Karlsruhe as an Innovation Hub

Lively start-up scene

Supported by the strong digital industry, the proximity to research and development as well as the innovation-friendly climate of the entire region, a flourishing start-up scene has developed in Karlsruhe. For start-ups, the fan-shaped city is a place where they not only find technical know-how and first-class trained specialists, but also support through all stages of development.

The start-up support begins during education. Students at the xLab at the HKA – University of Applied Sciences Karlsruhe have the opportunity to learn how to think and act entrepreneurially and to work on their start-up project at an early stage. The Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) has in the KIT-Gründerschmiede, the PionierGarage and the entrepreneurship training through EnTechnon created several platforms for potential start-ups.

After graduation, accelerators such as the CyberLab or the energy accelerator AXEL in the Technology Factory, support start-ups with intensive coaching on the way to founding a company. In contrast to this, start-up centers, so-called incubators, are more general and operate in the medium term. Start-ups can rent office space, exchange ideas with other founders and make use of the existing infrastructure.

Including the accelerators, there are twelve start-up centers in Karlsruhe with a total area of around 33,000 square meters, in which over 250 companies are located. Another start-up and growth center, Smart Production Park, a division of the CyberLab is currently being built on the site of the Hoepfner Brewery. This 5,400 square meter start-up space will offer start-ups focused on IT, AI, IT security and smart production access to 150 mentors and 1,200 companies – all in a central, inner-city location.

Applied Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of those future topics that has the potential to change our world in the long run. This was ackowledged early in Karlsruhe and the competencies of local institutions that had grown over decades were pooled. In 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) recognized Karlsruhe as a digital hub for applied artificial intelligence. Today the region is one of the most important locations in Germany for the development and application of AI.

The transfer of knowledge and technology from research to application plays a vital role in this context. Or to put it another way: it is only the close cooperation between business, science and public administration that makes it possible to bring AI methods and technologies from mere theory to practical application.

The Digital Hub Karlsruhe has access to a strong network of around 4,800 IT companies, over 30 AI start-ups, 26 research and development facilities and 10,000 IT students. This gives companies in the region the unique opportunity to integrate AI solutions into their business models during the development stage – and at the same time support researchers with data from practical applications.

The optimization of district heating networks, the intelligent processing of data in the construction industry and AI-supported diagnostics in medicine are just a few of the projects that de:hub has implemented in recent years with a strong network from business, science and education.

Concentrated Competence

In Karlsruhe, within a few hundred meters radius, there are excellent universities and renowned research institutions. Embedded in strong networks, established companies meet ambitious founders. The resulting innovative strength has created several important centers of competence in the region of Karlsruhe.

The Competence Center for Applied Security Technology (KASTEL) is one of three competence centers for cybersecurity across Germany. It represents research and teaching in the field of information Security and Dependability at KIT. Founded in 2011, it has successfully advanced IT security research. KASTEL is focused on IT security in the areas of Industry 4.0 and 5G network expansion.

Similar to the de:hub for Applied AI, the regional competence center “Artificial Intelligence for Working and Learning in the Karlsruhe Region” (KARL) was launched in 2021. The focus here is on the transparency and traceability of AI applications as well as data protection and answering ethical and legal questions. If you will, everything revolves around people, which is intended to increase the acceptance of artificial intelligence in society in the medium term.

In addition, there are several competence centers for the topic of Midmarket 4.0 in Karlsruhe, which drive digital transformation in small and medium-sized companies. The Karlsruher Research Factory for AI-integrated Production by KIT and Fraunhofer is dedicated to the global issue of intelligent production, which is being researched and developed using real processes.