District Government President Dr. Paul Beinhofer presents the Lower Franconia region


Lower Franconia – a top echelon region for business and culture

Regierungspräsident Dr. Paul BeinhoferWine – world heritage – business location: Conventional wisdom associates Lower Franconia, first and foremost, with Franconian wine (and with vineyards such as those in Würzburg, Iphofen or Bürgstadt), with culture and the arts and with famous names such as Walter von der Vogelweide, Tilmann Riemenschneider or Balthasar Neumann. However: Lower Franconia is much more than this. The region personifies a perfect symbiosis of values and cultural assets that are only seemingly in conflict. Although the region embodies immediate, tangible history and is home to cultural assets of global significance and huge stretches of lovely countryside, it is also experiencing dynamic growth as a leading European high-tech centre.

 

Universität Würzburg - Informatikgebäude (Foto: Staatliches Bauamt Würzburg)Science location Lower Franconia,
center of computer science,
University of Würzburg

With nine local districts and three unitary authorities (Aschaffenburg, Würzburg and Schweinfurt), Lower Franconia has a land area of 8,531km², and is home to 1.3 million inhabitants.
With the three regional centres just mentioned, as well as 20 middle-oder centres, the local population and economy in this region (which was once more of a rural, agricultural area) now has an extensive, well-structured and highly functional network of cities, providing a solid foundation for the social, commercial and cultural life of the region's inhabitants. The topography of the region consists of a "triad" of unforested fields used mainly for agriculture, characteristic wine-growing landscapes within the valleys cut into the region by River Main and its tributaries, and the Spessart, Odenwald, Rhön, Steigerwald, and Hassberg forests, which frame the other two parts of the triad.

Strategic location and excellent transport infrastructure

Lower Franconia is clearly unique in one respect. It is located at the geographical centre of the country, and at the same time is part of the State of Bavaria: Lower Franconia is Bavaria's piece of the ‘heart of Germany'.

Unterfranken zentral in EuropaIn terms of specific, tangible economic value, what this means is that the region is central and accessible and that it provides a politically stable, reliable staging ground for business. In terms of image, the region has the advantage of being a part of Bavaria – a 'brand' with favourable associations all over the world. Two factors make this central location within Germany a decisive advantage for local business: These are, firstly, the outstanding quality of the region's transport infrastructure, and secondly, its proximity to nearby metropolitan regions.

Lower Franconia is exceptionally well integrated within the European motorway network: The region is where the German Federal autobahn A 3, which runs west to east, and the major European north-south route A 7 intersect. The motorway options in the region are complemented by the A 70 motorway, which links Lower Franconia with the Bamberg/Bayreuth region, and by the A 81, which links Lower Franconia to the Stuttgart region. The A 45 links western Lower Franconia directly to the Ruhr valley. The newly constructed A 71 now serves as a high-capacity link to the main economic centres in Thüringen. Lower Franconia also has excellent connections to all of the other economic regions in Germany and Europe via rail, particularly through its Intercity hub in Würzburg. Aschaffenburg is likewise an Intercity rail stop. The region's location between the metropolitan areas of Frankfurt-Rhein-Main to the west, Nürnberg-Fürth-Erlangen to the east and Stuttgart to the south also means that the airports in those metropolitan regions are easily and quickly accessible. The transport infrastructure is, of course, rounded out by the River Main – which, from a historical perspective, was the economic backbone of the region. Today’s Main-Danube canal links ports between the North Sea and the Black Sea.

Research and science – a basis for innovation

Lower Franconia’s decisive competitive edge is its capacity for innovation, thanks to the people and companies located here. During the 2014/2015 winter semester, there were approx. 40,000 students registered at the University of Würzburg and at the Aschaffenburg and Würzburg-Schweinfurt polytechnics for applied sciences. The Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg is one of Germany's oldest universities and simultaneously one of its most modern ones: The region’s government successfully advocated the introduction of application-oriented engineering programmes at local higher education institutions. When they were introduced, the engineering courses in "nanostructure technology" and in "functional materials technology" were novel programmes in the natural sciences and engineering in Germany. They represent a new, inter-disciplinary approach in which engineering classes are taught in close collaboration with the industry sector and application-oriented links with business and legal studies are likewise cultivated. The "Technological Informatics" course of studies is dedicated to a further key technology of the 21st century. Just as an example of how closely this area of research relates to practical applications, it should be noted that the 3rd Piko satellite (following successful space launches of the predecessors) was developed at the local Institute of Robotics. That satellite will feed valuable data from space back to scientists on earth in future.

