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. They are bringing new seafloor-monitoring technology to the market via their company PlanBlue GmbH (formerly HyperSurvey GmbH) and are currently working flat out to develop prototypes, gain customers from all over the world, and find investors.
Is there such a thing as coincidence? Dr Joost den Haan would prefer to describe it as ‘things coming together nicely’. Looking back over the past ten years, the 35-year old Dutch marine biologist can see that all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle have gradually fallen into place. Still, he would never have dreamed a decade ago that he would one day be starting a company in Germany. Joost den Haan has been involved in the monitoring industry since 2007 and is passionate about diving, which he does both for scientific purposes and for pleasure. His doctoral thesis was written in Amsterdam and Curacao on the subject of coral reefs, but he found that documenting plants and assessing the situation under water was “ridiculously time-consuming, and processing all the data was a lot of work.”
His epiphany came eight years ago while on a dive with some students. They were meant to be objectively assessing the dive site. “It was at a spot where the coral reef was only about one per cent intact. There was virtually nothing there apart from microbial mats and algae. But when the students assessed the condition of the reef as ‘good’, it was immediately clear to me that we had to find a completely new method of analysing the seafloor and presenting the information in such a way that even people with little background knowledge would be able to see what a poor state the underwater world is in,” explains Joost den Haan. The idea stayed with him and when his path - or happy coincidence - took him to Bremen and the Max Planck Institute (MPI) three years later, his vision became reality. One day while he was in the library, working on an article for a scientific publication, he was contacted by a research group who needed a specialist in coral reef species to contribute subject expertise to an intelligent software application. Joost den Haan was introduced to a new technology, and spotted its potential immediately.
Joost den Haan is now co-founder and managing director of PlanBlue. The four-strong team received support in the form of the EXIST start-up grant, “and without this backing we would never have dared to take the risk of striking out on our own,” he says, speaking for the whole team. Finding this team was another of those lucky coincidences. The threads came together in the MPI and the Technology Park in which the university is located. Raja Kandukuri (29) is a hardware expert. “He’s always tinkering with machines,” grins den Haan. People at the institute thought they would be a good fit – “and they were right.”
After designing two predecessor versions for the Max Planck Institute, Kandukuri, an electrical engineer, is now working on the prototype for the new company’s own product, named ‘DiveRay’. It is a specialist underwater camera that can be used to scan the sea bed. Den Haan has just come back from testing the camera on Curacao. At the heart of the camera is its intelligent software, which could not have been developed without expert Guy Rigot (36). Like Joost den Haan, he is originally from the Netherlands and worked for a number of years for an aerospace company in Bremen. Over a beer, the two men decided they would like to work together and Rigot started looking downward instead of upward. The final member of the team is Dr Hannah Brocke (36), a marine biologist specialising in business development and fundraising. “She is able to provide a different perspective on many things, which is immensely valuable to us,” says Joost den Haan, for whom she is not just another expert, but also his business partner. The language of the team is English – as universal as the global customer base they are aiming for.
Recent images of dead and dying fish provide a forceful illustration of how plastic waste destroys valuable habitats and has no place in the ocean. “We want to do something useful and show how important the underwater world is for the human race,” stresses den Haan. But sustainability is just one aspect of their work. A good 95 per cent of the seafloor is still unexplored – “lots of scope for our technology, from which many sectors of industry can benefit.”
The ‘DiveRay’ designed by the Bremen entrepreneurs offers a faster and more cost-effective method of mapping the sea bed and obtaining detailed information. The company has developed a computer program that can be used to generate accurate maps and objective information. They also use hyperspectral imaging technology. “This has already been used very successfully in space to gather complex data and information. Now we are opening up the sea bed to scrutiny,” explains Joost den Haan, adding: “We don’t yet have a clear picture of what lies below the surface just two kilometres off the coast.”
The founders are spreading their wings. They have recently moved on from where everything started at the Bremen Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology and have found a place of their own just a few hundred metres away at Bremeninvest’s Bremen Innovation and Technology Centre (BITZ). The move was necessary, and puts the new business on a more professional footing. The company receives additional funding from the Berlin-based Climate KIC programme, along with coaching on matters such as business plans, and strategic business development. This non-financial support in particular has benefited the whole team enormously: “We travel a lot, and now have professional support in our meetings with (potential) customers and investors.”
Negotiations are currently ongoing in France, the US, the Caribbean, and in Germany. Meetings have also been scheduled in New Zealand at the end of the year. Den Haan is finding there is a lot of interest out there. No wonder: “It is completely new technology for the monitoring market that no one else can supply, and therefore has huge market potential.” Private companies, public authorities and NGOs can benefit from the maps generated by the ‘DiveRay’. Environmental consultants are a particularly important group for the PlanBlue team at present. They use the technology in their work and can carry it over into their networks.
