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13 September 2022 - Anne Enderle/Jann Raveling

Tradition meets innovation


Business hub Bremen – these are its strong sectors

City centre aerial view
Centuries-old and ultra-modern - Bremen combines many worlds. © WFB/Studio B

The business hub Bremen can convince with some advantages. Almost 22,000 companies provide more than 336,000 jobs. Below, we introduce some of the strong sectors that make Bremen such an excellent business location.

Germany's smallest federal state convinces companies to commit to Bremen with location factors such as infrastructure, workforce potential or commercial space. Find out here which sectors are the economic heavyweights and what makes them tick.

#1. Highest proportion of employees in the aerospace sector in Germany

Bremen has a long and proud tradition in aviation and space travel. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the number of employees in this sector as a proportion of the population is the highest in Germany. More than 140 aerospace companies are based in Bremen, including major players such as the Airbus Group, ArianeGroup, Rheinmetall Defence Electronics and OHB. Together with more than 20 research institutes, including the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the Bremen Fibre Institute and many others, the sector employs 12,000 people and generates over €4 billion a year. The wing equipment for Airbus aircraft, the Ariane upper stage or the ESM module for NASA's new "Artemis" mission are produced in Bremen.

Lightweight construction is a key technology for the aerospace industry. The ECOMAT Center for Eco-efficient Materials & Technologies, located right next to Bremen Airport, is working on the technologies of tomorrow. Over an area of around 22,000 square metres, it will house offices, laboratories and a technology centre, and provide space for around 500 employees. The alliance of business and science is dedicated to the topic of climate-neutral flying, lightweight construction, 3D printing and digitalisation in aviation in its holistic system relevance through interdisciplinary cooperation.

The sector is represented by its association AVIASPACE BREMEN e.V. This network promotes the development of the aerospace industry by linking it to the automotive, wind energy and shipbuilding industries.
The wide range of courses on offer in Bremen equip students from around the world with the skills they need for a career in the aerospace industry. Bremen’s University of Applied Sciences offers four of these courses, including a degree apprenticeship. Since 2017, the University of Bremen has run two English-language master’s programmes in space engineering and in space sciences and technology. Both universities work closely with local research institutes and businesses.

#2. Bremen – the gateway to the world

Bremen and the sea has been a centuries-old success story. Shipbuilding in Bremen? Absolutely – there is at least one company in Bremen or Bremerhaven for every area of the production chain. The state of Bremen is Germany’s second-largest port location and home to 1,300 companies employing around 40,000 employees. On top of that, there are at least a further 34,000 jobs that are indirectly dependent on the ports. Both seaborne and inland waterway transport operates here.

The ports in Bremen and Bremerhaven are the fourth-largest container hub in Northern Europe. Bremen has the highest export ratio, 46.9 per cent, of all German states, equivalent to almost 70 million tonnes of handled goods in 2021.

Storage space and infrastructure is also needed alongside the ports to distribute the goods throughout the country. Five logistics centres with a total of 1,486 hectares of space, home to more than 1,300 companies employing 20,000 people, ensure the smooth transshipment and transport of goods by road, rail and air.

The Cargo Distribution Center (GVZ) provides an additional one million square metres of warehouse space. It is Germany’s largest and Europe’s second largest centre of its kind, and a location of international importance. 160 companies employing around 8,700 skilled workers are based here.

#3. An important hub for the automotive industry

Petrol runs through Bremen’s veins – and now electricity does too. The city boasts more than a hundred years of history as a hub for the automotive industry. Today, Mercedes-Benz is the region’s largest employer, and its 12,000 staff manufacture up to 400,000 vehicles a year. In addition to traditional cars with combustion engines, electric cars are also manufactured in Bremen under the new EQ brand. Production of the EQC, a fully electric SUV, started in 2019. In 2022, the EQE e-limousine followed.

Alongside Mercedes-Benz, more than 40 suppliers provide around 5,000 additional jobs, including leading companies such as Hella Group, Lear Corporation and Brose Group. The Bremen Hansalinie Industrial Estate offers the sector an ideal location with direct access to the A1 motorway and a fast connection to the Mercedes-Benz plant.

Bremen is where the vehicles are manufactured, while Bremerhaven is where they are shipped out to the world. In 2021, 1.7 million vehicles from all over Germany and Norther Europe were handled at the car terminal. This makes Bremen Europe’s second-largest car handling centre. In addition to Europe’s leading automotive logistics company, BLG, other major players based here include reimer logistics, Ipsen Logistics, PWL (Peter W. Lampke GmbH & Co. KG), Stute and Weserport.

The Automotive Nordwest network brings together manufacturers, suppliers and organisations involved in research and training. It functions as a platform for cross-sectoral communications and collaboration in the Bremen region.

#4. Well connected in the wind energy sector

The complete value chain of the wind energy sector is present in Bremen and Bremerhaven – from research, development and manufacturing to aftersales and maintenance. This network provides everything needed to set up and operate onshore and offshore projects. More than 80 companies and institutions have settled in Bremen and Bremerhaven, half of whom work in the offshore wind energy sector. Today, the state is an internationally renowned innovation centre for the industry.

Thanks to its coastal location, Bremerhaven has become a key hub for the offshore wind energy sector. The ports are an important link and specialise in large and heavy cargo, or breakbulk. Many suppliers, planning offices, project planners and service providers are based in Airport-Stadt Bremen.

WAB Windenergie-Agentur is a network that facilitates partnerships and the sharing of expertise within the offshore wind energy sector and acts as its regional point of contact.

