Attractive Despite the Crisis: Thuringia Remains Premier Investment Location in Europe’s Heartland

Thuringia stands out as a blockbuster investment location in Europe’s heartland, even in years as turbulent as 2020. Local and international businesses turn to Thuringia for their investments and expansions. Thuringia, in short, remains a popular destination for investors.


January 2021

Companies all over Thuringia have responded swiftly to the uncertainty and changing conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and demonstrated that they can handle the crisis with flying colors. A quick review of the Thuringian economy shows that success can come in many shapes and forms depending on the industry; however, it always involves the kind of dedication, creativity and innovative ideas that Thuringia is known for: Southern Thuringian company BINZ has developed a groundbreaking innovation to combat deadly pathogens: An LED light system installed in the ambulance’s headliner emits UV light that kills 99.99 percent of bacteria, viruses and other germs in just under ten minutes. Other cutting-edge innovations that have proven extremely popular during the coronavirus pandemic include the rapid test for COVID-19 antibodies developed by Senova in Weimar and the Sterybot disinfection robot invented by MetraLabs in Ilmenau. The robot cleans closed rooms in schools, hospitals, restaurants or similar buildings, killing 99.99 percent of all the bacteria and viruses found there. It operates autonomously and disinfects room air as well as floors, walls, tabletops, chairs, door handles and light switches.

Thuringia is still renowned for its storied track record of innovation in optics and photonics. The latest example: Thuringian researchers won the German Future Prize at the end of 2020 – one of the best-endowed awards for innovation in Germany. Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier awarded the Award for Technology and Innovation to a team of experts from ZEISS, Segment for Semiconductor Manufacturing Technology (SMT), TRUMPF Lasersystems for Semiconductor Manufacturing and Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF in Jena, for their project “EUV Lithography – New Light for the Digital Age”.

The construction of the battery gigafactory of the Chinese global market leader CATL in the industrial area “Erfurter Kreuz” in Arnstadt/Ichtershausen is progressing steadily © LEG Thüringen

International investors, for their part, keep viewing Thuringia as an attractive site for their business ambitions, expanding and positioning their companies for the future with regard to megatrends and structural challenges. “We have attractive sites with fully developed free plots and excellent traffic links and can support investors with one-stop service, from establishing their first site in Thuringia to expanding their current operations,” said Dr. Arnulf Wulff, Senior Vice President and Head of Department Investment, International Business and Cluster Promotion at the State Development Corporation of Thuringia (LEG).

These advantages have not been lost on Antennentechnik Bad Blankenburg (ATTB): It belongs to Chinese group SV Desay Automotive and is building a development center for the automobile of the future in Weimar. Between 20 and 30 highly skilled experts will be designing solutions for smart antenna systems, electronics and software in Thuringia. ATTB used to specialize in supplying auto parts for commercial and special purpose vehicles, but the new development center marks its entry into the carmaking market. The new building is being constructed in close cooperation with LEG and expanded into ATTB’s future state-of-the-art research and technology campus – a place where big-name manufacturers’ pre-production vehicles, a.k.a. “development mules”, will drive in and out.

British fiber optic specialist Emtelle is also expanding its microduct production capacity in Thuringia and will be producing fiber optic cables in Erfurt. Since taking over Moore GmbH in October 2017, the Emtelle Group has completely repositioned the company and generated tremendous growth. It now employs 82 employees here, with more to come. To increase its manufacturing capacity even more, the company is investing a healthy seven-digit sum in a new storage/testing facility and a production expansion. According to Emtelle, it will soon be the only manufacturer in Germany to manufacture and combine both of the technological components needed for fast internet: microducts and fiber optic cables.

Papacks‘ new location should develop as well as the trees planted at the topping-out ceremony © Juliane Keith

Daimler has also decided to site its Daimler Truckstore in Thuringia, which boasts a central location in Germany, namely in its largest industrial district, the Erfurter Kreuz,. A stone’s throw away, innovative packaging specialist Papacks Sales GmbH is building a ten-million-euro gigafactory. The award-winning company has replaced nearly 2.5 million kilograms of plastic – the weight of ten jumbo jets – by making sustainable packaging. The Cologne-based firm meets the growing demand for sustainable, eco-friendly packaging solutions with a wide product range, from transport and industrial trays to packaging for food and medical or cosmetic products to refill caps, advent calendars and much, much more.

Plastics processor Röchling Medical has set its sights on expansion: The company is investing 50 million euros in a factory building and production equipment in Neuhaus am Rennweg in southern Thuringia, adding around 30 new jobs to its current payroll of 350. Röchling made this move to set up its Medical division for further growth.

Auto parts supplier Robert Bosch Fahrzeugelektrik, which has called Eisenach home since 1992 and produces sensors and other components with a team of 1,800 employees, has decided to serially produce 48-volt batteries. It will be investing EUR 80 million in its site; it has already constructed a factory building and is currently preparing for series production. This innovative energy storage technology – the driver of 48-volt hybrid systems for motor vehicles – has already been developed in Eisenach. Bosch has been steering this cutting-edge project in Thuringia for four years. Its Eisenach factory recently won the competition to be the European production site, which means the second, more powerful generation will enter series production in summer 2021. Bosch is sourcing the battery cells used in the 48-volt batteries from Chinese company CATL, with whom it has established a long-term relationship.

Current expansion projects are moving full steam ahead – including the one of the Chinese battery manufacturer CATL. After the groundbreaking in October 2019, construction on the 24-hectare site in the Erfurter Kreuz industrial park has made considerable progress. The initial production lines are currently being installed in the already existing factory building which has been purchased in 2019. Another milestone in Thuringia’s evolution into a region of battery excellence is the opening of the Battery Innovation and Technology Center (BITC) in Arnstadt. This Fraunhofer center of competence and innovation, located nearby and cooperating closely with CATL, conducts research into energy-efficient, eco-friendly battery manufacturing methods.

Marquardt’s project is also going well; however, the southwestern German auto parts supplier decided to expand its presence in Thuringia and purchased an additional 15-hectare site where it plans to invest an eight-digit sum in the production of battery management systems.

Thuringia offers innovative, forward-looking companies manifold opportunities to evolve and expand, with its technology and tradition, economic dynamism, cultural diversity and soft locational factors. With the State Development Corporation of Thuringia (LEG), you will have a strong partner who will provide full-service support for your journey to Thuringia.

Right on trend: Outdoor activities such as hiking in Thuringia’s breathtaking landscape is becoming increasingly popular © TTG