west. To Bremen, to be more precise. The Hanseatic city boasts the following five locational factors.
BLG Logistics Group is a major player in logistics with 18,000 employees. It established the Digilab in Bremen as a core element of its digitalisation. The company’s premises are reminiscent of start-ups in Silicon Valley, and there are good reasons for that.
Irina Lucke has been at the helm of WAB since December 2016. We talked about her role in the german-wide trade association and the challenges that an ever-changing business and regulatory environment poses for the international wind energy industry.
In June 2016, the UK voted in favour of Brexit, and the exit negotiations are currently in progress. Which industry sectors in Bremen will be particularly hit, and what effect will Brexit have on the Hanseatic city?
FabLab Bremen invites visitors to learn about new manufacturing technologies and try their hand at everything from laser cutters to printing and programming. Digital technology enthusiasts of all ages and programmers of all abilities are welcome here. And it is not long before they can put what they have learnt to good use.
Bremen's sweetest side is made of chocolate. No matter whether it’s milk or dark chocolate, nougat or marzipan. Take a walk around Bremen and taste it.
The founders of Mac Panther Materials, two brothers from Bremen, produce an open-cell metal foam for use in a number of different applications. Its secret lies in the production process that is based on a brilliant and yet simple idea.
An engine under the bonnet drives the wheels – this is the configuration that has been powering cars for over a hundred years. However, wheel hub motors – i.e. motors in the hub of the wheel, not under the bonnet – promise many advantages. Electric drive systems make this possible.
The digital revolution has reached every branch of industry. Many of the technological trends associated with the Industrial Internet of Things originated in Silicon Valley. Rene van den Hoevel, managing director of the German American Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco, and Christoph Ranze, managing director of encoway GmbH and executive board member of the association bremen digitalmedia, explain why it is not only large corporations who should be looking closely at the epicentre of technological advancement.
In the space of just a few years, the maritime city of Bremerhaven has developed into a service centre for the seafaring and shipbuilding industry. At the centre of it all is the company German Dry Docks, whose managing director, Guido Försterling, has already heralded the era of ‘seafaring 4.0’.
Bionics is the application of forms and functions found in nature to technology. Marine biologist Dr Christian Hamm and his team of researchers in Bremerhaven are leading figures in this field thanks to ELiSE. They are particularly interested in the tiny, yet incredibly complex, diatoms – nature’s experts in lightweight construction.
How will Brexit affect the trading of goods between the UK and the EU? Our guest contributor Anja Markmann, who is responsible for customs and international trade law at Bremen Chamber of Commerce, explains what is likely to change from April 2019 onwards.
The multi-million-mile journey of the Ariane 5 rocket begins in Bremen, while that of Spacelab came to an end here in 1999, after 15 years of service with 22 missions to outer space. Ariane Group in Bremen is the ideal place to experience the history of space travel.
A new process has been attracting attention in the food industry. Developed by the Bremerhaven Institute for Food Technology and Bioprocess Engineering, the new method enables deep frozen fish to be defrosted in record time. And the fish tastes as fresh as the day it was caught.
For over 15 years, Jacobs University in Bremen has attracted young, talented individuals from all over the world. Students from 106 countries make up a community that contributes to academic achievement and produces graduates that are highly sought after by companies.
Fiona Moore is originally from Burton-on-Trent, near Birmingham, and now works as a freelance translator in Bremen. She fell in love with Bremen in her early twenties. That was back in 2000, but 17 years later she is still as enchanted by the city as she was on the first day. She tells us about settling in Bremen, about her family and about being fortunate to have found a home in here.
Photography studios, workshops and professional kitchens are rarely fully occupied round the clock. So why not let others share them? The german start-up Craftspace brings together providers of production spaces with entrepreneurs, small business owners and artists on a single online platform. It’s an arrangement that benefits everyone.
It’s an adventure playground for kids, an idyllic sanctuary for couples, and a quiet retreat for those looking to escape from stress – from joggers and Nordic walkers to lovers of nature and culture, the Bürgerpark in the centre of Bremen has something for everyone. For the last 150 years, this protected heritage site in the centre of Bremen has relied solely on the support of donations to keep it open and well-maintained.
A great deal of manual labour goes into aircraft construction. Despite this – or perhaps even because of it – Airbus is changing its approach to make increased use of digital technologies. It’s also researching the applications of new manufacturing technologies such as 3D printing. And not a moment too soon, as Airbus’ site manager in Bremen, Dr André Walter, explains in our interview.
GeoSea, a subsidiary of the Belgian DEME group, is helping to construct of some of the largest offshore wind farms in the German North Sea – and in Bremen, the company has found the ideal location to carry out its work.
Art, design and people with disabilities make up the fascinating focus of the work of two young designers from Bremen. Working together with employees from community-based workshops, they develop and improve on designs for handmade products – and are continually thrilled by the potential they see in their co-designers.
Companies wishing to access the European market should be careful about their choice of location. Brexit could result in significantly higher financial and tax burdens for UK-based companies. Under these circumstances, setting up a base on the continent might be a better option. Find out what challenges companies will be facing.
