Ger­man twin town streets ahead and point­ing way to pros­per­ity

Most places have got one. Some even have sev­eral. But many peo­ple know noth­ing about them. Twin towns sup­pos­edly en­cour­age tourism and bring us closer to places around the world. Swansea has been twinned with Mannheim in Ger­many for 60 years. But that is

Western Mail - - WM2 -

IT ALl came about largely thanks to ef­forts by Ger­many to im­prove its re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tain af­ter the Sec­ond World War.

In the 60 years since there have been umpteen legal and so­cial agree­ments be­tween Swansea and Mannheim, with gen­er­a­tions of friends grow­ing upon the back of it. But what about the busi­ness end of things?

“The eco­nomic data for the two ar­eas makes in­ter­est­ing and, as a Swansea res­i­dent, de­press­ing read­ing,” says city AM Mike Hedges.

“The Mannheim metropoli­tan re­gion’s Gross Value Added is 147% of the Euro­pean av­er­age. But in Mannheim city it rises to 210%.

Com­pare that to the Swansea Metropoli­tan re­gion on 75% and the Swansea lo­cal author­ity area on 79%.

So what ex­actly does Mannheim do dif­fer­ently and can Swansea learn from its twin city?

“The city of Mannheim has been re­ferred to as the first ‘Smart City’, where they have been suc­cess­ful in con­nect­ing each house­hold within the city to a smart en­ergy net­work.

“Bus stops state when the next bus is ar­riv­ing and have signs in­di­cat­ing where traf­fic jams are.

“Fur­ther­more, in both the city and re­gion, you are able to reach ev­ery­thing sim­ply via bus, tram or train.

“Mannheim’s uni­ver­sity, which is one of the lead­ing re­search in­sti­tu­tions within Ger­many, plays a key role in its econ­omy.

“The re­search in­sti­tu­tions of the uni­ver­sity closely col­lab­o­rate with a num­ber of na­tional and in­ter­na­tional part­ners. Some ex­am­ples are the Mannheim Cen­tre for Euro­pean So­cial Re­search and the Cen­tre for Euro­pean Eco­nomic Re­search.

“And Mannheim’s Busi­ness School is Ger­many’s num­ber-one busi­ness school, of­fer­ing world-class man­age­ment ed­u­ca­tion. An in­sti­tu­tion af­fil­i­ated with the uni­ver­sity is the Mannheim Cen­ter for En­trepreneur­ship and In­no­va­tion that pro­vides a founder and in­cu­ba­tor plat­form for stu­dents, young en­trepreneurs and in­vestors. The in­sti­tute is sup­ported by the Mannheim In­sti­tute for Mit­tel­stand and SME Re­search (IfM) and the Chair of SME Re­search and En­trepreneur­ship at the Uni­ver­sity of Mannheim.

“Sev­eral suc­cess­ful start-ups have al­ready been launched at the Uni­ver­sity of Mannheim or been ini­ti­ated by for­mer stu­dents. For ex­am­ple, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal me­dia sources, Pay­back (€500m exit to Amer­i­can Ex­press), De­liv­ery Hero (raised $1.4b fund­ing), AUTO1 Group (raised $200m fund­ing), StudiVZ (€85m exit to Ge­org von Holtzbrinck Pub­lish­ing Group), Simfy (raised €30m fund­ing), Goodgame Stu­dios (ini­ti­at­ing IPO), Sav­ingGlobal (raised $32m fund­ing), Syn­chronite (sold to LivePer­son) and mov­i­lizer (sold to Honey­well).

“The metropoli­tan re­gion is more and more be­com­ing a draw for mul­ti­me­dia and high-tech ser­vice providers through SAP, and lead­ing ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions such as ABB, BASF and Roche Di­ag­nos­tics have set up there.

“All this helps ex­plain why Mannheim was ranked 11th in the top 15 of the most in­ven­tive cities world­wide.

“Mannheim also has not lost its his­tor­i­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing base. The suc­ces­sor to Karl Benz’s au­to­mo­bile man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies, Daim­ler AG, has had a large pres­ence in Mannheim, and it is in Mannheim that diesel engines and buses are as­sem­bled.

“The city is also home to ma­jor, multi­na­tional cor­po­ra­tions such as ABB, IBM, Roche, Unilever, Phoenix Group and sev­eral other well-known com­pa­nies. Also, there are nu­mer­ous emerg­ing medium-sized com­pa­nies, for ex­am­ple, Fuchs Petrolub and Pep­perl+Fuchs, which op­er­ate in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“The cre­ative in­dus­tries are firmly es­tab­lished, with the fa­mous Mannheimer Schule and the Na­tional The­atre. Mannheim also has a long­stand­ing cul­tural tra­di­tion. The Popakademie, Ger­many’s first uni­ver­sity for pop mu­sic and mu­sic busi­ness, is in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned.

“Mu­sic fes­ti­vals such as Maifeld Derby and Time Warp un­der­pin Mannheim’s po­si­tion as a city of mu­sic. There is also the ate­lier of the fashion de­signer Dorothee Schu­macher, and her cre­ations are pre­sented at in­ter­na­tional fashion weeks.

“With the aim of con­tribut­ing to an en­vi­ron­ment where many more cre­ative busi­nesses can arise, the Mg: Mannheimer Grün­dungszen­tren sup­ports busi­ness founders. The cen­tre ad­vises dur­ing the foun­da­tion process, pro­vides of­fice space and helps start-up com­pa­nies over­come the chal­lenges they face.

“I be­lieve the role the uni­ver­sity plays in sup­port­ing the de­vel­op­ment of start-up com­pa­nies is cru­cial to the pros­per­ity of the area. Also, the idea of hav­ing key in­dus­trial sec­tors and sup­port­ing them, build­ing on lo­cal ex­per­tise and ar­eas where ex­per­tise has been de­vel­oped over sev­eral years.

“Mannheim has also kept its man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor es­pe­cially based around Mercedes Benz.

“Whilst Swansea can­not repli­cate ev­ery­thing in Mannheim, build­ing on the uni­ver­si­ties, es­pe­cially the bay cam­pus, to gen­er­ate start-up com­pa­nies via a cen­tre for en­trepreneur­ship and in­no­va­tion, would be a sub­stan­tial step for­ward.

“Mannheim has made progress on en­ergy and con­nec­tiv­ity, two ar­eas that Swansea Bay City Re­gion can ben­e­fit from.

“Fi­nally, build­ing on the cre­ative in­dus­tries al­ready in the re­gion and also recog­nis­ing the con­tin­ued im­por­tance of the metal in­dus­tries would help take the Swansea Bay City Re­gion for­ward.”

John Mac­Dougall

> Mannheim’s land­mark wa­ter tower built in 1888

> Swansea as seen from Kil­vey Hill

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