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14 February 2017 - Merle Burghart

Take-off for Bremen: what makes the city a hub for aerospace expertise


The top five factors behind Bremen’s success as an aerospace hub

Ariane 6 rocket
Ariane 6 © Airbus Safran Launchers Holding

At home in the skies: flight history in Bremen began over a hundred years ago with the aviation pioneer Henrich Focke. And since the Northern Development Ring (ERNO) was founded more than half a century ago, Bremen has established itself as a global standard-bearer both in aerospace research and the aerospace industry. The city and the region are on the same page when it comes to the significance of this ever-growing branch of industry, and are promoting the innovation cluster. Future-focused technologies and flagship projects such as the Galileo satellites and Ariane rockets bear the ‘Made in Bremen’ seal of quality. In 2018 the Bremen region, which is Germany’s smallest federal state, is hosting the International Astronautical Congress for the second time. Our Hanseatic city is now firmly established in the top tier of global aerospace hubs.

Bremen’s aerospace industry comprises more than 140 companies and 20 institutes, employs over 12,000 people and generates revenue in excess of €4 billion a year. The city has more space aeronautics and aerospace experts as a percentage of its population than anywhere else in Germany. Bremen is the largest aerospace centre in Germany.

The Airbus plant at Bremen airport is where the electrics, hydraulics and moving parts are fitted to the landing flaps of all Airbus models
The Airbus plant at Bremen airport is where the electrics, hydraulics and moving parts are fitted to the landing flaps of all Airbus models © Airbus

The five ingredients in Bremen’s recipe for success:

1. Made in Bremen, delivered around the world

Airbus, OHB SE, Materialise and Rheinmetall Defence Electronics are just some of the major industry players that are based in Bremen.

Around 4,500 people are employed in various areas at the Airbus Bremen facilities. The city is also home to the Airbus high-lift centre, the interdisciplinary platform for all Airbus high-lift systems. It all happens here – from flight physics and development to manufacturing and assembly.

The Airbus plant at Bremen airport is where the electrics, hydraulics and moving parts are fitted to the landing flaps of all Airbus models and to the wings of the A330 and A350 XWB long-range airliners. The aircraft manufacturer’s current research projects include 3D printing of metal parts and testing of ‘cobots’, humanoid robots that are able to work alongside humans. 

Airbus Safran Launchers, a Franco-German joint venture, is involved in building the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket. Its successor, the Ariane 6, will also be made in Bremen.

OHB SE is one of Europe’s three leading space technology companies. The Bremen-based firm develops and tests the Galileo satellites. Ten of the 14 Galileo satellites that are currently orbiting in space come from OHB SE.

These companies are making people take notice of Bremen, which is further raising its public and global profiles by hosting international trade fairs such as the Space Tech Expo in October 2017. And from 1 to 5 October 2018 Bremen will host the International Astronautical Congress, also for the second time.

Ten of the 14 Galileo satellites that are currently orbiting in space come from OHB SE
Ten of the 14 Galileo satellites that are currently orbiting in space come from OHB SE © OHB SE

2. A think tank for lightweight materials – the EcoMaT development centre

The EcoMaT development centre is Bremen’s beacon project in the aerospace sector. EcoMaT, the Centre for Eco-efficient Materials & Technologies, will be opening in early 2019 at Bremen Airport-City. Lightweight engineering, material development, manufacturing and testing will all be consolidated here. The idea is for the tenants to use each other’s laboratories and test rigs, to discuss findings with each other and to create new knowledge together – without even leaving the building.

EcoMaT provides a cooperation model, as well as infrastructure to match, in which research and industry are encouraged to make joint progress in the field of material research.

                               Martin Günthner, Bremen’s Minister for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports

Airbus, TESTIA and the Bremen Fibre Institute are the anchor tenants of the 22,000m² building. Among the other industry partners at the site will be Daimler and Broetje-Automation. The scientific community will be represented by the German Aerospace Centre and the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Technology and Advanced Materials.

the EcoMaT research and technology centre brings together Bremen’s existing expertise in lightweight materials
Where research and industry join forces: the EcoMaT research and technology centre brings together Bremen’s existing expertise in lightweight materials © Büro huber staudt architekten BDA

3. The earlier the better – combating the skills shortage by investing in talented young prospects

National and international programmes are a feature of the industry’s research and development landscape – and many of them have very long lifespans. Locally the aerospace industry is also supported by the LuRaFo2020 research initiative. The challenges lie in retaining and building on specific expertise and being among the first to master new technologies. The University of Bremen (northern Germany’s only elite university), the Bremen region’s three universities of applied sciences and the Jacobs University not only carry out aeronautics and aerospace research but also provide a steady stream of highly qualified graduates.