And where the wind blows, water is rarely far away: A hydrogen economy is emerging in Bremen, which benefits from the proximity to renewable energies on the one hand and the research location on the other. Vehicle manufacturers such as Enginius are producing hydrogen commercial vehicles here, the first large-scale electrolysis projects are being developed and research into hydrogen flight is being carried out at the ECOMAT.

#5. Full throttle towards the digital age

The IT industry in Bremen is one of the leading sectors in Germany and recently generated more than one billion euros. More than 1,300 companies have settled in Bremen as a business location, including firms such as team neusta, Teamviewer, Materialise and the e-commerce specialists hmmh. Bremen is also considered one of the top locations for artificial intelligence, with renowned researchers and numerous companies. Bremen offers a variety of reasons that make it an attractive location, such as the supply of skilled workers or the close cooperation between business and science.

Outside view NEOS Building
The Digital Hub Industry is located in Bremen's Technology Park. © WFB/Raveling

Companies in all sectors are busy with their digital strategies. Work 4.0, process optimisation, new technology environments and changing markets: these are all important competitive factors for companies of all sizes. Corporations operate their own innovation labs in Bremen, such as BLG's Digilab or ArcelorMittal's Digilab. In addition, the Digital Hub Industry is a unique place that combines science and practice in one place.

Small and medium-sized enterprises can find support and funding opportunities in many places in Bremen, such as at the Mittelstand 4.0 Kompetenzzentrum. It is one of 236 centres across Germany that are funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. As the first point of contact, the centre helps to implement the digital transformation in the company.

#6. Innovation from creative minds

Bremen is one of the ten largest industrial cities in Germany. But the creative sector also plays an important role and is a key location factor for a city. It identifies needs and trends, takes up challenges of the future and is closely intertwined with the digitalisation industry, which leads to innovative developments.

There are around 1,800 creative companies in Bremen employing more than 10,000 people. The districts of Überseestadt, Neustadt and Ostertor are the hotspots of the creative industry. Young talent is fostered at the University of the Arts in Bremen’s Speicher XI building.

Young creative talent is fostered at the University of the Arts in Bremen’s Speicher XI building
Young creative talent is fostered at the University of the Arts in Bremen’s Speicher XI building © WFB/Frank Pusch

nordmedia finances film projects across Lower Saxony and Bremen. The organisation supports film and media makers through funding, workshops and networking events, and is represented in Bremen by a regional office in the Weserhaus building.

The city also has many co-working opportunities for young entrepreneurs and freelancers. A wide range of funding options and the crowdfunding platform Schotterweg help entrepreneurs to bring their innovative projects to life. The first port of call for budding entrepreneurs is the Starthaus.

#7. Successful retail trade in the city with a long tradition of commerce

To this day, Bremen’s merchants live by the slogan ‘Buten un binnen – wagen un winnen’, which means ‘outside and in – venture and win’ in the local dialect. The slogan is emblazoned above the entrance to the Handelskammer, Germany’s oldest chamber of commerce. Retail in the city is characterised by good accessibility and wide choice. The sector generates around €4 billion in revenue. Bremen is home to more than 700 shops, 200 places to eat and 50 cultural and entertainment venues. The city offers everything from large international chains to small independent shops that have been in business for decades.

There is a lot happening in the city centre – private investors are pumping around €1 billion into several projects aimed at increasing Bremen’s attractiveness. The communication campaign Bremen wird neu (Bremen reborn) provides information on all projects and building activities. The Schnoor quarter and the Viertel are further popular shopping areas in the centre. A number of retail parks and shopping malls in Bremen’s districts round off the city’s retail experience.

Shopping, the historic old town, museums and culture - all this invites you to a city trip. That's why the hospitality and hotel industry is also one of Bremen's important sectors. 23,000 people work in this sector, including in over 100 hotels (figures: 2021). The Corona pandemic hit the sector hard in the process, but the city is recovering. For the first time, it was able to announce again at the end of August 2022: Bremen is fully booked!

#8 Of coffee beans, fish and other tasty treats

It is not just cars that keep the ports in Bremen and Bremerhaven busy. Almost every other coffee bean imported to Germany arrives via Bremen, making the ports the leading centres for importing coffee to Germany. Bremerhaven is also the country’s biggest fish processing centre and has a market share of 50 per cent. The city is known as ‘Europe’s freezer’, thanks to companies such as FRoSTA, Nordsee, Frozen Fish and Deutsche See who operate their deep-freeze warehouses and processing centres here. Fish fingers, loved around the world, are also produced in the city on the Weser estuary. Together, FRoSTA and Frozen Fish make up to 2.7 billion of them every year. If they were all laid down end to end, they would reach around the world five times.

In addition to brands such as Becks or FRoSTA, innovative food start-ups also enliven the tables and plates of the Hanseatic city. Since 2022, there is an exclusive innovation lab just for the food industry in Bremen – the HANSEKITCHEN. And even if Bremen is not exactly renowned for its wines, the city can still boast one related record – Bremen’s Ratskeller houses the world’s largest collection of German wines.

The food and beverage industry, together with wholesalers, generates total revenue of around €2,5 billion a year and employs approximately 10,000 people. In addition to the processing industry, several logistics, warehousing and transport service providers have established themselves here, along with testing laboratories and specialised research institutes.

If you have any questions about relocating to Bremerhaven, then BIS Bremerhavener Gesellschaft für Investitionsförderung und Stadtentwicklung mbH is here to help with advice and assistance.

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