With its economic potential, Hamburg is considered to be one of the major commercial centers in Germany and ranks among the most important commercial centers in Europe. In the field of logistics, the Hanseatic city is one of the top locations in Europe. The Port of Hamburg is the largest port in Germany and the second biggest in Europe after Rotterdam. Moreover, Hamburg is the world's third largest location of the civil aviation industry. In addition to the described sectors, shipbuilding, mechanical engineering, banking, insurance, media and business related services are also part of the economic key sectors in Hamburg. The largest and most well-known companies in the Hamburg area include such names as Airbus Germany (aviation), Otto Group (multichannel retail), EDEKA Group (food retailing), Beiersdorf AG (cosmetics), Tchibo GmbH (consumer-goods and retail), Unilever Deutschland GmbH (food, cosmetics, personal care) and Hapag Lloyd AG (liner shipping, logistics).
However, the economic structure of Hamburg is characterized by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). About 98% of the more than 150,000 companies in Hamburg are small and medium-sized. Especially because of the high flexibility, the distinct focus on innovation, the high degree of adaptability and the high number of employees, SMEs can be seen as stabilizing and revitalizing elements of Hamburg's economy.
Mid-sized companies in Hamburg are multifaceted and heterogeneous. However, the mid-sized companies can be linked with the particular strengths of the Hanseatic city: Internationality, hanseatic businessman traditions, strongly pronounced employee retention and a high bond to the location are all parts of the region’s trademark. The commitment for social or environmental interests is often a particular concern for SMEs.
Medium-sized companies stand for stable added value and secure employment. This success story continues constantly. For several years, Hamburg has been the leading city in setting up businesses.
Special emphasis should be placed on the high innovation potential of mid-sized companies in Hamburg. The basic condition for innovative strength and for sustainable value creation is the transfer of knowledge and technologies between business and science. For this reason, the ‘Hamburg Innovation Alliance’ and the ‘Excellence Cluster’ have been established. Those initiatives should ensure the long-term competitiveness of the science- and business location Hamburg, especially the competitiveness of SMEs. Thus, SMEs can achieve significant efficiency gains for their own business development by working in a professionally organized cluster.
The example of the excellence cluster ‘Hamburg Aviation’, an alliance of Hamburg's aviation industry, research and educational organizations, associations, institutions and the City of Hamburg, can illustrate the enormous importance of SMEs for the Hamburg region. Apart from global players like Airbus, more than 300 SMEs belong to the ‘competence network’ aviation in Hamburg.
The engine of innovation and think tank of ‘Hamburg Aviation’ is the Center for Applied Aviation Research. This center links the large-scale industry and SMEs with science and provides its partners research and test infrastructures. This allows SMEs an early involvement, as well as access to research and development processes. Under these conditions, SMEs are able to exploit their strengths by producing innovations.