Finally, the region benefits from the expertise of well-known research institutes such as the Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research (ISC), the South German Plastics Centre (SKZ), the Bavarian Centre for Applied Energy Research (ZAE-Bayern) and the MRB Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance and the ZfT Centre for Telematics. The aim of the telemedicine centre in Bad Kissingen, which is being set up at the moment, is to create a network and develop and disseminate techniques.

Because knowledge is our region’s one distinguishing resource, one cannot overstate the significance of our modern, high-performance scientific infrastructure. The reciprocal links between Lower Franconian science and research, the transfer of that knowledge to the domestic economy and support for start-ups emanating from the research activities of the university and polytechnics are thus major building blocks in our region's development strategy. In Lower Franconia, research findings are developed into marketable products.

And not only academic spin-offs avail themselves of business incubator services during their start-up phase. The services of business incubator centres, which are provided at low cost, enable new entrepreneurs to concentrate on their core areas of expertise. The network structures of our local business incubator centres make it easier for new entrepreneurs to access resources that are indispensable to innovative businesses. These include the Zentrum für Technologie, Existenzgründung und Cooperation in Grosswallstadt (ZENTEC), the Technologie-und Gründerzentrum Würzburg (TGZ), with its planned new headquarters in the immediate vicinity of the university campus, the IGZ Innovations- und Gründerzentrum in Würzburg, the Gründerzentrum GRIBS in Schweinfurt and the Rhön-Saale-Gründerzentrum in Bad Kissingen. The Lower Franconia business incubators are thus an extensive network, supplemented by expert advisors.


Local expertise in the field of electromobility is being expanded through projects undertaken by the model city Bad Neustadt. Electromobility is also a particular focus of the Technologietransferzentrum für Elektromobilität of the Würzburg-Schweinfurt Polytechnic in Bad Neustadt, and it is also the subject of research activities at the ISC Fraunhofer Institute in the field of applied electrochemistry. The Zentrum für Wissenschaftlichen Service (ZeWiS) with its headquarters in Obernburg, has supported cooperation and exchange of expertise between the Aschaffenburg Polytechnic and Lower Franconian businesses since September 2011. ZeWiS's focus here is on the major future fields of materials research, IT and information systems, intelligence systems and automation as well as questions of energy efficiency. The creation of a Fraunhofer Technologietransferzentrum at the Aschaffenburg Polytechnic means that this science and research region in northwestern Bavaria will be strengthened even further in future. The topical focus in Aschaffenburg will be on raw materials research. The creation of the technology transfer centre is thus modelled on the Zentrum für Wertstoffkreisläufe und Ressourcenstrategie (IWKS), which was set up by Frauenhofergesellschaft in 2011.

In addition, this cluster of research institutions, which actively operates throughout Bavaria, facilitates extremely close cooperation of players within the business sector, and within the academic sector, but first and foremost as between the business and the academic sectors.

What this means is that Lower Franconia also offers exceptional employment opportunities. The unemployment rate is very low, in fact lower than the Bavarian average, which itself is excellent.

The correct response to globalisation pressures: a clear profile of expertise – automotive/engineering, health/biomedicine, new materials

Where competition between regions becomes more intense as a result of globalisation and where the internationalisation of business causes decision-makers to feel fewer emotional ties to a particular location, it becomes a challenge for any region to identify where its specific areas of competence lie, to further develop those areas and position them as visibly as possible on the global market. An in-depth analytical study on the region's areas of expertise by business consultancy Prognos has given Lower Franconia an objective basis for decision-making. According to that study, our region has outstanding levels of expertise in the fields of automotive/mechanical engineering and health sciences/biomedicine. In addition, Lower Franconia distinguishes itself in the interdisciplinary field of new materials, particularly because of the research institutions located here, such as the Fraunhofer Instituts für Silikatforschung, the Süddeutsche Kunststoffzentrum,  the integration of the new Centre of Excellence "Neue Materialien Nordbayern" (new materials northern Bavaria) and the research institutes at the University of Würzburg, all of which operate with one another. The course of study in "Technology of Functional Materials", which has been taught since the 2006/2007 winter semester, has solidly enhanced this field of expertise. Finally, there is also significant growth to be noted in the logistics sector here. The Lower Main river region has, in particular, developed into a significant logistics hub.

