Bavaria: Idyllic, Iconic Germany

Luster, muster and clusters—the State of Bavaria has it all. A magical capital, an indefatigable work ethic and a sound economic development model ensure this German giant’s overwhelming success.

Bavaria Fast Facts

  • More than 30 European metropolises are within a three-hour flight
  • 12.5 million inhabitants (No. 9 in EU)
  • Largest German state by size (70,551 square kilometers)
  • 2007 GDP was 434 billion euro (No. 7 in EU)
  • More than 23,000 U.S. citizens live in Bavaria
  • 32 city partnerships between Bavaria and the U.S.
  • More than 500 U.S. students in Bavaria with 210 partnerships between Bavarian and U.S. universities
  • 11 universities, 17 universities of applied sciences, 11 Max Planck Institutes

Source: Invest in Bavaria

In the fourth quarter of 2008, I toured the German State of Bavaria, beginning in the grandeur of Munich (München), and I met with representatives from a cross-section of industries—logistics to manufacturing, healthcare to biotechnology. In fact, Business Facilities’ Snapshots interview for April was Dr. Horst Domdey, managing director of Munich’s robust biotech cluster development.

The Bavarian Cluster Initiative quickly became a recurring theme as I traveled throughout the state. Bavaria, a proud and wealthy region full of lush landscapes and traditional German antiquity, recognizes that its high-cost, high-reward location faces stiff competition from emerging Eastern European countries and other lower-cost sites. As a result, the state’s Ministry of Economic Affairs and Invest in Bavaria, a division of the ministry that focuses on foreign direct investment and location marketing, has devised 19 business clusters, or geographic concentrations of interconnected businesses, suppliers, and associated institutions within a particular industry. These focused efforts are helping Bavaria to construct specialized workforces and increase innovation and collaboration. Clusters abound throughout the state, with Regensburg and Würzburg promoting themselves as world-class life sciences centers, while Augsburg and Nürnberg have knowledge centers in information technology. Other clusters include satellite navigation; media and filmmaking; and, of course, Bavaria’s world-famous automotive industry, which focuses on efficient driving dynamics, flexible production, and car electronics for comfort and safety. Approximately 600 companies and scientific and educational institutions participate in Bavaria’s automotive cluster (so it’s no surprise that during my time traveling through the state, I was transported in an efficient, well-equipped new Audi).

The full list of 19 clusters is: biotechnology, aerospace, satellite navigation, information and communications technology, environmental technology, medical technology, automotive engineering, chemicals, sensors and power electronics, nutrition, forest and wood, financial services, media, energy technology, railway technology, logistics, nanotechnology, mechatronics/robotics/efficient production systems, and new materials. Just outside the city limits of Munich is Garching, where GE recently opened its new Global Research headquarters—a spacious, bright and airy facility where a conversation with Dr. Carlos Hartel, managing director of GE Europe, revealed the company’s reason for locating there: proximity to a Max Planck Institute and Munich’s universities.

Further northwest into Bavaria lies the city of Straubing which nears the border of the Czech Republic. With Managing Director Andreas Loffert, I toured the Straubing-Sand Biocampus; its Business Incubator, which offers up to five years of start-up assistance and has 2,700 square meters to rent; its Rhine-Main-Danube 3,500 km international River Port; and its Industrial Area with railways connecting Frankfurt to Vienna and Straubing to Munich. The purpose-built Straubing-Sand facility already has 28 established companies—including Ingram Micro and Lidl, among others—has created 2,100 jobs, and has lured public investments of 130 million euro and 223 million euro in private funds.

München’s Gothic and Modern Mosaic

Arriving in Munich just days after the Oktoberfest celebrations concluded was perfect timing. Mostly gone were foreign revelers fisting liters of wheat beer, but the city was still abuzz. Marienplatz, a focal point of the Bavarian capital, was full of retail outlets benefiting from souvenir-hungry stragglers as well as locals going about their ordinary workday, amid ostentatious fountains and towering statues.

Germany’s social elite, fashion plates with cars to flaunt and money to burn, can be seen parading along Maximilianstrasse, a posh boulevard not too dissimilar to New York City’s Fifth Avenue or Beverly Hill’s Rodeo Drive. A more bohemian chic crowd tends to congregate in Schwabing, a neighborhood north of central Munich and close to the well-respected Ludwig-Maximilians University. And it seems the whole city takes advantage of one of Europe’s largest urban sprawls of green space, Englischer Garten, a massive swatch of parkland with walking trails, horse-drawn carriages, biergartens, a Japanese teahouse and, on warm days, adrenaline junkies “riverjumping” in the Isar. While I visited, runners of the Munich Marathon were racing through the city, absorbing the ambiance with each inhale and exhale.

Those who tire quickly of boardroom boredom choose Munich for its varied, invigorating quality of life. Cavernous beer halls serve traditional pig’s knuckles and potatoes, while simple corner shops offer cheap currywurst. A large Turkish population means kebab shops are aplenty while seemingly all the American fast food chains have found storefront space. Culinary and cultured, established and ever changing, to outsiders, Munich is stereotypically German—and that’s a great thing to be.

Munich Airport: Europe’s Euphoria

From atop Munich International Airport’s tower, I learned that for the fourth year in a row, the airport was voted Europe’s best at the World Airport Awards in 2008. The survey, which was conducted by Skytrax, a London-based independent aviation research institute, had a total of 8.2 million respondents—more than in any previous year. More than 190 airports were evaluated and assessed on more than 40 aspects of customer satisfaction for airport product and service standards, ranging from ease of catching connecting flights to the cleanliness of restrooms and the efficiency of security checks. Worldwide, Munich Airport ranks fifth behind four Asian hubs: Hong Kong, Singapore Changi, Seoul Incheon, and Kuala Lumpur International. Rounding out the top ten are Japan’s Kansai at number six, followed by Copenhagen, Zurich, Helsinki, and Cape Town.

In February 2009, Dr. Michael Kerkloh, CEO of Munich Airport, said, “In 2008 we set new annual records for passenger traffic and the number of take-offs and landings for the sixth year in a row. Our total passenger volume rose to 34.5 million in 2008. Against the backdrop of the sharp economic downturn seen in the second half of last year, this is a very respectable result, with which we have once again significantly exceeded the average performance of German and European airports. Many other major European hubs, including London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Madrid and Amsterdam, closed out the past year with a decrease in total passengers. Among Europe’s 10 busiest passenger airports, Munich, with its growth rate of approximately 2%, is still among the leaders in terms of its traffic trend. Only Rome airport was able to post a larger increase as a result of non-recurrent effects related to the Alitalia crisis.”


Total Passengers at European Airports, 2008

1. London Heathrow (67.1 million)
2. Paris Charles de Gaulle (60.9 million)
3. Frankfurt (53.5 million)
4. Madrid (50.8 million)
5. Amsterdam (47.4 million)
6. Rome Fiumicino (35.1 million)
7. Munich (34.5 million)
8. London Gatwick (34.2 million)
9. Barcelona (30.2 million)
10. Paris Orly (26.2 million)

Source: ACI Rapid Data Exchange Program