Economic Development Starts Small!

Interview with Evelyn Paschke, Managing Director of Technologie- und Gewerbezentren Potsdam GmbH

Technology and Commercial Centers Potsdam small commercial spaces
Rush on small commercial spaces continues unabated

When GO:IN 2, another laboratory and commercial building, was opened in the Potsdam Science Park in October 2021, managing director Evelyn Paschke expected a high turnout. The actual rush then even exceeded her optimistic expectations. In an interview with Wirtschaftsforum, the economic development expert discussed the innovative Potsdam start-up scene and the difficult situation in the private commercial rental market.

Economic Forum: Ms. Paschke, about a year and a half ago, you opened the GO:IN 2, the second innovation center in Golm - how has the response been so far?

Evelyn Paschke: Although we had already anticipated a strong demand for these rather small-scale - and thus ideal for founders - spaces in the Potsdam Science Park in advance, the actual rush has even exceeded our expectations. We have now reached a utilization rate of 70% - a value that we had not anticipated until 2024. This is, of course, also due to corresponding delays in construction activities by private investors, who now face a more complicated financing situation in light of the changed interest rate environment.

Evelyn Paschke, Managing Director of the Technology and Business Centers Potsdam GmbH
Evelyn Paschke, Managing Director of the Technology and Business Centers Potsdam GmbH

We hope, however, that the neighbours will soon follow suit, as space is gradually becoming tight again in GO:IN 2, especially after half of the building was occupied by the innovative Signature Diagnostics GmbH, a subsidiary of Roche, in July – a great milestone for the know-how at this location and a real gain for all other tenants in the Potsdam Science Park.

Economic Forum: How will the Potsdam technology and business centres position themselves in the market in the future?

Evelyn Paschke: I believe that in recent years we have managed to create a certain awareness among private investors that financing and building according to a standard formula does not work well in the context of new business startups. For a laboratory and office building, such as the one we are specifically designing and implementing for innovative start-ups, assuming an anchor tenant who would occupy half of the space created would simply be unrealistic. Understandably, most private developers and banks first want binding rental commitments on a significant scale before implementing such a project. We want to close this gap with our technology and business centres as part of our economic development activities. This incubator principle has already proven successful in GO:IN 1, where recently several grown tenants, including Ripac-Labor GmbH, have left the building and found new spaces on the open market.

Technology and Business Centers Potsdam Guido-Seeber-House
The Guido-Seeber-House is one of two startup centers in the media city Babelsberg

Economic Forum: Nevertheless, many of your tenants spend not only the initial phase of starting up their business but often many years in your properties.

Evelyn Paschke: Which, in turn, is due to the fact that there simply are no suitable expansion areas available in a reasonable size. Because a jump from an office space of 50 m² to one of 200 m² on the open rental market would no longer correspond to an organic growth spurt and would simply overwhelm many companies. Because relevant adjacent spaces are missing, we cannot release tenants who would actually be ready for this step from our properties and consequently cannot take in any new start-ups. This problem becomes particularly large when the subsidy commitment expires and the tenants are therefore forced to leave our property.

Economic Forum: How do you address this problem?

Evelyn Paschke: Beyond intensive discussions with project developers and investors about the possibilities of the private sector to also provide smaller areas, we are pursuing several approaches: For instance, we plan to create a transparent overview of currently available premises for all stakeholders with the help of a space pool in our media city. Likewise, we are ready to support private investors in operating small-scale areas with our know-how, or to take over the associated tasks completely if this would otherwise not make economic sense for private providers due to the fluctuation in such a property.

Technology and Business Centers Potsdam GO:IN
The two GO:IN properties in the Potsdam Science Park offer space for young tech start-ups to be able to grow
Technology and Business Centers Potsdam GO:IN 2
The utilization of the newly opened GO:IN 2 in 2022 is already over 70%

Economic Forum: Therefore, your range of activities extends far beyond merely renting out laboratory and commercial spaces as a startup aid for companies.

Evelyn Paschke: I am convinced that this holistic view is essential for successful site management. Because economic development starts on a small scale by thinking beyond the first phase for tenants and founders. It is not enough to just provide funding and offer networking events.

Economic Forum: What role will Potsdam play as a business location for female entrepreneurs in the future?

Evelyn Paschke: One of the major location advantages of Golm or the media city is that growth is still possible here, as land is available, for instance, to expand our Science Park further. Of course, in this context, we also see ourselves as part of a regional ecosystem, reaching out not only to Berlin but also further into Brandenburg in the other direction. In this way, we want to offer attractive prospects here in Potsdam, especially for young founders who may have recently graduated from college or university, thereby strengthening the entire region sustainably.