Environmentally friendly manufacturing and ethical standards are the principles on which the fair trade clothing sector is based. Leela Cotton, a successful German-Turkish textile company, produces clothes for children and adults that are not only stylish, but also make a positive contribution to the environment in the way they are manufactured.
Why have so many IT companies chosen to establish themselves in Bremen? We asked five key business figures and researchers from various organisations to tell us what makes the city such an attractive location for the IT sector.
3D imaging with millimetre accuracy for underwater industrial activities and deep sea exploration – company founder Jakob Schwendner has a very clear goal. The first prototype of a camera with brand new sensor technology was built in Canada and presented to industry professionals at the Ocean Business conference in Southampton, United Kingdom, in April.
The Bremen Hansalinie Industrial Estate is a successful business park that is currently undergoing expansion. Several major logistics companies have based themselves here, developing increasingly sophisticated processes that aim to optimise just-in-sequence production for the automotive industry.
Of all the states in Germany, Bremen has the highest density of major research institutions in relation to its population – a fact that also benefits those who study there. It offers a range of international education opportunities for prospective academics with strong practical relevance and research activities that span a diverse range of fields.
Weatherproof displays for transport services, and screens that don’t produce glare in bright sunlight – these are just some of the devices provided by AlfaNet Computer und Electronic Handels GmbH, a Bremen-based company founded nearly 25 years ago by Thomas Lie.
They came, they saw, they marvelled – Chinese business people in Bremen visited the Mercedes-Benz plant and were surprised to find that an automotive manufacturer with a vast robot workforce was also Bremen’s largest employer, with just under 13,000 (human) employees. But where do they all work?
Three continents, four countries, and Bremen at the centre of it all – a start-up could hardly be more international. The young entrepreneurs Ahmed Cheema and Stefan Kuzmanovski want to make sustainable manufacturing and the use of ethically sourced materials standard practice.
Lighter, more bespoke and more intricate: for companies open to new ideas in manufacturing and construction, metal parts produced by 3D printers present an economic alternative to conventional die cutting, rolling and milling. Leading the way is Materialise, a company with its own metal printing plant in Bremen.
Bremen has been twinned with the city of Dalian in north-eastern China since 1985. Find out more about the similarities and connections that the two port cities share.
Up to now, cricket has been very much a niche sport in Germany. But that is changing. In Bremen, a woman is calling the shots in this male-dominated sport – with great success. Her men’s team are the 2016 German cricket champions.
Wearables and smart glasses provide hands-free digital information. A visit at the headquarter of the global market leader for Industrial Wearable Computing, Ubimax in Bremen.
In 2016, companies invested a combined total of €229 million in the federal state of Bremen. Where do these investors hail from, how many jobs have they created, and what is their line of business? Our infographics provide an overview.
How will the UK’s impending exit from the EU affect the logistics sector? Günther Hörbst, Managing Director of the Via Bremen Foundation, on the economic links between the United Kingdom and the EU
The Chinese designer Haoyu Li combines his German design degree with Chinese business acumen. Now he is opening a design office in Bremen, with the aim of making it easier for Chinese products to enter the German market, and to bring German brands to China.
Keen to remain in Bremen? Then why not combine residency status with self-employment? Manuel Kühn from Bremeninvest’s welcome service knows all about how a start-up could allow British citizens to beat Brexit and kill two birds with one stone.
From initial idea to successful move. Andreas Gerber, who heads up the international relocation team at Bremeninvest, knows what international companies need to do to set up a business in Bremen. Here he tells us about the most important steps on the ...
BLG LOGISTICS GROUP AG & Co. KG’s AutoTerminal in Bremerhaven is a record-breaking automotive hub. Every year, the terminal handles some 2.3 million vehicles. But that’s not all.
Going it alone is rarely an easy option. Co-working enables entrepreneurs to work in a shared space and experience the benefits and synergies that come with this. There are nine co-working spaces in Bremen – which one is right for you?
Permits and authorisations, a mountain of applications and a language barrier too. These are just some of the difficulties you face when starting a business abroad. Luckily, an advice centre opened in Bremen in early 2015 that can help you through the jungle: Bremeninvest’s welcome service.
Geographical distance and cultural differences make it hard to relocate or start up a company in another country. Luckily, help is at hand from the team at the World Trade Center (WTC) in Bremen. They'll do all they can to make your international business a success.
In December 2016 ministers from the European Space Agency (ESA) member states met to determine the roadmap for the European space sector for the years ahead. Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Bremen submitted joint recommendations. In the following interview Dr Peter Vits, Bremen's State Coordinator for the Space Sector, talks about Bremen's strengths and opportunities.
The sky is not the limit, at least not in Bremen. All parts of the aerospace sector are represented in the city, from R&D to production. Aeroplane wings, Ariane rockets and Galileo satellites – Bremen is one of the leading locations in the international aerospace industry. Here are five factors behind Bremen’s story of success.
In 2015 Bremen won the right to host the International Astronautical Congress for the second time, after having successfully held the event in 2003. Its bid was the result of a collaboration between the Bremen regional government and Bremen’s space industry and space research sector. Event partners include the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and the German Aerospace Centre.