The early nineties were a tough time for the people in the region of Ilmenau in southern Thuringia. Its main industries of chemical plant construction and mechanical engineering were fighting to stay afloat. “Many companies from the GDR era were no longer competitive, and traditional sales markets in eastern Germany and the former Eastern Bloc states broke away,” explains Thomas Scheller from the local government administration. The result was an all-too-common story in the eastern states: Many jobs were lost, many people moved away.
Nevertheless, the people who stayed never lost their confidence. They put ambitious plans in place to revivify the old industrial sites and attract innovative technology companies to the area. Several local organizations worked tirelessly to achieve this: The state’s ministry of economics, the municipal administration, the State Development Corporation of Thuringia (LEG), and Ilmenau University of Technology (TU).