ReisHigh-Tech-Region Lower
Franconia, robotsystems
near Aschaffenburg

In the core competence area of automotive/mechanical engineering, the characteristic products come from the fields of precision and roller bearing technology, braking and clutch systems, control and drive technology, vehicle safety (airbags), hydraulics, printing machines and electric motors and operating systems for passenger vehicles. Lower Franconia has a tradition of innovative high-tech automotive supply products and the region has been a successful global player in mechanical engineering for decades. Lower Franconia is home to famous old companies such as Bosch Rexroth, FAG Kugelfischer, ZF Sachs, Linde, TRW Automotive, Takata-Petri, Reis-Robotics and Koenig & Bauer.

 

Preventative medicine and wellness at Germany's most famous spa, Bad Kissingen

Staatsbad Bad KissingenHealth region Lower
Franconia; Bad Kissingen

The region's special expertise in the healthcare sector ranges from the research-intensive fields of biotechnology and medical technology to spa and clinic facilities, including facilities in the wellness sector. At the University of Würzburg, research in medicine and human biology is conducted at 25 institutes and research centres, as well as eight specialist research departments. The Rudolf-Virchow Zentrum für Experimentelle Biomedizin is one of three "Centres of Excellence" of the German Research Society Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), conducting leading-edge research in the field of target proteins. The region’s spa and wellness sector is concentrated within the "Bavarian Rhön spa region", which includes Germany's best-known spa, Bad Kissingen. The cardiovascular clinic in Bad Neustadt has evolved into one of the major cardiovascular medical centres in Germany outside of a university clinic setting.

New challenges as opportunities for the region: Demographic change and energy revolution

Never before have issues of demographic change and the energy revolution, as well as climate change, been the topics of such intense social, economic and political debates as they are today. It is thus entirely unsurprising that the Lower Franconia region began addressing these transformations, which are presumably amongst the most serious we currently face, at an early stage.

Numerous initiatives, which operate within finely meshed networks, are devoted to the issue of demographic change in Lower Franconia. Significant players in this arena are two regional marketing initiatives known as "Region Mainfranken GmbH" and "Initiative Bayerischer Untermain“. They work within and across institutional boundaries to strengthen the demographic structure of the region in times of demographic change. These measures will benefit everyone: businesses, educational and research institutions, as well as cities and municipalities, to make them attractive places to live and work.

Lower Franconia has shown a great deal of commitment in addressing energy-related topics in the past. For example, Lower Franconia compares favourably with other Bavarian regions in terms of its expansion of wind power. As of February 2013, there were 135 wind power facilities in operation within the Lower Franconia region. The responsible players in Lower Franconia are continuing and redoubling their efforts to exploit all of the possibilities and opportunities generated by the 'energy revolution' pursued by the German State and by the "Energie Innovativ" energy programme which the Bavarian State government has adopted.

In sum:

Lower Franconia stands out as a robust business location, where the quality of life is exceptionally high. Its multi-faceted R&D sector, combines with excellent links with industry, trade and services, provide excellent spillover effects to businesses and university graduates, ensuring optimal future opportunities within the region. Lower Franconia "is the northern Bavarian showcase of the Bavarian Freistaat" (BayStMWIVT 2012: 3)
With an exceptional (transport) infrastructure, the region benefits from its proximity to neighbouring metropolitan regions, while yet preserving its independent character. Lower Franconia wins the argument as a business location because it has robust urban centres whilst at the same time offering spacious, stunning countryside and cultural treasures of inestimable value.
These are the reasons that people wish to live in our region, as confirmed by various polls (e.g. by the then-largest international online poll "Perspektive Deutschland" or the current Bavaria study undertaken by the Bavarian State radio). The EU statistics authority Eurostat has, in addition, regularly confirmed Lower Franconia's position as one of the ten most significant high-tech regions in Europe.

And Lower Franconia remains attractive, because we are working together to pursue a regional development strategy, which has created unbureaucratic networks of decision-makers throughout the economy, academia and administration in the region and ensures that they collaborate efficiently: For instance on successful regional marketing initiatives such as
Region Mainfranken GmbH and Initiative Bayerischer Untermain as well as pursuing technological developments through institutional 'clusters'. Lower Franconia has resolutely accepted the challenges of the future.

For further information:

Sources:

Bavarian State Ministry of the Economy, Infrastructure, Transport and Technology (2012): Starkes Unterfranken – Standortpolitik für die Region. Munich

Bavarian State Office of Statistics and Data Processing (2012): Regionalisierte Bevölkerungsvorausberechnung für Bayern bis 2031 – Demographisches Profil für den Regierungsbezirk Unterfranken. Munich

Business location Lower Franconia
Editor: Christian Kirk
Europäischer Wirtschaftsverlag
Lower Franconia Regional Government

updated as of March 2013 for online publication in this form

Stand: 28.03.2018