The aim is to educate the wider public on the state of the world’s oceans, and to create a science-based standard library for the sea bed. The structures are there - the task now is to fill them with content. “Our system needs information: the more, the better.” And the DiveRay needs someone to operate it. It is currently being used for dives up to 30 metres, and, as experienced divers, den Haan and Brocke are still instructing customers in its use. A prototype has been produced that paves the way for further development through to full production. “We want to build a good product that uses and builds on the lead we have in the area of software,” says den Haan. They currently only have one competitor, a company that has chosen to focus on the deep sea. The long-term goal of the great PlanBlue adventure is to create an automated system. The four founders don’t plan to leave this to chance. They are working towards their goal every day and firmly believe that they “are in the right place at the right time.”
Further information on company start-ups can be obtained from Ole Bast, Innovation Manager, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports, P +49 (0)421 9600 - 334, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you looking for a place to realize your business ideas? Information can be found at Brigitte Klesse, Centre management, Technology and start-up centres, P +49 (0)421 2208-112, email@example.com.
Information on locating in the Bremen Technology Park is available from Anke Werner, Project Manager region Bremen East , P +49 (0)421 9600-331, firstname.lastname@example.org.
DIGILAB Brennerei 4.0 supports companies on their digitalisation journey with free and independent services. Getting started has never been easier.
Bremen’s IT sector is an important pillar of the local industry. We introduce ten IT service providers.
The state of Bremen covers 420 square kilometres and is home to around 670,000 people. Almost 22,000 companies provide more than 325,000 jobs. Below, we introduce some of the strong sectors that that make Bremen such an excellent business location.
Bremen is Germany’s sixth-largest industrial hub in terms of revenue. Whether the sector is aerospace, food, automotive, shipping or steel production, Bremen has always been a major player.
Esteban Bayro-Kaiser has big plans for his start-up, WearHealth. And he has no doubt that Bremen can become a leading hub for artificial intelligence technology. But what made this globetrotter choose Bremen?
The best of both worlds. A young Indian from Bremen is helping German engineering to benefit from India’s factory capacities and vice versa. And everything is completely digitalised – with one click in real time, an order can be sent straight to the Indian factory. The benefit for manufacturers is huge.
At her company Sabine Grimm Yacht & Interior Design, the passionate sailor from Hastedt, Bremen, offers 65,000 fabric samples – to the delight of yacht designers from all over the world who can find many rarities in Grimm’s treasure trove of textiles.
Europe’s largest terminal for breakbulk and heavy-lift cargo is located in Neustadt port. After Antwerp, Bremen’s ports are the second most important transshipment hub in Europe for forestry products, steel products and machinery. The federal state of Bremen is preparing for the future in a highly competitive market.
Nowhere in Germany is bigger in the aerospace industry than Bremen. We spoke to Bremen-based scientists working on the space side of aerospace about their projects, their life in the city, and their tips on where to live and where to visit.
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 ...
How is the role of media and other forms of communication changing in society? What are the resulting challenges? The international MA in Digital Media and Society, which launches at the University of Bremen in time for the winter semester, aims to provide the answers.
Global commerce would be impossible without shipping, and wind farms at sea are indispensable for energy provision on land. Yet maritime transport systems and infrastructure are exposed to a wide range of risks. The German Aerospace Centre’s (DLR) new institute in Bremerhaven aims to identify these risks and work with businesses to develop safeguards.
Airbus is a global trailblazer in the field of 3D printing, and the aerospace company has established a technology centre for this new production method in Bremen. This is one of many reasons why the Hanseatic city has become a hub for 3D printing in Europe.
We don’t normally get to see Littelfuse’s products. And yet there’s hardly any electronic device that doesn’t require components from this global market leader. The European headquarters of the US firm are located in Bremen. And they’re far more than just a sales office.
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.
Setting up your own business is never easy, but Bremen offers the perfect environment for budding entrepreneurs. A unique start-up scene has taken root in the region that will help you access the expertise, contacts and funding that you'll need to succeed. So what are you waiting for?
Stathis Stasinopoulos built his first bike so that he could get to and from work in Athens more easily. At the time, he could not have imagined that his idea would see him set up his own business in Bremen. We visited the entrepreneurial engineer in his new workshop in the north of Bremen.
The exploration of celestial bodies, such as Mars, Mercury and the moon, requires detailed geological maps. An international research project is now laying the foundations for this. Bremen-based geologist Dr Angelo Pio Rossi is one of the initiators of the data project.