The GymProLuR aerospace project is a unique Bremen initiative. This collaboration between the city’s secondary schools, the Bremen University of Applied Sciences and the regional government gives teenagers a chance to try out the industry while they are still at school. Through talks, projects and work experience, they gain real-world insights into the aerospace sector. The benefit for Bremen is that young talents can then be identified and nurtured at an early stage.

In addition, four Bremen schools help to organise the German CanSat competition, which forms part of the European Space Agency’s international competition.

Orion ESM
Orion ESM © Airbus Defence and Space

Bremen offers a wide range of degree courses and vocational careers, which helps to retain talented young prospects in the city. They can study engineering, materials science or the natural sciences at the University of Bremen, while the Bremen University of Applied Sciences is among those that run aerospace degree courses up to master’s level, including combined work and study degrees.

Ambitious start-ups are also nurtured in Bremen. The city hosts international events focused on ‘New Space’, such as SpaceUp, the Startup Weekend Space Bremen and the Disrupt Space Summit. Local information and support for the Bremen start-up scene is provided from one central source. Aerospace start-ups in Bremen therefore operate within a functioning start-up ecosystem that benefits from a wide range of public- and private-sector activities.

By targeting and nurturing young talents from an early stage, Bremen is combating the shortage of skilled workers in the industry and helping the aeronautics and aerospace sector to explore new horizons.

4. Well connected: clustering for success

On behalf of Bremen’s Ministry for Economic Affairs, Labour and Ports, the aerospace cluster at Bremeninvest works closely with the AVIABELT network as part of the Bremen aerospace cluster. The idea is to promote greater levels of innovation and competitiveness through industry collaborations. The Bremen regional government’s aerospace cluster provides support to suppliers, production companies and research institutes. It represents the interests of the region and functions as a go-between for industry, research, politics and government. The stakeholders in the cluster are supported at both a regional and national level as they evolve and expand their expertise. Together with Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, proposals have been developed for the European Space Agency’s ministerial council conference. The cluster represents Bremen’s interests in dealings with a wide range of organisations, including the SatNav Forum, the SupplyChain Excellence Initiative, Innospace and the European Satellite Navigation Competition.

The influence of Bremen’s aerospace cluster also extends beyond Germany’s borders. It works together with international associations such as the European Aerospace Cluster Partnership, Enterprise Europe Network, International Astronautical Federation, German Canadian Concourse, Network of European Regions Using Space Technologies, and Women in Aerospace EUROPE.

International Space Station
International Space Station © Airbus Defence and Space

5. Infrastructure: Bremen is a city where your research partners are often also your neighbours

Bremen’s compact size has always been one of its key strengths, and the short distances between its various institutions in industry, education and science make it that much easier for them to work together.

There are so many benefits to this geographical compactness, and Bremen now has two hubs of aerospace expertise in the shape of Bremen Airport-City and the technology park.

Bremen Airport-City and the airport itself are just a stone’s throw apart and are just a few minutes’ drive from Bremen city centre. Over 500 companies employ more than 16,500 people here, and ambitious new businesses in the start-up centre rub shoulders with global players such as Airbus. One of the companies based at Bremen Airport-City is Airbus Safran Launchers, which makes the upper stage of the Ariane 5 rocket.

Bremen Technology Park is one of Germany’s leading technology hubs. The German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), the Fraunhofer Institute and the University of Bremen, as well as more than 15 other research institutes, work side by side here on aerospace projects together with commercial giants such as Siemens and OHB. At the heart of it all is the Fallturm drop tower, the park’s signature landmark and the only facility of its kind in Europe. It is used by the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity to test processes and materials in zero gravity.

The Fallturm drop tower against a blue sky
A Bremen landmark: the 122-metre-high Fallturm drop tower at the Centre of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity is unique in Europe © WFB/Frank Pusch

For further information on innovation in space technology contact Dr Barbara Cembella, cluster manager for the space sector, T +49 (0)421 9600-340, barbara.cembella@aviaspace-bremen.de.

For information on the aviation sector your contact is Andreas Eickhoff, cluster manager for aviation, T +49 (0)421 361-32179, andreas.eickhoff@wah.bremen.de.

To find out more about EcoMaT get in touch with Bastian Müller, EcoMaT project manager, T +49 (0)421 361-32292, bastian.mueller@wah.bremen.de.

If you are looking to relocate your company to Bremen or establish operations in the city, please contact Andreas Gerber, T +49 (0)421 9600 123, andreas.gerber@wfb-bremen.de.

You can find out more about Bremen as a hub of aerospace expertise in this interview with Dr Peter Vits, Regional Coordinator for the Aerospace Sector.

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