VentureWærft - a vivid hub-structure for a cross-border entrepreneurial ecosystem

How to foster entrepreneurship in rural border-regions within Europe – a 10-year perspective

Stefanie Jordt
Flensburg University of Applied Sciences

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Dirk Ludewig
Flensburg University of Applied Sciences

Background and Objectives
With hindsight of the last ten years, entrepreneurship has grown enormously on the Flensburg campus and played a leading role in the perception of the universities' success. In the Digital Atlas 2018, Flensburg made 46th place out of 401 as a city and shows particular strengths in the digital sector (Handelsblatt 2018). An advantage for the economic power of the entire border region can be more settlements through start-ups and the influx or expansion of existing companies.
Nowadays, VentureWærft is the overall umbrella brand for starting-up. It aims at activating and supporting a vibrant cross-border start-up community that covers the entire German-Danish Fjord region Flensburg-Sønderborg. This cross-border collaboration is about creating:
• a common, border-free start-up community,
• a regional hotspot for start-ups besides the classic bastions of start-ups and
• a structured process for entrepreneurs-to-be on their way on starting their own business.
With a unique combination of important key players in the Fjord region, it offers the entire range of start-up support from the first idea to a successfully growing start-up – all from one source. We strive to combine the strengths of our network systematically to create value for our start-ups. By joining our community, the start-ups gain access to a wide range of start-up-relevant expertise. This is an international network that opens doors to new national markets, know-how and exchange of experience. It can be used as a platform or a stepping-stone for gaining international business experience early on. We promote an entrepreneurial mindset that crosses (national) borders.
Since not much really happened in the region in the area of entrepreneurship until 2008, here is a brief summary of the partners involved - so-called Docks.
Dock1: In 2008, a permanent professorship for entrepreneurship was announced at the Flensburg University of Applied Sciences (FUAS) and nearly at the same time (2009), the first small third-party funded project (EXIST III) on entrepreneurship culture was acquired. First steps were taken within a small network of start-up supporters and they began to meet and cooperate more often. In 2011, the Dr. Werner Jackstädt-Center (DWJZ) was founded as a joint institution between European University of Flensburg (EUF) and FUAS. Entrepreneurship got a real place to be and a face to work with. A coworking space was opened and the first ever “Gründerlounge” was held at the end of 2012 with 41 participants. Nowadays, we attract roughly 300 participants with our signature event. During the years after 2011, the entrepreneurship team at FUAS grew bigger and today there are five research assistants supporting start-ups and connecting the entrepreneurial ecosystem around the Flensburg Fjord. In addition to this: there are also two research assistants at EUF working on entrepreneurship topics.
Dock2: The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) opened up to the more dynamic and young entrepreneurial spirit within 2016. It changed their offerings and tried new events like a “Fuck Up Night”. With the beginning of 2020, IHK will open its own coworking space at their “Startercenter”.
Dock3: The Regional Business Development Agency (WiREG) also completed a major change in its strategy. It has developed from a former pure commercial space rental company into a service provider for the establishment and expansion of technology-oriented start-ups and companies.
Dock4: In Denmark, another development is taking place and one could say that "nothing is more constant than change". Due to political changes, the structure and affiliation within the university's own institution at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU) often changes.
Dock5: Above all, however, Sønderborg Iværksætter Service (SIS) underwent a drastic change in 2019, which forced the center to fill the entire building with new founders and to continue to master the work with only three start-up supporters.