Kaiserslautern in Rheinland-Pfalz has been an international city for a long time: Almost 25,000 U.S. and French soldiers were stationed there at the beginning of the 1990s. The military bases were the main economic driver in Kaiserslautern and the surrounding area – responsible for more than 40,000 jobs. In the last few decades, the United States has largely and France completely withdrawn their armed forces, while jobs have been lost with other major local employers, such as the sewing machine manufacturer Pfaff and the railway repairs depot. The unemployment rate rose to 17 percent in the late nineties.
Harnessing the digital transformation
Since 2000, however, Kaiserslautern has recovered. The Kaiserslautern University of Technology (TU) and the Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences (HS) were key drivers of that change. They ensured that renowned research institutes settled in the city – such as the Max Planck Institute for Software Systems and the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE as well as the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, Kaiserslautern has developed into one of the most agile and renowned science locations in terms of digital transformation,” says Dieter Rombach, founder and former director of the Fraunhofer IESE. There’s a dynamic ecosystem here that makes it easy for foreign companies and investors to network with scientists. The Science and Innovation Alliance Kaiserslautern (SIAK), for example, provides a forum for universities, 10 research institutions and 40 high-tech companies to exchange information with each other.