A Regional and Local Approach to Sustainability

Steinbeis experts develop a regional concept for the state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania

Global economies currently face challenges on three fronts – two megatrends (globalization and urbanization), plus the impacts of climate change. In many countries, business and housing infrastructures are characterized by industrial agglomerations and megacities, and many regions are witnessing migration away from rural areas. When the entire ecosystem and regional value chains become more volatile, politicians and scientists face difficult questions, such as how much importance should be attached to the regional economy, particularly when it comes to sustainable business and social structures, but also what can be done to bring living conditions in rural and structurally weak regions on a par with others. To tackle these issues, a team of experts at the Stralsund-based Steinbeis Transfer Center for Project Planning and Evaluation has been working on a project called the MV Location and SME Offensive.

There are no silver bullets – i.e. strategies or concepts – when it comes to comprehensive regional development. Instead, regional decision-makers have to find ways to work together and develop local and regional development strategies that are not just viable and sustainable, but also take location factors into account. They also have to implement a whole variety of projects with a bearing on three factors that complement each other: economic, social, and ecological sustainability.[1]

The issue: equal living conditions

The aim of the European Union and the German federal government is to introduce strategies and concepts that promote “equivalent living conditions.”[2] Establishing corresponding framework conditions is a crucial element of strengthening social cohesion and affording people in Germany equal opportunities, regardless of where they live. This is because living conditions in Germany are anything but equal. More than 30 years after the peaceful revolution in Germany, there is still room for improvement when it comes to economic infrastructures and the income levels of the population in the east of Germany.

In the new federal states (former East Germany), decision-making and production conditions are driven by a concept called the “extended workbench,” and wages in many sectors are still not equal to those in the west. To come closer to achieving the goal of equivalent living conditions, the onus is on stakeholders at all levels of government – from the federal government and state governments, to local authorities and regional decision-makers.

A vision of the road ahead for Mecklenburg-West Pomerania

Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is a largely rural state, in which traditional companies face many challenges. “In addition to the multi-faceted issue of corporate succession, business has to deal with digital transformation, it has to attract skilled workers – in a market currently favoring jobseekers – and it has to compensate for global challenges,” explains Professor Dr. Bernhard Stütz, who has worked alongside his team at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Network Planning and Evaluation in Stralsund in planning and designing the MV Location and SME Offensive. “The societal issues and people’s willingness to participate transparently create new areas of overlap for stakeholders in regional politics to start working on. This covers a diverse number of challenges and topics, but the central question for us was how in concrete terms Mecklenburg-West Pomerania can be successful in the future,” adds Professor Dr. Norbert Zdrowomyslaw.

As part of the offensive, the state government is now seeking answers by forming networks, business clusters, and partnerships within politics, business, and civic society. Initiatives and bodies such as The M-V Future Council, the Digital MV state project, the Economy and Science Strategy Council, but also individual stakeholders such as digital transformation ambassadors and business ambassadors will allow different parties to identify more closely with the project and find answers to future questions. There are close links between environmental sustainability and the decentralized infrastructures of renewables, smart power distribution, sustainable travel solutions, resource-saving land and marine management, and future technologies such as machine learning and green hydrogen. At the same time, offering a wide range of support options and sharing examples of best practice makes it easier for traditional industries to effect change. With its established local research landscape and direct channels of personal contact, the state is an ideal region for model projects in the fields of e-government, autonomous systems, and smart cities.

Local and regional development strategies and implemented measures must lay particular focus on optimizing regional economic cycles and extending regional value chains by encouraging companies to introduce sustainable strategies.[1] This became abundantly clear with the supply chain issues witnessed both before and during the coronavirus crisis. Nonetheless, it is people who create a sustainable regional economy.

Regional stakeholders must think globally and in terms of networks, but action is needed on a regional and local level. It is also important to ensure that different groups of stakeholders identify with the state, formal infrastructures, and the local population. For the sixth Kondratieff wave, cooperative strategies are needed.[3] After all, active collaboration should not be something that stops the moment you step over the county border, and it should not run into communication barriers between different stakeholders. If regional decision-makers want the regional economy to develop, the motto should be “The future is now – let’s get on with it!”


Prof. Dr. Norbert Zdrowomyslaw (author)
Freelance project manager for the MV Location and SME Offensive
Steinbeis Transfer Center: Network Planning and Evaluation (Stralsund)

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Stütz (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Transfer Center: Network Planning and Evaluation (Stralsund)

Christian Wulf (author)
Project and site management, Stralsund office
Assecor GmbH (Berlin)

[1]  Zdrowomyslaw, N./Grundke, T./Vothknecht, L./Wulf, C.: Know and shape the regional economy. Structures and decision-making levels in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania under the microscope, Greifswald 2020.
[2] Basic Law. Art. 72 para. 2
[3]  Nefiodow, Leo A.: The sixth Kondratieff wave. Paths to Productivity and Full Employment in the Information Age, 3rd Ed. Sankt Augustin 1999.