Young, innovative, versatile
Darmstadt – a top location for science

While searching for the right university for me in Germany, I quickly decided on TU Darmstadt because of its top ratings. After doing a little research it became clear that this city in southern Hessen has a lot to offer. Lots of well-known companies and research institutions are located here – which is a really excellent perspective for me as an international student. What makes Darmstadt so interesting as a place to go to university and as a business location? Let me tell you!

Published: 28th September 2020

Mechatronics B.Sc.

I’m from Venezuela, but I really feel at home in Darmstadt. Darmstadt not only offers me a great university and an excellent quality of life in a city of science, but also interesting opportunities for my professional future! The city is part of the German Silicon Valley for a reason.

Portrait Diego
Picture: Britta Hüning

The future starts here!

You might be thinking: Why did I choose Darmstadt? There are definitely much cooler cities in Germany. Well, you might think so at first, but for me Darmstadt is exactly the right choice! With a population of around 160,000, it is just the right size, right in the Rhine-Main area and close to Frankfurt International Airport. It has a real forward-looking energy. Not only can you get your degree here, but you also have really good career opportunities after graduating.

Of course, TU Darmstadt contributes quite a lot to the region. The university encourages its students to take their creative ideas and branch out on their own through its numerous opportunities for start-ups and entrepreneurship. Over the past few years, quite a number of innovators, designers and creators in the fields of cyber security and digitalisation or who’ve developed innovative products have settled in Darmstadt. Some of them are even graduates of TU Darmstadt. By the way, in the last few years, the Founders Award (Gründerpreis) from the State of Hessen in the category “University Start-Ups” has always been awarded to TU Darmstadt graduates. So, the city is considered one of the most innovative cities in the state and is part of the German Silicon Valley.

And that’s not just my opinion. In 2019, Darmstadt was voted the number 1 City of the Future for the fifth time in a row by WirtschaftsWoche (WiWo) magazine and the German Economic Institute (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln e.V.). Sounds exciting? It is! And Darmstadt has even more to offer.

Darmstadt - city of the future

The German Economic Institute (Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft Köln e.V.), in cooperation with Wirtschaftswoche (WiWo) magazine and the Immobilienscout24 Internet platform, once again chose Darmstadt as the winner in the city ranking of City of the Future 2019. This is the fifth time in a row that the City of Science has been named the number 1 City of the Future in Germany. According to the ranking, Darmstadt combines the strong innovative power of local stakeholders and is outstanding when it comes to innovation, creativity, and digitalisation.

The Future Index examines how well German cities are prepared for challenges of the future. Research strength is a deciding factor in being able to develop future innovative technologies and processes. For this you need a high concentration of research institutes and high levels of research activities in companies. But a high number of industry-related sectors also contributes to the successful development of any location.

Using three indicators, the ranking compares the status quo, development, and sustainability of 71 major German cities. They look at the socio-economic structures and advances based on quality of life, economic structure, plus the labor and property market. The future viability of a city is based on two location factors that are decisive for innovation: industries of the future and creative services. Munich and Erlangen rank 2nd and 3rd behind Darmstadt.

International players based in Darmstadt

Ok, you've probably heard of them: Merck KGaA, Software AG and Telekom. Hmm, and what do they all have in common? Exactly, all three of them, plus lots of other well-known companies and research institutes, are based in Darmstadt. It's pretty obvious that they cover a wide range of products and services. From IT, chemicals and pharmaceuticals to mechanical engineering and space technology, you can find a little bit of everything in this metropolis in southern Hessen. I think that’s quite impressive. Wait a minute, space technology?

Yes, you read that right! I haven’t even mentioned one particular highlight in Darmstadt yet. The city is home to ESOC (the European Space Operations Center), the space flight control centre of the European Space Agency (ESA) – “Europe's gateway to space”. ESA has been working closely as a research partner with TU Darmstadt for several years (more about this later) and is essential for space research, since more and more European space missions are being launched and then monitored from Darmstadt. This blows me away, so I keep up with what they’re doing. Techies like me can get very excited about stuff like this.

