Innovation Hotspot Munich

By Christina Hertel

When you hear the words “media” and “Munich,” you may think of publishing houses and broadcasting companies such as “Süddeutsche Zeitung” or “Bayerischer Rundfunk.” However, there’s an abundance of creative minds that continue to change and innovate the media landscape beyond the leading companies of the Bavarian capital. These budding entrepreneurs are making this happen through their own start-ups and research as well as through new ideas and technology. Here is an overview of the offers, organizations, and projects from which media professionals can benefit:

Photo: David-Pierce Brill

Media Lab Bavaria

Post-its cover the walls, beanbags are strewn across the floor, and coffee machines run constantly: the Media Lab Bavaria in the flourishing Werksviertel neighborhood on the east side of Munich looks like a place where start-ups feel at home. Media professionals collaborate in a coworking space of nearly 200 square meters and are supported by the Media Lab which helps put their ideas into practice. Just a few examples of this include a €50,000 grant, coaching, workshops, and access to a large professional network. Eight start-ups are currently developing their products with the help of the Media Lab. What preconditions must be met to receive this support? “The ideas have to be innovative and digital in nature. It should not only be about good content, but also about a new form of technology,” Media Lab’s Marketing Manager Simone Friese states. She believes it is best to work in a team of at least two, for otherwise the workload may be too demanding. Friese has mentioned that part-time start-up founders often leave their jobs after a while in order to develop their ideas full-time at the Media Lab.

Photo: MD.I

MD.I Hub

Students sitting in libraries reading weighty tomes is now a thing of the past. Today’s study programs increasingly focus on practical experiences and valuable business contacts. The Media Design University therefore founded a new Innovation Hub in April 2018 in which Game Design students and graduates work on complex programs and tools that are to be sold to different companies. The goal is to get students out of their academic ivory tower, states the hub’s director Christoh Minnameier. They are currently working on a VR-Headset for the “Therme Erding” spa and have already sold a robot that can communicate with customers to the electronics store “Media Markt.” While the Innovation Hub is a showcase of the University, it is not designed just for students. Furthermore, it’s completely self-financed and has five permanent employees.

Photo: Kilian Blees

Bavarian Research Institute for Digital Transformation

Digitization has been changing our society for some time already. The Bavarian Institute for Digital Transformation was founded last summer in Munich and scientifically examines this change. The institute manages its own projects–such as a comparative study of digitization strategy success among different federal states–and supports research work from various partners. The Institute is currently funding nine projects at Bavarian universities and research institutions that examine the topics of "Economy and Work," "Politics and Society," and "Media and Public Communication." One team is currently analyzing how opinion-making power can be measured on the Internet in addition to how quality can be assured. According to the managing director Christoph Egle, the projects also aim to find recommendations for political and societal action. Although the research professors and PhD students work all over Germany, they meet every few months in Munich to exchange ideas. Furthermore, public events and lectures take place regularly. The Federal State of Bavaria invests €6.2 million in the research institute.

Münchner Filmwerkstatt

Martin Blankemeyer has stated that he founded the Münchner Filmwerkstatt (Munich Film Workshop) purely out of self-interest. Eleven years ago, Blankemeyer graduated from a film academy and wanted to attend a seminar given by American director Mark Travis. However, he decided to forgo his ticket to California and instead founded an association focused on attracting directors, writers, and cinematographers to come to Munich. The Münchner Filmwerkstatt is now on its eleventh year and offers weekend workshops for filmmakers to learn everything they need to make a film, from writing a scenario to acting. While Blankemeyer declares that the film workshops focus on continuity, he acknowledges new technology such as drones and 3D. There are no admission restrictions or selection criteria to partake in the workshops. As a result, the participants come from various and diverse backgrounds. “The workshops are attended by both students looking to work in the media industry and professionals that are a part of big broadcasting companies,” Blankemeyer states.

