Rathenow – centre of expertise for the optics industry
Rathenow is the home of spectacles in Germany. Skilled workers have been manufacturing lenses, frames and precision devices in the town for more than two centuries. The optical industry itself has its origins in Rathenow and is closely associated with J. H. A. Duncker, who was granted the privilege to establish an Industrial Institute for optics in 1801. By 1896, there were already 163 optical companies in the town. The optical, ophthalmic and precision engineering expertise that has been built up historically has made the Havelland district and Rathenow in particular, the “town of optics”, an attractive and highly competent centre of the branch down to the present day.
Rathenow is Germany’s most traditional optics location. Alongside the conventional business of producing spectacle frames and lenses, the town now also manufactures machines, equipment, tools and consumables for the optics industry. The benefit of all this is that the innovation, diversity and networking that are in place make Rathenow a centre of expertise within the branch.
Innovative location environment
Alongside major names such as Essilor and Fielmann, the environment is characterised by the presence of small and medium-sized companies. 25 optics companies and around 30 further suppliers have established their businesses in the “town of optics”, where a total of around 1,300 skilled workers are employed. “No other location in Germany is able to achieve the same depth of added value in the fields of optics, ophthalmics and precision engineering”, explains Jörg Zietemann from Rathenow Town Council.
The town’s small and medium-sized companies have joined forces under the auspices of the Competence Centre of Rathenow Optics (KOR) and market their products under a joint umbrella brand. These firms include such names as SOLIRA Sonderlinsen GmbH, Obrira und OCR – OPTOCONSULT Rathenow GbR and OPTOTEC Optotechnischer Gerätebau GmbH Rathenow.
Technologically oriented cooperation projects supported by scientific research institutions within the region, such as the Universities of Applied Sciences in Brandenburg, Potsdam and Jena and the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research in the Golm district of Potsdam, also help drive forward innovation.
An effective network
“The environment within the location is characterised by a close interlinking of regional areas of company expertise with the fields of scientific research and training and with industrially related services”, continues Zietemann. As well as the optics network oabb – the “optic alliance berlin brandenburg”, mention should also be made of further networks such as the Optical Technologies Network OptecBB, an initiative launched by regionally based firms and research institutes for the joint development and use of optical technologies. Supporting service providers such as the Havelland Technology and Business Start-up Centre also deliver crucial location benefits. The Guild of Opticians of the State of Brandenburg is of considerable significance in its capacity as a centre for initial and continuing training and also provides advisory services.