Braunschweig is a hotspot in the German – and even the European – research community. Sounds exaggerated? It isn’t. The thirst for knowledge and an urge to explore are a long-standing tradition here.
Let’s assume you have a great idea for an innovative product, a patent or an intelligent solution to a problem. What should you do? The quickest approach just might be to call +49 531 391-4260, the number for the Technology Transfer Office at the Braunschweig University of Technology. The technical university is among the state’s leading educational institutions when it comes to linked-up research and the transfer of technology. It offers a number of other projects as well, such as a Lernfabrik, or learning factory, for research, experimentation and teaching. The learning factory is also the venue for the new HoloHack event series. Student teams compete against each other here, developing mixed reality applications for the city of the future under time constraints (they are given 24 hours).
Born to research
But the future has been preceded by a decidedly eventful past: Braunschweig’s research tradition goes back more than 270 years, if you link it to an institution. It was 1745 when the Collegium Carolinum was first established during the Enlightenment. It was founded by Duke Charles I. of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel. Because the noble family placed a pronounced focus on humanistic pursuits, the thirst for knowledge was part of the Duke’s upbringing. Thanks to his support, Braunschweig became a centre of the Enlightenment in Germany in the mid-18th century. The Collegium Carolinum, from which the Braunschweig University of Technology would later emerge, attracted renowned scientists from every German-speaking region to the town on the Oker. The opening of the ‘Kunst- und Naturalienkabinett’ – Europe’s first art museum open to the public alongside the British Museum in London – was another progressive step. Not only did the people have an opportunity to educate themselves, they were encouraged to do so. Braunschweig had superseded Wolfenbüttel as the residential city, spruced itself up and began to build. Over the next one hundred years, the construction of the royal castle was completed and a new Staatstheater (State Theatre) was built. The architectural/technical draughting institute (later the Braunschweig University of Art) also emerged during this time. An impressive new building was constructed for the ‘Kunst- und Naturalienkabinett’ museum as well. It was later divided into the Naturhistorische Museum (Natural History Museum) and Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, an important art museum.
Cutting-edge research with an excellent reputation
Nowhere else in Germany will you find as many scientists per capita as in Braunschweig. According to a current EU study, the Lion City is home to one of the highest levels of research activity in Europe. New talent is fostered as well. More than 20,000 students are enrolled at the Braunschweig University of Technology and the Braunschweig University of Art. It’s difficult to imagine a better breeding ground for collaboration between research and industry.
Intensive research is conducted by more than 250 regional companies in the high-tech sector. The special strength of Braunschweig’s research landscape therefore lies mainly in applied research in cooperation with industry. Renowned institutions with a national presence sit side by side here: the Fraunhofer Society is represented by the Institute for Wood Research and Institute for Surface Engineering and Thin Films, the Helmholtz Association by the Centre for Infection Research. The Leibniz Association has also maintained a scientific institution in Braunschweig, the German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures (DSMZ), since 1987. And the Julius Kühn Institute provides advice to political players on agricultural and climate matters, among others.
Networks in motion: the Lower Saxony Automotive Research Centre
Mobility is among the most important pillars of the Braunschweig economic and research location. Research is conducted here in close cooperation with industry, led by the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) with its historic roots, which is now represented in Braunschweig with twelve institutions. The ‘Forschungsflughafen’ (Research Airport) is a flagship project of the research region. In 2013, it was ‘promoted’ to the Lower Saxony Aviation Research Centre (NFL), where the technical university, DLR and other partners now pool their expertise.
The Lower Saxony Automotive Research Centre (NFF) is another major institution. Located on the MobileLifeCampus in Wolfsburg and the Braunschweig Research Airport, the NFF was founded in 2007 with support from the state government and Volkswagen AG with the aim of developing the research region as a top international location for vehicle technology. Sustainable mobility requirements are studied in five different fields:
- Intelligent vehicles and networked driving
- Low-emission vehicles
- Flexible vehicle concepts and vehicle production
- Mobility management and logistics
Interdisciplinary projects therefore focus on everything required for the mobility of tomorrow, such as optimising the performance of battery cells, smart cars with communication capabilities and satellite-based traffic monitoring.
Yet research isn’t limited to classic engineering disciplines here. The specialist fields of psychology (Braunschweig University of Technology), information management (Braunschweig University of Technology) and transportation design (Braunschweig University of Art) are part of the NFF as well. In times of continuously changing metropolitan areas and living environments around the world, this has long since gone beyond mere futurology, but rather indicates a clear commitment to reconciling the mobility needs of residents with the capacities of the infrastructure.
The Lion City: a living lab
The city is a living lab, and not just for mobility. Research and development are tangible at countless locations in Braunschweig. Within the framework of the nationwide ‘Braunschweig 2030 – Living. Designing. Together.’ project, the Braunschweig University of Technology and Hanover Medical School are examining how innovative new living environments for all generations and the widest range of life situations can be created in cities in the future. The project is also taking into account demographic change and the prospect of a much higher life expectancy. The Braunschweig University of Technology is developing various solutions in this context, for example in lightweight construction, nano-measuring technology, process technology for the production of pharmaceuticals and noise reduction in aviation.
Precision on pace with the times
Anyone who lacks a sense of time can’t really come from Braunschweig. After all, this is where Germany’s first atomic clock has stood since 1969, and continues to keep accurate time to this day. It is housed in the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), the national metrological institute. No scientific experiment, no industrial process and no movement or transport of goods can function without measuring technology and its scientific backbone, metrology. What is the current radiation exposure in the environment due to artificial and natural radioactivity? What substances in which concentrations are we releasing into the air from exhaust pipes and factory chimneys? What steps can we take to reduce noise in our working environments and mobility sector? In addition to keeping time, the PTB examines such issues of importance for people and the environment.
Important research is conducted at the three state museums as well, the Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum (Braunschweig State Museum), Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum and Museum of Natural History. The rich museum collections have plenty of surprises in store and provide scientists with scope for new discoveries. They are especially attractive to new researchers. The offerings for children and young people are numerous and now even digital.
The multitude of facilities shows that interdisciplinary, networked collaboration between the city, industry and science is successful here. Every smart city of tomorrow will owe a great deal to Braunschweig and its rich tradition of research and innovation.