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7 February 2020 - Reinhard Wirtz/Jann Raveling

Digitalisation in Bremen – where to go and who to contact

How to make the digital transformation a success

Bremen brings clarity to digitalisation
Bremen brings clarity to digitalisation © WFB/Pusch

Bremen is switched on when it comes to digitalisation. Numerous companies, scientific institutes, initiatives and policymakers are setting a new course for the future with enthusiasm, creativity and expertise. SMEs in the federal state of Bremen can draw on a comprehensive range of support services to assist in the digitalisation of their business and production processes.

Support is targeted at the entire spectrum of entrepreneurship, from SMEs to international companies, from niche to mass-market. That is because digitalisation is as multi-faceted as business itself; there is no quick fix, no magic formula that applies to everyone. But there are initiatives that can help to get the process started and provide support along the way.

We have put together a list of initiatives and who might benefit from them:

For small and medium-sized enterprises:

Bremen’s dream team: Daniel Schneider and Lisa Buschan of the SME 4.0 Centre of Excellence Bremen, and Malte Breford, digital pilot (centre)
Bremen’s dream team: Daniel Schneider and Lisa Buschan of the SME 4.0 Centre of Excellence Bremen, and Malte Breford, digital pilot (centre) © WFB/Pusch

The SME 4.0 Centre of Excellence Bremen

The SME 4.0 Centre of Excellence Bremen (German) supports small and medium-sized companies with their digital transformation. It is part of the German government’s Mittelstand-Digital initiative and provides free, vendor-neutral services to companies. It pools the offerings of several partners in north-western Germany and makes them available to companies. These services are open to all sectors of trade and industry. The centre provides support for every phase of digitalisation, whether it be initial information or real-world implementation. It organises regular events where attendees can get to know new technologies and then deepen their knowledge by talking to experts. The centre’s partners in business and the research community offer their expertise and opportunities to collaborate.

For the retail and restaurant sectors and tourism service providers:

Digital pilot Malte Breford supports Bremen’s retail sector
Digital pilot Malte Breford supports Bremen’s retail sector © WFB/Pusch

The digital pilot

Faced with growing competition from online companies, many in the retail sector are complaining about loss of revenue. The time has come to take action. A new information scheme, the ‘digital pilot’ (German), is aimed specifically at the retail and restaurant sectors and providers of tourism services. The digital pilot is on hand to answer questions about running websites and using social media, and can provide advice on setting up an online shop or digitalised inventory and billing systems. Bremerhaven has a digital pilot too. In addition to on-site meetings, the two pilots provide practical help and organise regular free workshops and information days. "When it comes to digitalisation, most of us still have gaps in our knowledge. I believe we can learn together and from each other," says Bremen’s pilot, Malte Breford.

For companies that are seeking investment:

BAB – the development bank for Bremen and Bremerhaven

BAB offers both targeted and wide-ranging funding and financing options for existing companies that want to focus on what digitalisation and Work 4.0 mean for their own future. These include subsidies and loans for larger projects arranged through the FEI research, development and innovation programme. BAB can find a suitable programme for every venture and provides access to funding from the state of Bremen and from other federal sources, such as Germany’s KfW development bank.

For entrepreneurs and start-ups:

Starthaus makes starting a company easier and quicker
Starthaus makes starting a company easier and quicker © Tristann Vankann

Starthaus Bremen & Bremerhaven

Anyone thinking of setting up their own business should first contact Starthaus (German), an initiative that brings together numerous partners across the state of Bremen who support entrepreneurs and start-ups. The team will find the right solution for starting a new business or expanding a newly established one from the multitude of funding options available, and supports entrepreneurs every step of the way. Through programmes such as the newly created Open Innovation Cycle (German), Starthaus provides an introduction and access to further funding and information sources such as incubators and accelerators, especially for those looking to set up a digital business.

For those interested in artificial intelligence:

The BREMEN.AI network

Bremen is a leading hub for research into artificial intelligence. Several hundred world-class specialists work for renowned institutes and companies here. BREMEN.AI (German) is the artificial intelligence network for Bremen and the surrounding region. It provides a platform to share information about new developments, events, projects and calls for tender. Membership of the network is not limited to professionals working in the field. Anyone interested in AI is welcome, especially if they previously had no interest in AI but would now like to learn more about the possibilities that the technology offers.

For companies in the logistics and maritime industries:

The logistics pilots try out new technology
The logistics pilots try out new technology © LogistikLotsen

The logistics pilots

The logistics pilots bring the research community, business, and young talent together on exciting projects. Participating companies present their particular problems, and teams of students try to solve them with the support of coaches. They use creative formats in their approach, which can lead to unusual solutions. Participating companies have access not only to new ideas but also to potential future employees, as the project helps to foster young talent.

For retail and industrial companies:

The chamber of commerce for Bremen and Bremerhaven

The chamber of commerce is a key point of contact for its many members throughout the state of Bremen, especially where digitalisation is concerned. It runs numerous events providing companies with useful information on digital transformation, including on IT security, digital company management and the workplace of tomorrow. The chamber also works closely with many other players on Bremen’s digital scene, including the SME 4.0 Centre of Excellence Bremen, which takes part in the regular Digital Tuesday event information event.

For companies that want to inspire their staff to embrace the digital future:

RKW Bremen

RKW supports SMEs and start-ups with all aspects of corporate management (German). It brings its personnel management and development expertise to bear as a partner of the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in the ‘unternehmensWert:Mensch’ programme, which provides support with the digital transformation of HR. RKW is also a partner on the Digiscouts project, which teaches trainees how to identify digitalisation potential and implement it in the companies they work for.

For companies that aren’t scared to go in new directions:

The Digital Hub Industry is set to become a source of innovative ideas
The Digital Hub Industry is set to become a source of innovative ideas © encoway

The Digital Hub Industry

Currently under construction, the Digital Hub will provide a space to collaborate, experiment and develop ideas, with a particular focus on industry. Universities will have the opportunity to work with companies on innovative projects, and start-ups will have somewhere to meet, develop and create new businesses. It will provide all the features that make work easier in the 21st century: function rooms, co-working spaces, makerspaces and much more besides. The Hub is set to open in mid-2021.

For companies that want to join a digital network:

bremen digitalmedia e.V.

The bremen digitalmedia association sees itself as the voice of the digital sector (German) in the state of Bremen. It works to improve the region’s competitiveness as a digital hub, brings its members together, provides information on key developments and events for the industry, and supports training projects. It also regularly organises events, for example in partnership with other players on Bremen’s digital scene like the SME 4.0 Centre of Excellence Bremen. The association is also responsible for the Bremen.AI network.

For those seeking new ideas and eureka moments:

Tim Ole Jöhnk knows Silicon Valley inside out.
Tim Ole Jöhnk knows Silicon Valley inside out. © WFB/Rathke

The Northern Germany Innovation Office (NGIO)

The NGIO is a joint initiative of the states of Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein and Hamburg. Its purpose is to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and technologies between northern Germany and Silicon Valley. The NGIO’s local office in the Valley has access to the latest technical achievements long before they become a trend around the world. Companies can collaborate with the NGIO in order to benefit from these technologies or work towards partnerships with start-ups in the Valley. There are no particular prerequisites; what counts is the interest in this field. More information is available in our interview with Tim Ohle Jöhnk, director of the NGIO (German).


Andreas Gerber

acquisition and projects

Team leader Bremeninvest

P +49 (0) 421 9600-123


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