The city that creates innovative knowledge

I think “ City of Science” sounds pretty fancy. Of course, a city doesn't get a title like this out of the blue. In Darmstadt, this name isn’t just a state of mind. Science really drives the economy. As well as TU Darmstadt, there are also two universities of applied sciences and several public and private science and research institutes that make sure that the city has the most people employed in the fields of research and development in all of Germany. Wow, right? So, if you want to have a career in science or research, Darmstadt is definitely the right place for you! A lot of the experts recruited to work at Darmstadt's companies come straight from the university.

My newly adopted city is also really innovative when it comes to inventing stuff. In Europe, Darmstadt ranks 8th among all the patent regions, and worldwide it places among the top 30. Not bad, huh? Innovators based in Darmstadt have produced indispensable gadgets like the radio-controlled clock, enzyme-based detergents and the LCD liquid crystals in our laptops and smartphones. So pretty much all the things that we couldn’t live without. The next innovations are already on their way: One example is tomorrow's cooling technology with magnetic materials – the magnetocaloric effect makes it all possible.

Research collaborations: The broad reach of TU Darmstadt

So, you may already have guessed, but who has or is currently working with almost all of these great companies and research institutes? TU Darmstadt, of course! University faculties like mechanical engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, and information technology, as well as geodesy, just to name a few have been working in cooperation with ESOC for years. As a techie, I find it super exciting that there’s even a university club where students can work on projects like the CubeSat or an experimental rocket! The mission: to launch a self-designed satellite into space and successfully pilot it.

The three Fraunhofer Institutes for Secure Information Technology (SIT), for Graphical Data Processing (IGD) and for Structural Durability and System Reliability (LBF) work closely with TU Darmstadt as research partners. In the largest research centre for applied cyber security (ATHENE), TU Darmstadt, Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences and the two Fraunhofer Institutes SIT and IGD are working closely together on solutions for ensuring more digital security. According to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Darmstadt is one of the most important research locations in Germany in the field of IT security. Does all of that sound pretty abstract? Then here’s a practical example: In the future, cars will be able to move autonomously, that is, independently of a driver, in traffic. But safe autonomous driving requires an exchange of data within the vehicle itself and between vehicles that has to be protected against hacker attacks. This can hopefully be achieved using cryptography (data encryption), which should even be able to ward off attacks by quantum computers. This is being investigated as part of the QuantumRISC project, just one of many different projects.

I have one more for you! The GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research (GSI) has something completely unique in the world: an ion accelerator. The accelerator is used for experiments that provide insights into the structure of matter and the evolution of the universe. Of course, there are also research collaborations going on here, with scientists in nuclear and particle physics at TU Darmstadt working closely with GSI. Other departments are collaborating with GSI on their research projects as well. For example, materials scientists, chemists, and researchers at GSI are not only studying the effects of ion radiation on materials for applications in space, but also creating nanopores in membranes in order to imitate the construction and function principles behind biological pores. This is an important step towards artificial sensor systems for biomedical diagnostics. Research is currently going on to determine to which extent this methodology can be used to detect corona viruses in sewage in order to figure out how the viruses are distributed and spread. Now if that’s not impressive…

And Let’s not forget "artificial intelligence.” Darmstadt is a world leader in this, too, or, as our German Chancellor Angela Merkel put it, a gem when it comes to issues of artificial intelligence. But my fellow student Laura Sabioncello will tell you more about that.

Well, have I sparked any interest in Darmstadt and its university? Then I have a really good tip: Get some information from the Central Student Advisory Service and Orientation about what degree programme might suit you. They’ll explain absolutely everything you want to know with no obligation attached. You can even do this before you enrol here.

Portrait Diego
Picture: Britta Hüning


¡Hola, my name is Diego and I’m studying mechatronics at TU Darmstadt. I came here from my hometown of Caracas, Venezuela to this metropolis in southern Hessen specifically because of TU Darmstadt's reputation as a top university, and I feel very comfortable here. And I can already say: I can definitely imagine staying on in Darmstadt after I graduate!!

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