The Bremen-Unterweser InnoWerk Project: A Sustainable Approach to the Manual Trades

Steinbeis experts develop a vision of the future: innovative and sustainable skilled crafts

The InnoWerk project in Bremen and the Unterweser Region is an alliance revolving around sustainable innovation among firms crafts and small manufactoroing companies. It arose following a successful application jointly submitted by the Bremen Chamber of Commerce and the Institute for Labour and Economy (IAW) at the University of Bremen. The initiative falls under a BMBF funding program called WIR (a German acronym for “change through innovation in the region”). The Steinbeis Transfer Center Sustainable Innovation and Design is supporting the alliance in the areas of strategy, design, and communication.

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The aim of the InnoWerk initiative is to set up cooperative ventures, joint projects, and experiments with the goal of identifying sustainable solutions that would benefit the environment, society in general, and the manual trades. This is because the entire world can be expected to face major challenges in the future, which will require new solutions. Not only the climate, but also the diversity of flora and fauna, the prosperity of companies and the economy – all depend on intelligent, resource-saving, circular approaches that work to the benefit of everyone. The InnoWerk project in Bremen-Unterweser is working on a whole host of ideas. It is a network comprising traditional handicraft companies, new startups, researchers, experts, inventive “tinkerers,” politicians, civil servants, chambers, and the guilds. The aim is to become a workshop for ideas and innovation – a space for discussion, education, and exhibitions.

Developing and sharing visions – internally and externally

Even in the early stages, a multi-layered initiative like the InnoWerk project requires effective communication, not only in order to develop a common vision of the future within teams, but also to attract other parties to the project and encourage external partners to join the network – corporations, the manual trades, scientists, researchers, members of the general public, and politicians.

To achieve this, the InnoWerk initiative in Bremen-Unterweser has brought a professional partner on board: the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Sustainable Innovation and Design. With the support of the other alliance members, the experts have developed a vision: “The InnoWerk in Bremen-Unterweser. A Network for Sustainable Manual Trades.” The Steinbeis team also designed the required communication tools, from branding to visual imagery, wording, and presentation materials.

In addition, the Steinbeis experts spearheaded by Professor Detlef Rahe have helped InnoWerk highlight to the manual trades why membership offers benefits:

  • Savings: Innovative ways to save resources (e.g. lower material usage, efficient operations, lower emissions and costs)
  • Attracting young talent: Sustainably innovative companies are attractive employers for the younger generation and career-changers, who place importance on sustainable development.
  • Increase competitiveness: Innovative solutions strengthen competitiveness and open up new markets for the skilled crafts.
  • Innovative companies form a professional interface between industry and customers, allowing them to gain competitive advantages.
  • Reduce risks, seek opportunities: Working together on solutions and intercompany partnerships not only creates more opportunities, but also gathers knowledge and know-how resulting in new synergies.
  • Create, pool, exchange, and share knowledge:  Forming networks between the manual trades, research institutions, politics, and business is a good way to pool and share existing know-how. This results in new knowledge and new applications that solve problems.

The alliance focuses on forging links between known sources of know-how, proven processes, innovative methods, experimental undertaking, and the latest findings from science and research. Establishing networks can spawn solutions that give individual firms – but also industry as a whole – a key role in sustainable, cycle-oriented business endeavors. To achieve this, InnoWerk is setting up the InnoWerkZentrum, a design and innovation center that will play a pivotal role in acting as a point of contact for innovative partnership projects. The center will become a melting pot for questions, problems, knowledge, and know-how – a space where innovation projects are initiated, promoted, managed, and shared, where the latest findings from material developments, process engineering, business management, and business administration are made available to others and can be linked to the everyday work of skilled enterprises.




  • Consulting for the manual trades: sustainable business processes, sustainable processes and materials, sustainable business consolidation and succession
  • Lining up and setting up of partnerships between skilled crafts and science
  • Optimization of technologies, materials, and processes (adaptation to new markets, new products, digitalization)
  • Consulting and projects on resource conservation: reduce, reuse, recycle
  • Education services (staff training, seminars, workshops) focusing on planning, consulting, and implementation skills
  • Support with creative processes involving the planning and design of exhibitions, forums, lectures, events
  • Project management involving challenging projects
  • Advice on subsidies, support, or the submission of applications
  • Annual presentation of the Bremen Innovation Award in the Skilled Crafts Sector – InnoWerkAward


Prof. Detlef Rahe (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Transfer Center Sustainable Innovation and Design (SID)