Marketing of High-tech Regions (1): Karlsruhe “HighTech meets the Good Life”



By Hans Pul

Regional marketing booms. Small (and big) cities team up in regional cooperations, in order to get noticed in the international arena. Together, regional actors aim to attract investors, potential employees and tourists. Career opportunities and quality of life play an important role in this respect. Richard Florida’s well-known book The Rise of the Creative Class, Cities and the Creative Class (2002) proves to be influential once again.

In a benchmark study conducted by in:polis, the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion was compared with 10 European regions, comparable in terms of R&D and regional spatial characteristics. The choice of regions with similar R&D characteristics was based on a 2008 study by the European Commission: “Europe’s regional research systems – current trends and structures”. In this series, I will discuss a number of these regions and their regional branding efforts, including Karlsruhe, Uppsala, Nuremberg and the Rhein-Neckar Metropolitan Region. Aspects such as brands, cooperation models and marketing instruments will be discussed.

In this introductory post, I will present the marketing efforts of the Karlsruhe region, where several municipalities, cities and other regional actors teamed up in the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion.


Typology Regional Research Systems

Typology of regions – from “Europe‘s regional research systems”. Karlsruhe is highlighted with a red circle.

Karlsruhe, a city with 300.000 inhabitants, is located in Germany’s southwest state of Baden-Württemberg. Karlsruhe is known as the place where the bicycle was invented and frequently makes it into the headlines of German and European media because of the Bundesverfassungsgericht, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. In total the 3200 km2 region is home to 1.2 million inhabitants.

As in many other places in southern Germany, there is an abundance of high-tech companies, institutes and universities. The R&D expenditure is 3,8% as percentage of GDP, well above the goal set by the European Commission. Karlsruhe is one of Europe’s leading best performing high-tech regions, for example in terms of patents (4th), number of researchers (8th) and public sector R&D expenditure (7th). Based on these and other R&D indicators, the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion is a “business-oriented, R&D-driven region”, according to the aforementioned study “Europe’s regional research systems – current trends and structures”. Other “hard” location factors, such as infrastructure conditions are superb.

Interestingly, “soft” location factors, such as quality of life (nature, culture, etc.) play a central role in the regional marketing efforts. Of course, “hard” location factors are brought afore as well. The combination of hard and soft location factors is also reflected in the regions slogan: “HighTech meets the Good Life” (in German: “Hightech trifft Lebensart”). A diversity of instruments is used, including glossy 60-page brochures, a trilingual website, DVDs and Youtube-videos (see above).

Cluster or sector oriented networks are incorporated in the regional marketing. Most notably these include bioValley and On the website it appears as if these networks exist “under” the umbrella brand Karlsruhe TechnologieRegion. However, geographically these networks only partially overlap with the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion.

Homepage Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion

Homepage of Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion, “High Tech meets the Good Life”

In terms of regional marketing, Karlsruhe was an early-adaptor. The brand Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion exists since 1987. Since then, many other regions in Germany and Europe catched up in terms of regional marketing. Since 2005 the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region, located directly north of the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion, is one of 11 German Metropolitan Regions. Karlsruhe itself, however, is located outside a European Metropolitan Region. As such, it is the largest German city outside a Metropolitan Region (!). This clearly is a competitive disadvantage: all larger -and many smaller- cities and towns are able to present themselves as part of a Metropolitan Region in the international arena, while Karlsruhe cannot.

Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion

Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion

In addition, the fact that the major city of Stuttgart, as well as the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region are not mentioned in the glossy brochures of the region is another indication of the fact that Karlsruhe is focused on itself, on its own relatively small 1.2 Million inhabitant region. This focus on the own region is also reflected in the halfhearted cooperation of Karlsruhe in the so-called “Trinational Metropolitan Region Upper Rhine” (see this interview with Karlsruhe’s mayor [in German]). As a cross-border cooperation it seems to be more of a political project, rather than the cooperation of a region that actually functions as a metropolitan region (for example in terms of commuting). Nonetheless, I think an Upper Rhine cooperation could make sense, for example with regard to the region as a tourist destination.

How does the regional branding of Karlsruhe compare with other European regions? In upcoming posts of this series, regional marketing efforts of other European high-tech regions will be compared with that of the Karlsruhe region.


Quality of Life as important location factor; taken from brochure of the Karlsruhe TechnologyRegion (not available in English yet)

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1 Response to Marketing of High-tech Regions (1): Karlsruhe “HighTech meets the Good Life”

  1. Cecilia says:

    Very interesting topic! With a colleague I have been working on “innovation brands” and we found that there is a very little work done in the field. If you can, have a look at “Branding peripheral knoweldge-intensive regions: an inisight into international innovation brands” in the Regional Insights. I definitely look forward to the next post on markeing high tech regions!

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