WERK1

What makes the Werk1, located at the Munich East Station, special? It is a coworking space for around 150 people and 40 offices for start-ups. Staff member Veronika Dietzinger has stated that in former times media professionals and creatives used the locations, whereas today it mainly caters to IT-experts. Preconditions must now be fulfilled in order to get a place in the coworking space, and start-ups need to apply for office space. WERK1 does not set a specific sector focus, though the start-ups should have something to do with digitization, they cannot be older than five years, and the founders must come from Munich. Camper Boys (a company that rents buses in Munich) and Art Masters (a business that organizes Mall-Events) are currently just two of many businesses renting the offices. Start-ups not only benefit from the locations but can also take advantage of mentoring programs, workshops, and a large professional network. There are also special funding programs, one focusing on, for example, start-ups that promote the digitization of the insurance industry.

Photo: Kathrin Schäfer

Bayerisches Filmzentrum

“I embrace change. Always did, always will.” These reputed words of Steven Spielberg have been adopted by the Bayerisches Filmzentrum (Bavarian Film Center) as their motto. The organization teaches young filmmakers and creatives how to tell stories with the help of new technologies. The Filmzentrum offers among other things training programs in Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 360°, and storytelling. It also provides young producers with office spaces in Grünwald that are free of charge for two years—with personal advice and support included. Furthermore, the Center presents young authors and producers with scholarships which help support their first film endeavors. Those who participate in the First Movie Plus program are aided in the conception of the content and the composition of their team as well as with all questions that may arise during the planning and realization of the film.

IBC

The media industry was one of the first to undergo the drastic changes that accompanied digitization. Publishing houses would not be able to survive in today’s world by only selling newspaper subscriptions. But the question remains: what could promising new business models look like? And where are the cross-industry interfaces for other companies? The Internet Business Cluster (IBC), which was founded in 2011 as a cooperation of science and media organizations from Munich, focuses on these questions among others. Members today include the Institute for Information Systems and New Media at Ludwig Maximilian University, the University of Regensburg, media group Hubert Burda Media, and the home shopping channel HSE 24. The research projects undertaken by IBC primarily focus on how a digital media company can earn money (one example being how online retailers can provide their shop-sites with interesting content in order to retain customers). Once a year, the IBC awards a scholarship to students from the Munich region. In addition to a budget of €200, which the scholarship holders can spend, for example, on software, the IBC promotes real world contacts by organizing events and workshops that allow the students to network with companies.

XR Hub

"In a few years, when VR- and AR-Headsets are lighter, easier to handle, and more beautiful, everyone will want one," Silke Schmidt states. She is convinced that XR (Extended Reality) will change our society as a whole. Accompanying and furthering this change has recently become part of her job. Silke Schmidt is the director of XR Hub Bavaria, which opened in fall 2019 in Munich, Nuremberg, and Würzburg. The acronym XR encompasses everything related to Virtual and Augmented Reality. The initiative is committed to promoting the growing industry and strengthening the visibility of Bavaria as a XR location. Moreover, the hub supports research projects, artists, start-ups, and companies. The sectors where XR can be implemented are manifold. In addition to its daily endeavors, the XR Hub plans events at the three locations as a means to unite its various players. This initiative is supported by the Bavarian Ministry of Digital Affairs.

Photo: Wayra

Wayra

With a glance out the window, people carrying shopping bags through Munich's pedestrian zone can be seen. And with a glance at the neighboring table, people contemplating Cyber Security and Blockchain can be observed. At coworking space Wayra, located at Kaufingerstraße 86, the contrast between the outside and the inside world could not be more distinct. Spread across 1,000 square meters, founders from technology, information, and communications industries work on their companies. The first customer for most of these founders has already been established as the Telefónica Group, which includes the O2 brand and had founded the Wayra coworking space in Munich in 2012. The coworking space was formerly home to a variety of start-ups, Wayra’s Communications Manager Therés Becker states. However, for the past two years, it is only those that fit the Telefónica group that have been accepted. Founders can apply for a place at any time. Wayra additionally offers a four month-long program, where founders can define their milestones in the first phase and then have three months to develop a product in the second phase. During this time, Wayra offers mentoring and coaching services.

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