Bremen has the right location to suit any company, from the logistics sector at the Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ) to research institutes at the Technology Park and international companies at Bremen Airport-Stadt. Or perhaps you are looking for more of a mix of sectors to stimulate creativity? We can show you the right business park to suit your needs.
Even Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible would find it difficult to break into this data centre. Metre-thick concrete walls are just one of the many security measures protecting this bunker.
Unloading shipping containers requires manual work, which is pretty unusual in the automated and digitalised world of logistics. But a Bremen-based research project aims to change all this with its IRiS robot.
How will we be working in the future? Daimler’s Innolab in Bremen’s Überseestadt district provides an answer to this question. And anyone can come and see it.
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.
There are 35,000 students at eight universities in Bremen, as well as numerous research establishments, all of which work together successfully. It is a dynamic centre of science and learning. We spoke to a number of researchers and academics to find out what it’s like to live and work in Bremen and Bremerhaven.
Artificial intelligence isn’t just a matter of computer programming. It’s a challenging question: how can a robot successfully deal with real, unpredictable surroundings? For 30 years, solutions to this problem have been developed at the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). This Bremen-based facility has been so successful that its employees are now founding their own company.
Tizz & Tonic: Two sisters from Canada are producing and selling sustainable and organic underwear in the centre of Bremen. But what was it that attracted them to Bremen? We caught up with the two well-travelled fashion designers to find out.
In December 2014, ORTEC GmbH moved from Lower Saxony to Bremen. The software specialist hoped to strengthen its market position by moving to the city’s Überseestadt district. Around three and a half years later, we got in touch with the company again to ask whether the move has been a success.
Shipbuilding is a key sector of Bremen’s maritime economy. Bremen and Bremerhaven are home to prestigious international suppliers as well as innovative young companies. We present 13 companies involved in shipbuilding from all stages of the process chain.
One day, astronauts will live and carry out research on the moon – and even a colony on Mars is no longer the distant utopian dream it once was. But how will people be able to live in an extraterrestrial environment? The Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) at the University of Bremen is working on a solution.
You are or want to become self-employed – but you do not know where to start? In this video, we show you how the Unternehmensservice Bremen helps you to deal with official approval procedures, forms and funding.
Bremen-based company Home & Marine works in a sector that generates huge interest, but is often shrouded in secrecy – it builds complex entertainment systems for mega-yachts. The company is reluctant to speak about customers and orders, but since it was founded just over 25 years ago, Home & Marine has worked on more than 100 yachts.
Working on your laptop while the car takes care of the steering? This could well be the future for car travel. Teams in Bremen are working towards this end goal, with scientists from the university taking their first test car out on the road. Their expertise in aerospace comes in handy here too.
You rarely get the opportunity to try out musical instruments when you buy them online. Bremen-based start-up TonePedia has developed a piece of software that allows musicians to properly compare guitars, bass guitars, amplifiers and effect products online. This saves time and reduces the number of returns and the associated cost.
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.
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.
If astronauts want to get all the way to Mars one day, they’ll need food supplies for the journey. Part of the solution could be to grow their own grains and bake bread themselves. Bremen start-up Bake in Space is on the verge of making this vision a reality.
Is this what sales assistants of the future will look like? Bremen start-up company Blackout Technologies develops software based on artificial intelligence, unlike any other software in Europe. Before long, we’ll be greeted by their robot Pepper in shops, at trade fairs or even in care homes. We visited Bremen’s robot lab to find out more.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
A lively start-up scene with close ties to industry has developed in Germany’s smallest federal state. Government offices, banks, entrepreneurs and development agencies all work together like one big family. It’s what makes starting a new business in these two cities so easy.
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.
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.
The right investor provides much more than just money. They are someone to talk to, someone who can open doors and build bridges. Important advice for technology start-ups in search of an investor.
How do you feel about setting up your own business at the age of 20? At Jacobs University in Bremen, students like Julius Schneider are groomed for their careers as entrepreneurs. And Bremen itself offers them the ideal conditions to turn their ideas into reality.
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
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.
For 30 years, the Cargo Distribution Centre in Bremen has delivered excellence – as an investment location and a logistics hub. Today more than 150 companies employing approximately 8,000 people are based at the site. It offers direct links to the ports, the autobahn and has a close proximity to Bremen City Airport.
Revolutionising house hunting in cities using virtual reality. Training people to live a sustainable lifestyle using an app. Introducing food-sharing ideas to tackle our throw-away society. Offering professional HR management methods to smaller trade ...