Digital First in Darmstadt

All over the country, companies are struggling to meet the demands of digitalization. Meanwhile, the technology hotspot of Darmstadt in Hessen is home to a new generation of IT companies.

May 2020

A next-generation 3D scanner at the Fraunhofer IGD in Darmstadt handles a delicate artifact. Two computer-controlled “touch sheets” capture the finest details using digital cameras without having to touch the object. 3D scanning is an invaluable tool which is used in science, healthcare, industry, architecture, and construction as well as the cultural and creative industries. © Fraunhofer IGD

Many well-established industrial and service companies have been shaken by new digital competitors in recent years and forced to reexamine their business models. When companies have been slow to adapt, business has often shrunk and jobs have been lost. On the positive side, digitalization presents a great opportunity for the economy.

The city of Darmstadt is one of the regional hotspots where information and communications technology (ICT) is flourishing. In fact, many German and foreign companies in this sector have chosen to base their headquarters there, including Software AG, Germany’s second largest IT company, and the U.S. software company CA Technologies, now a major employer in the region.

The presence of large research institutions from the tech sector in the Hessian city – including the ­Technical University of Darmstadt, the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD, and the National Research Center for Applied Cybersecurity (ATHENE) – ensures that a large number of creative IT solutions are coming out of Darmstadt. Tech companies can draw from a local pool of specialists, highly qualified staff and ICT graduates.

Award-winning city for tech innovation

With the right conditions for growth, it is no coincidence that Darmstadt has become a leading center for tech innovation. In 2017, the city even won the national competition “Digital City” run by the German IT industry association Bitkom. Darmstadt also has the geographical selling point of being closely located to the financial center of Frankfurt. This makes it especially attractive to IT companies from the financial sector such as fintech start-ups.

For the Darmstadt city administration, it is also very important to provide an up-to-date IT infrastructure to stimulate innovation. For example, the city has set up 18 5G antennae around Darmstadt central station, which make it possible to test self-propelling, semi-automated trams in an urban environment. The city’s mayor, Jochen Partsch, has highly praised the project as “an example of profitable cooperation between science and business.”

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