02. March 2021

All grown up: the Technology Park Adlershof turns 30

An entrepreneur, a scientist, and a project manager take a look back and a look ahead

FMB head Uwe Schneck © WISTA Management GmbH
Successful entrepreneur from Adlershof: FMB head Uwe Schneck in the manufacturing hall © WISTA Management GmbH
Matthias Schnürer, MBI © WISTA Management GmbH
Experimental physicist Matthias Schnürer at Max Born Institute © WISTA Management GmbH
Susann Niemeyer © WISTA Management GmbH
Susann Niemeyer of WISTA Management looks after the Technology Park’s IT companies © WISTA Management GmbH

Has it really been 30 years?! Yes, indeed. The science and business location Adlershof is having a milestone birthday in March. An entrepreneur, a scientist, and a project manager from Adlershof look back, take stock, and look ahead.

Uwe Schneck, managing director of FMB Feinwerk- und Messtechnik GmbH, has spend his entire professional life in Adlershof. He started out as a young engineer straight from university at the Institute for Cosmic Research in summer 1984. Five years later, he moved over to the Centre for Scientific Instruments. After reunification, the future of this Adlershof-based Institute was up in the air and so Schneck and his colleagues took a decisive step – in autumn 1990, Schneck founded FMB. An Adlershof success story that could not have been written anywhere else. Schneck is one of the Science and Technology Park’s pioneers, who took a risk and made the site to what it is today with courage and, above all, innovative high technology.

FMB originally started with 12 employees in a shed that has long been knocked down. The company rapidly developed into a system provider of equipment for synchrotron radiation research – engineering, production, and assembly, all from a single source. Or, better: many sources. The Adlershof-based firm now has more than 60 employees. “We made a steady profit in all these years,” says Schneck, who modestly calls this a “continuous development”. It wasn’t always that continuous: In October 2017, the Adlershof-based company absorbed one of its main competitors, the former Oxford Instruments Limited, which brought additional know-how, customers, and more than 60 new employees to FMB. A milestone.

Another important event, which is closely connected to the site, was when the electron storage ring BESSY II was built. FMB provided the vacuum systems for it: “This was the testimonial we entered the market with, and many orders followed,” says Schneck. “Since then, we have supplied the vacuum systems for almost every storage ring worldwide.” Except in China and Japan. However, these are two markets that the Berlin-based company has already set its sights on.

Schneck does not shy away from challenges. But the company’s biggest challenge might still be ahead of it: the generation change. “In almost all departments of our company, we still have first-generation employees that are heading towards retirement,” explains Schneck. The 64-year-old is indeed one of them: In the course of this year, he will gradually withdraw from everyday operations and support his successor in an advisory capacity. He does not worry at all about the future of the WISTA-managed site: “The development here has been incredible; one of a kind. The challenge now is to maintain what we have achieved.”

When Matthias Schnürer, project head at Max Born Institute for Nonlinear Optics and Short Pulse Spectroscope, drives to work down Rudower Chaussee, it doesn’t cease to amaze him: “In the early 1990s, it wasn’t conceivable that the site would change this much and achieve its vision the way it did – the main road reflects that change.” With the exception of a short break, Schnürer has been working here since 1984. He started out at the Central Institute for Optics and Spectroscopy, which would shape his entire professional career. His main subject is X-ray light sources. And he is in good company: “The campus, including BESSY, the scientific institutes, and the companies, is ideal for our work,” explains the experimental physicist, “we’re lucky to be able to work here.”

However: over the years, despite the good conditions, many talented people from his professional environment went abroad or to South Germany, much to the regret of the 64-year-old. He hopes that Adlershof will develop the appeal to match. In some ways, this also applies to the site’s urban social life: “Everything closes after 8pm,” the scientist says regretfully, hoping that it will be possible to have a “slightly more colourful social life” when work ends in the future. Apart from that, he is sure that the “success will become permanent”.

“Thirty years ago, nobody had a blueprint for Adlershof”, says Susann Niemeyer, remembering the greatest challenges when starting the Technology Park. She has been part of the team with the site’s operating company from the onset. “We quickly learned what companies need to grow,” says the head of IT and services of WISTA Management GmbH. She contributed to the technology centre concept, sees herself mainly as a networker. Today she is in charge of about 100 IT and media companies and, with that, one of Adlershof’s five technology clusters.

Niemeyer hopes that Adlershof-based companies will be able to weather the pandemic. There have only been few postponed rents, construction activity has been undeterred. Already during the dotcom bubble and the solar crisis, it became clear that a diverse mix of industries, small and medium-sized companies, close ties between companies and science, and WISTA’s work as a “caretaker” make the Technology Park resilient in moments of crisis. A bold outlook: Where does the team head see herself in 30 years? “I hope that I’ll be in good health in our caravan somewhere in Europe.” In any case, she will always return for regular compulsory visit in Adlershof.

By Chris Löwer for Adlershof Journal