Home Elements of the Green City Environmental industry and research

Environmental industry and research

It is not only the Club of Rome that predicts that “the markets of the future will be green.” The renewable energy industry provides cutting-edge technology and expertise for the energy transition moving full steam ahead in Germany. In Freiburg, the city is looking in particular at the opportunities harbored by the environment as an economic factor. Companies regularly spin off from the University of Freiburg and the resident research institutes in particular; today, they form a network of unique expertise in sustainable technologies. Since 2008, the Green City Cluster Freiburg has been connecting companies and institutions from the environmental industry, thereby supporting its members in sharing their knowledge and experience with one another. From the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE to the Energieagentur Regio Freiburg GmbH , from consulting firms to solar architects, and from zero-emissions hotels to skilled-trade workshops, the spectrum covers the entire range of the environmental industry and, in doing so, facilitates the transfer of technology.

Environmental research

With more than 1,000 employees, the Freiburg-based Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE is the largest European solar research institute and is committed to a sustainable, economic, secure, and socially just energy-supply system. Striving for an efficient and environmentally friendly energy supply, the institute develops materials, components, systems, and processes for energy efficiency, generation, distribution, and storage. Fraunhofer ISE’s segments cover almost all energy-transition concerns, from photovoltaic technologies, solar thermal energy, and energy-efficient buildings to system and grid issues, storage technologies, and emission-free mobility. In addition, Fraunhofer ISE has several test centers. The institute is a member of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, which is the largest organization for applied research in Europe. In March 2015, the University of Freiburg and the five resident institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft joined forces to establish the inter- and transdisciplinary Sustainability Center Freiburg. In addition to research, the Sustainability Center Freiburg also develops trendsetting concepts in teaching. The new Institute for Sustainable Systems Engineering (INATECH) of the Faculty of Engineering at the university with 14 professorships forms the engineering core of the Sustainability Center Freiburg. At INATECH, the Solar Energy Engineering, "Sustainable Systems Engineering," "Renewable Energy Engineering and Management," and "Environmental Governance" degree programs have been established, ensuring that a large potential of excellently trained specialists is available on Freiburg’s labor market.

Solar Info Center (Photo: FWTM, Wudtke)
Creative Park "Lokhalle" (Photo: FWTM, Spiegelhalter)
Freight station (Photo: FWTM, Spiegelhalter)
Solar roof of Freiburg Trade Fair (Photo: FWTM, Spiegelhalter)

Startups and innovation

Startups in the industry receive support from the University of Freiburg’s Startup Office and two Accelerator programs as well as their mentors, to ensure that they benefit from the wealth of experience in the Freiburg region right from the outset. In light of this, the city’s economic promotion office Freiburger Wirtschaftsförderung (Freiburg Wirtschaft Touristik und Messe – FWTM) and Grünhof—a privately run business incubator and winner of the "Start Green Award" for the startup and sustainability scene—took joint initiative in early 2017. With the involvement of other partners and authorities, an innovative concept was developed for the establishment of a regional startup accelerator for startup projects with a focus on the smart green economy. The aim is to provide extensive, in-depth support and assistance for promising startup projects from innovative high-tech and service sectors. These projects include spin-offs from universities, colleges, non-university research institutions, and established companies, as well as projects by students keen to start a business and those reentering the workforce.
Since the project’s launch in July 2017, the public-private partnership between FWTM and Grünhof has produced one of the most important players on Freiburg’s regional startup scene. Located in the “Kreativpark Lokhalle” on the grounds of the former freight depot and aided by ESF and state funds, the “Smart Green” Startup Accelerator has gone on to become a hotspot both within the state and across the country for startup innovations in the green industry.


Numerous events have also concurrently emerged and taken root in Freiburg. Interested visitors and industry visionaries began encountering green construction and, above all, environmental technologies in Freiburg already many years ago. In 2000, Freiburg landed a promising project, namely the Intersolar exhibition for the solar industry, as part of a collaboration with the Pforzheim-based company Solar Promotion GmbH. At the first Intersolar, which was still a quiet affair at the beginning, it became clear how important the “buzz” is as a location and success factor for a trade fair—buzz that the solar and environmental industry generates in Freiburg.