We are neighbours
With FUBIC, the FU Berlin and the district of Steglitz-Zehlendorf get their own start-up and technology centre
Cranes turn above the FUBIC Innovation Campus. “It has taken longer than we had hoped for,” says Jörg Israel, project manager at WISTA. Despite these challenges, however, the progress made at FUBIC is visible.
The old buildings have long been demolished and the hazardous substance remediation in the former hospital has almost been completed. Behind the building, the foundation has been laid for a battery-driven energy storage system. The Innovation Centre is due to open in late 2025 and become a home for a host of spin-offs from Freie Universität Berlin (FU).
The urban development agreement for the campus on the corner of Fabeckstrasse was signed in 2017 by the district government of Steglitz-Zehlendorf and WISTA Management GmbH, the operating company of Technology Park Adlershof. Nearly an acronym, FUBIC stands for „Business and Innovation Center next to Freie Universität Berlin Campus“. On an area in the direct vicinity of FU covering five hectares, a site is being created that will attract technology-oriented start-ups and companies from areas such as life sciences, healthcare, and computer science. The urban development agreement stipulates that 60 percent of the “residents” be start-ups and business founders. The remaining areas will be let out to technology-oriented companies that are already established on the market. To this end, there is space around FUBIC for up to six additional new buildings.
FUBIC is a significant asset for the district, says Maren Schellenberg, the district mayor of Steglitz-Zehlendorf. The location is ideal, she says, due to its proximity to a diverse range of scientific institutions, including Max Planck Society, Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing, or Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin (FU). “Because FU didn’t have a start-up and technology centre of its own, Steglitz-Zehlendorf was always a bit removed from the start-up scene. This is going to change now, and I am expecting lots of great international impulses and many new ideas, not only in research but also in technology development.” Moreover, the evolving campus will be an open one, accessible to everyone. “We are neighbours,” explains Jörg Israel, “and not a fenced-off technology premises.”
With emphasis, the district mayor praises the collaboration of all the stakeholders as open-minded and very cooperative. “We have some thick boards to drill here. Construction on this scale has not gotten any easier.” As the one responsible for new innovation centres and areas at WISTA, Jörg Israel can tell you a thing or two about this. A project like this – an all-electric model project running on renewable energy – has not yet been done before, especially not for start-up and technology centres with a high proportion of laboratory spaces. “It’s a showcase project and so it is understandable that people look at what we’re doing more closely. For us, this means a significant need for explanation and coordination,” explains Israel. This has prolonged test periods significantly in addition to the coronavirus pandemic.
Another challenge was hazardous substance remediation. The old military hospital was heavily contaminated with pollutants like asbestos. “This was more serious than expected,” says the project leader. “Disposal takes place under protective conditions and is very expensive in terms of both time and resources.” Issuing tenders for this is also a challenge. One has to find suitable companies that can provide exactly what is needed. “Heat pumps, for example,” says Jörg Israel. “Everybody is talking about them, everybody wants one, but you can’t get any on the market, especially not the kind of size we need.”
Nevertheless, Israel is confident that they will be able to open at the end of 2025. “The bidding process is ongoing for the technical infrastructure and the façade, among other things. Marketing should commence by the beginning of, at the latest by the middle of, next year. I am confident that the demand will be high. With the proximity to FU and many other research institutes, we have a perfect location.”
Rico Bigelmann for POTENZIAL
- WISTA Innovation Centre FUBIC – The Full Service Agency for Start-ups in Berlin Dahlem
- Members of the Steglitz-Zehlendorf district office – Berlin.de