City of Light

Jena is a vibrant and fast-growing hub for the high-tech industry. With international players setting up shop, the city is becoming known as eastern Germany’s “Optics Valley.”

March, 2017

For a small university city in eastern Germany, with a population of just 110,000, Jena is attracting a lot of international attention. Companies such as US global manufacturing services group Jabil Circuit, Israel’s technology group Orbotech and Switzerland’s ground-breaking engineering group Feintool have invested strategically in the region, which has enjoyed unprecedented growth in the last ten years.

The secret of Jena’s success is rooted in its heritage as the cradle of Europe’s optical and photonics industry. Carl Zeiss, the world-famous lens and camera producer, began his pioneering work here in 1846 – and in 1990, following reunification, Carl Zeiss Jena re­established its base here. Jena is also home to iconic glass manufacturer Schott and global photonics manufacturer Jenoptik.

“For more than 150 years our science city has been shaped by innovative, light-based technologies,” says Jena’s mayor, Albrecht Schröter. “As a center for research in the field of optics and photonics, the close connections between Jena’s universities and commercial research facilities as well as the local industry have been a long-standing tradition and guarantee for success.”

Surrounded by lovely countryside, the compact university city of Jena is attracting a lot of attention from global high-tech companies looking for a location in Germany.  Photo: Malte Jaeger/laif

Center of technical excellence

Jena boasts several renowned research institutions, including three Max Planck Institutes; the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering, the Friedrich Schiller University (est. 1558), the University of Applied Sciences, and three Leibniz Association institutes relating to photonic technology, natural product research, infection biology and the science of aging.

Jena’s more recent emergence as a Mecca for high-tech is no random occurrence. The local economic development agency (Jena Wirtschaft) and the business community have a proactive approach to incubating talent and the infrastructure is in place: there are two technology parks, JenA4 and Jena21.

Playing a key role in the city’s success is OptoNet, a thriving technology cluster that represents the leading photonics players in the region such as Jena-Optronik, pioneers in multi-spectral space cameras and 3D imaging, LASOS, which produces high-precision lasers, and ALS, which develops robotics solutions for healthcare.

The award-winning organization, which has 100 active members, strengthens the sector by promoting international visibility. OptoNet works with partners all over the world to promote cooperation in photonics and to establish transnational R&D projects in the fields of materials, components and systems, optoelectronics and sensor technology. Last year it launched an internationalization project focusing on North America, Japan and South Korea.

Facts & Figures

97 per cent

of Jena’s manufacturing sector companies would recommend the city as a location.

105,000

inhabitants in Jena

40,000

employees in Jena

26,000

University students in Jena

4,500

Researchers in Jena

Attracting foreign investment

One of its newest members is Jabil Optics Germany, formed last year when the US parent company consolidated its optics business by bringing together Sypro Optics (acquired from Carl Zeiss), Kasalis and the former Jabil Embedded Camera Group. Jabil Optics is aiming for future breakthroughs in such technologies as miniaturized projection systems for consumer electronics.

According to Wilfried Röpke, managing director of Jena Wirtschaft, foreign companies are investing in a broad range of technol­ogies, not just in the field of optics. “Jena is internationally known for its optical tradition, but also increasingly for life sciences technologies, such as medical and laboratory equipment, precision engineering as well as digital technologies like e-commerce,” he explains. “In addition we have 4,500 researchers and more than 23,000 students plus strong networks between business and science; all of which offer ideal conditions for the establishment and growth of high-tech companies.”

Foreign investors who are considering Jena as a location would be advised to get acquainted with the business scene first, the infrastructure and the expectations of local customers. Companies which have thrived here are typically long-term, strategic invest­ors who have done the groundwork and carefully plotted their route to success. Making contact with the local development agency might be the first milestone in that journey.

Foreign Direct Investment

Global companies that have invested in Jena

EH: Swiss instrumentation and process automation technology group
Endress+Hauser (Analytik Jena AG)

JABIL: US global manufacturing services group Jabil Circuit, Inc.,
(Jabil Optics Germany GmbH)

salesforce: US cloud computing company Salesforce (Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Jena)

orbotech: Israeli global technology group Orbotech Ltd. (Laser Imaging Systems GmbH)

FEINTOOL: Swiss engineering group Feintool International Holding AG (Feintool System Parts Jena GmbH)

OPTICS BALZERS: Optics Balzers AG from Liechtenstein
(Optics Balzers Jena GmbH)

Contact & More Information