As the birthplace of world-famous composer George Frideric Handel, the 1200-year-old city of Halle has a history of creativity. The most populous city in the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, Halle’s numerous music festivals and renowned opera house illustrate a legacy that has contributed to its emergence as a creative centre.
Almost 1000 companies across the city make up the media, culture and creative industries that collectively generate turnover of more than €240m, according to data from the Investment and Marketing Corporation Saxony-Anhalt. More than a quarter of these companies are in the IT and new media sub-sectors.
Winning at games
Located in the heart of the city next to the river Saale, the Middle German Multimedia Centre (MMZ) is a hub for the local creative and media industries. The city of Halle, together with the state of Saxony-Anhalt, has invested €36m into the MMZ since it opened in 2007, enabling it to support more than 150 companies and create nearly 400 jobs. Today 50 companies are based there, covering fields from film and post-production to graphics and design, to events and software.
The MMZ is unique due to its “interdisciplinary concept”, according to Martin Neumann, managing director at Halbe Treppe, a MMZ-based provider of e-training products such as technical documentation, corporate and web design. “The MMZ is not just geared to one branch and therefore offers a home to founders from different directions. These unique synergies create a lot of creative processes,” he says.
Halle’s media and creative ecosystem also includes a well-established games sector, boasting companies that develop games and applications in the fields of entertainment, 'edutainment' and applied interactive technologies. The games sector is part of Halle’s wider IT scene, exemplified by Virtiv, a firm that develops solutions in the field of virtual and augmented reality.
Indeed such companies are supported by Interbank Giro funds – the only state funds in Germany that invest solely in game technologies – forming part of the numerous government support programmes on offer for the media, creative and IT industries.
Andreas Nowak, CEO of the MMZ, says: “We provide our tenants with information, advice and connections to obtain funds to enable their businesses to develop.”
With two universities, Halle is a student city. A campus for nearly 500 students at the department of media and communication of Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) encompasses teaching and R&D. Networking events at the MMZ involve both businesses and the university, fostering a collaborative environment that is conducive to the development of future startups and innovation.
“Media students can become professionals working for companies based in the MMZ, and those with innovative ideas have the opportunity to set up start-ups of their own,” says Grit Wisskirchen, CEO of MotionWorks. The animation production company has been a resident of the MMZ since its early years and has become one of the largest animation studios in Germany.
Through its university connection to other ‘centres of excellence’ in the city, such as the biotech-focused Weinberg campus, the MMZ also has access to MLU’s ‘idea incubator’, which nurtures new innovations and ideas from students.
The MMZ is one of 12 centres of excellence that IMG is promoting across the Saxony-Anhalt region, where industry and science exchange ideas and co-operate to strengthen innovation and the competitiveness of the regional economy.
Halle has many advantages for the media and creative industries as “the industry is concentrated in a small area and [they are] very well connected to one another,” says Sebastian Pahlke, CEO and founder of online ticket platform Tivents, which is based at the MMZ. “The mix consists of both internationally renowned companies and young companies that together represent large parts of the value chain,” he adds.
One internationally known company headquartered at the MMZ is Digital Republic Media Group (DRMG), a digital marketing software company that ranked in the Financial Times’ top 1000 fastest growing European companies for 2019. With seven locations internationally, including in London and Miami, DRMG is one of the MMZ's success stories and demonstrates Halle’s potential as a hub for IT-related industries.
The MMZ, along with the city of Halle, supports companies on site by providing affordable rent, costing roughly €4 per square metre per month, equivalent to about half of the standard price in the city. Companies find the MMZ has all the necessary infrastructure rooms fully equipped with the required technology, as well as offices, server rooms and events spaces.
The construction of a new complex at the MMZ, due for completion in mid-2020, will extend these facilities to offer additional seminar rooms, an event space, catering and co-working spaces, which will be accessible through a dock on the river Saale. “Halle invests a lot in the media infrastructure and also in good, educated specialist staff. Halle could become a centre of creative media production in central Germany,” says Florian Marquardt, owner of sound post-production company Klangfee.
Included in the MMZ’s infrastructure are free centres for founders through its TGZ programme, with an environment that encourages sharing ideas and addressing the major issues facing the media and creative industries as well as the city of Halle. “There is a strong collaborative environment in Halle, as shown by regular working groups between stakeholders from across the city and networking events between companies and the university,” says the MMZ's Mr Nowak.
Besides good transport connections by rail, road, river and air, the city offers residents a high quality of life, being ranked as Germany’s greenest, excluding forests, according to Acxiom Deutschland data. “Compared with larger cities, Halle has a more familial atmosphere and is still well-connected and easy to access,” says Ms Wisskirchen.
Given its collaborative hub, which is fully supported by the city and state, Halle is committed to be a location that shines in the media and creative industries into the future.