Berlin has had its difficult years. But right now it is regarded – particularly by expatriates and young German professionals – as one of the best places to live in Germany. In comparison with Frankfurt or Munich, rental prices, not only for office or industrial spaces, but also accommodation, are affordable. Transport networks are excellent. And while Berlin lacks the mountains on Munich’s doorstep, Berlin’s ‘green lungs’, both in the city and close by, mean that urban cares are quickly soothed, if not banished. But there are also strategic and commercial reasons for the Berlin-Brandenburg region’s increasingly high profile.

One is the proliferation of new industries and companies building their futures in and around the city. Clean technology is perhaps one of the most exciting of these. For example: one in two solar modules made in Germany is produced in the Berlin-Brandenburg region, with companies such as First Solar, Conergy, Nanosolar, Aleo Solar, Solon, Inventux and others creating more than 4000 jobs. Staff are employed in the production of components critical to the entire solar energy supply chain. For example, the town of Lieberose, close to Berlin, is home to the second-largest solar park in the world, comprising 700,000 modules, with an installed capacity of 53 megawatts (peak).

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The region has also become a magnet for innovators in the wind energy industry; Brandenburg has christened itself “the wind energy state”, and has an installed capacity of 4000 megawatts (electrical). Manufacturers drawn to the region include Vestas, Reuther and REpower Systems. Networking, the opportunity to share ideas, breeds innovation – such as Enertrag’s new and unique wind-biogas-hybrid power plant in the city of Dauerthal. But it is also fitting that a region and city which will soon boast a state-of-the-art airport should also be playing its role in aerospace development.

This is the remit of the Berlin-Brandenburg Aerospace Alliance, comprising of aerospace stakeholders from throughout the industry which are coming together to build a cluster. These include Rolls-Royce Germany, Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services, Lufthansa Flight Training and Aquila Aviation. In total, about 17,000 people are employed by the industry in the region, some 5000 of whom are specialists, technicians or engineers.

Logistics and labour

Aerospace and green energy solutions are only indicative of Berlin’s calibre, and its place in Europe’s industrial landscape. But it enjoys geographical advantages as well. Berlin is a western European city on the cusp of eastern Europe, and as such is close to the increasingly important markets of the accession countries: Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and of course the Baltic countries to the north – all in all, some 100 million potential customers and clients within an eight-hour drive of Berlin centre. It is also, of course, the seat of German federal government, so a prime position if a business requires proximity to decision-makers. Labour costs, by German and other western European standards, are very reasonable and the region’s workforce is highly trained.

Berlin Partner, which promotes business opportunities in the city, points out that logistics companies looking for employees in the Berlin-Brandenburg region will find highly qualified workers who can boast three years’ professional training in logistics skills – but at an average cost of 30% less than counterparts elsewhere in Germany.

On the logistics side, it is anticipated that the new airport will give the industry an extra fillip – and energise the industries which are already pushing the boundaries in the region.