Technology campuses: Beacons of research in rural areas

In spring 2015, the "Plastics Campus Bavaria" in Weißenburg, Middle Franconia, was opened with a new campus building. The new campus, with its focus on technology, is one of eight high-tech centres of the Deggendorf Institute of Technology in rural Bavaria.

Kunststoff – Es gibt noch viel zu erforschen
Kunststoff – Es gibt noch viel zu erforschen

The Plastics Campus in Weißenburg is the product of a cooperation between the Ansbach University of Applied Sciences and the Deggendorf Institute of Technology. It is another step on the way towards implanting technical expertise outside Bavaria's agglomerations. This is especially important for the small town of Weißenburg, which is geographically placed in the heart of Bavaria but whose economic power is still a far cry from the agglomerations of Ingolstadt, Nuremberg or Munich. However, for Bavaria it becomes increasingly important to strengthen the standing of its rural regions in terms of research and technology as many successful companies in the state are located outside the greater agglomerations.

The plastics industry – a key sector in the region

The state-of-the-art technology and study centre focuses on the plastics industry, which is a key sector of the regional economy and requires highly trained specialist staff. These future specialists are offered two local in-service degree programmes, "Applied Plastics Engineering" and "Strategic Customer-Oriented Management", that are matched specifically to the economic focus areas of the region. The programme is managed and run by ten teachers.

Exchanges between companies and the university are a high priority. Prof. Peter Sperber, President of the Deggendorf Institute of Technology (THD), is convinced that the hands-on approach is a decisive advantage that benefits the companies as well: "Companies have direct access to the THD's laboratory and research capacities, and contact with placement and final term students." Moreover, the Institute takes an active part in the "k-messwerk" plastics network. And the Plastics Campus will not neglect research for the sake of teaching: In coordination with the industry, Weißenburg is going to be a place of research on materials and processes in the field of plastics processing.

Expertise and competence – locally available

The concept of placing specialised institutions of learning geographically close to special business segments is nothing new. As a state university with its focus on technology, economics and media, the Deggendorf Institute of Technology has been pursuing the aim of supporting regionally important locations by creating branch institutes in rural regions for some years now. This sparked the idea that led to the concept of technology campuses. The first branch institutes were opened in Freyung and Teisnach, in the Bavarian Forest. Next in line were the Technology Application Centre in Spiegelau, the Mechatronics Campus in Cham and a campus in Grafenau focussed on data analytics, purchasing and supply chain management.

The newly opened Plastics Campus Bavaria in Weißenburg is the eighth branch institute founded since 2009. The concept has proven its worth. It makes a decisive contribution to the economic development of rural areas, and gives foreign companies from abroad that settle in Bavaria decisive competitive advantages in terms of research, development, technology transfer, but also with regard to the availability of highly qualified staff. The President of the Institute, Peter Sperber, has no doubts that the most recent branch institute in Weißenburg will bring benefits to the region: "I am convinced that the 'Plastics Campus Bavaria' will soon become an important campus. The course is set."

A video of the opening of the plastics campus can be viewed here.