Bremen space technology company OHB is set to become a new partner of the Northern Germany Innovation Office (NGIO). The NGIO is a joint project of the federal states of Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg and Bremen, as well as other private partners. The initiative operates an office in San Francisco, USA, with the aim of facilitating the transfer of technology and the collaboration between northern Germany and Silicon Valley.
OHB is the NGIO’s first and so far largest partner from Bremen’s business sector. The space technology company is hoping that this alliance will enable it to open up new business opportunities and break into new areas. The company’s membership of the NGIO is part of its new corporate strategy focused on providing digital services. At the start of the year, OHB announced the creation of a third business unit, OHB Digital. This consists of ground-based digital systems and services as well as space-based data applications.
“We are the first technology company to become an NGIO partner. Even with circumstances as difficult as they currently are, we continue to work on shaping the future and growing as a company – just as you’d expect from OHB,” says Egbert Jan van der Veen, Head of Strategy and Venture Capital Director at OHB. “The NGIO enables us to better understand the innovation environment in Silicon Valley and to establish new contacts.”
Establishing a network between Germany and Silicon Valley
Key tasks of the NGIO include supporting businesses from northern Germany in initiating contact with companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley, and actively establishing a network between the parties involved. The partnership between the NGIO and the Bremen satellite manufacturer was facilitated by WFB Wirtschaftsförderung Bremen GmbH (Bremeninvest), which is also a partner in the NGIO. “Companies would need to invest a lot of money and resources if they had to run their own offices in order to explore new trends, business segments and markets in Silicon Valley. With the NGIO, we enable firms from Bremen to benefit from new technologies and to develop new business opportunities and contacts in one of the most innovative regions of the world. We are pleased that OHB is taking advantage of this opportunity and are confident that in future there will be further collaboration with companies from Bremen,” said Andreas Heyer, Chief Executive Officer of Bremeninvest.
The NGIO was established in 2018 by the federal states of Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg, along with private partners. In spring 2019, the state of Bremen joined the shared initiative of the north German states in California’s high-tech valley through Bremeninvest, the international brand of Bremen’s economic development agency.
The NGIO is operated by the Business Development and Technology Transfer Corporation of Schleswig-Holstein (WTSH) and is the first port of call for companies from northern Germany. While other federal states run individual business development offices abroad, this type of joint interregional project is currently unique in Germany.
Perspectives and opportunities ahead
“Over the past two years, we have been able to give northern Germany access to the most innovative region in the world. Within a very short time, the NGIO was in great demand, providing advice and facilitating contacts for companies from across northern Germany. Having OHB as our new partner opens up new perspectives and opportunities,” said State Secretary Dirk Schröter, Head of the State Chancellery of Schleswig-Holstein. He thanked all of the partners and the WTSH, which operates the NGIO on Schleswig-Holstein’s behalf.
Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Dr Bernd Buchholz, also expressed his delight: “Innovations from Silicon Valley are taking root in Schleswig-Holstein and having a lasting effect on everything from start-ups to established small and medium-sized businesses.”
Dr Bernd Bösche, Managing Director of the WTSH, welcomed the NGIO’s new partner: “We are pleased that partners from a wide range of sectors are joining us. This brings benefits for us all and demonstrates the significance of interregional collaboration.” Northern Germany has now been firmly established within the Silicon Valley innovation network. “We hope that the ideas and the input from Silicon Valley will help OHB to advance its own innovation strategy, particularly in these extraordinary times,” Bösche added.
“Especially during the time of coronavirus, we have been able to help companies from across northern Germany to cope with the crisis,” NGIO Director Tim Ole Jöhnk agreed. “And now we are providing them with even more targeted support as they search for suitable technologies, optimise processes and make them more efficient, and improve the digital structures born of necessity. At the end of the day, innovation must go on. As we hope it will for our new partner, OHB from Bremen.”
Services offered by the NGIO:
For companies, the NGIO arranges information trips to Silicon Valley, where they gain insights into the working practices of local businesses and research institutions tailored to their specific interests and are able to establish useful contacts. The NGIO also promotes the participating federal states within the San Francisco region and provides advice to US firms looking to establish a base in northern Germany.
These include the NGIO’s support for the federal state of Schleswig-Holstein in planning its cooperation with the world’s largest open innovation platform, Plug and Play, as well as the significant contribution it made to placing Kiel start-up Mage (formerly Snapcardster) with Y Combinator. Plug and Play and Y Combinator are among the world’s most successful start-up accelerator programs, which have provided seed money for companies like Dropbox, PayPal and Airbnb.
Apart from Mage, the NGIO also supported Hamburg start-up Localyze by facilitating contact with mentors, investors and lawyers when it joined Y Combinator, one of the most successful incubators in the US. The business idea behind Localyze is to help recent arrivals from abroad as they start their new job. In June 2020, Localyze was able to announce that its technology is now being used by the Berlin Office of Immigration’s Business Immigration Service, among others, allowing its processing times to be reduced from more than three months to just three days during the initial period.