Since reunification in 1990, Saxony-Anhalt is one of the 16 federal states (Länder) of Germany. Located in the central-east of the country, it borders the states of Brandenburg, Thuringia and Lower Saxony. The landscape is very varied, extending from the lowlands of the Altmark in the north through the fertile black soils of the Magdeburg Börde and the Elbe waterways right up to the Harz low mountains. Saxony-Anhalt has a rich history and a remarkable culture landscape. The Romanesque Road, the sites of the Reformation such as Wittenberg and Eisleben, the Magdeburg Cathedral, the Wörlitzer Garden Realm and the Bauhaus in Dessau are but a few example.
2,23 million inhabitants are living in Saxony-Anhalt in an area of around 20,000 km², resulting in a population density of 110 people per km², which is far below the German average of 229 inhabitants per km² (data from 2015). Also, the regional urbanization rate of 62,9% is substantially less than the national 79,5%. On closer look, we find differences between a thinly populated and more rural northern part and a relatively “crowded” centre and southern part of the state, which together also house the two largest cities, the capital of Saxony-Anhalt, Magdeburg, and Halle (Saale), with some 230.000 inhabitants each. Since 1990, the state has been facing a declining population trend, mainly due to outmigration among younger people.
This, of course, reflects the difficult transformation process of the regional economy in the aftermath of German unification. While there has been a strong positive trend over time, all major economic parameters are still below the national average, a situation faced by all East German Länder. In 2015, the regional GDP per capita was € 25,198 (some 70% of the German average, yet close to the East German average of € 26,453). The level of productivity is lower in the East (77% compared to West Germany). Public and private expenditures for research and development amount to 1,5% of the regional GDP. For the whole of Germany, the corresponding figure is 2,9%. Unemployment in Saxony-Anhalt has decreased from 22,2% in 2004 to 8,5% in 2016, but is still above the national level of 5,8%. In seeking to catch-up, the Land government has committed itself to fostering innovation, investment and internationalization.
Important regional sectors are the chemical and plastics industry (which is the most profitable branch in the region), plant engineering and construction, the food industry, automotive supply, renewable energies and logistics. There has been a steady growth in industrial production over the last few years, driven by stronger domestic demand and better export quotas. More than 71% of employees work in the service sector, 26% in manufacturing and construction, and 2% in agriculture. The economic structure is very strongly by small companies: 87% of regional firms have less than 10 employees. Exports constituted 28% of the regional GDP in 2015 (but, again, the average export quota in Germany is significantly higher with 47%), with main trading partners being located in Poland, the UK, France, Italy and the Netherlands.
In the field of tertiary education, two universities in Magdeburg and Halle (Saale), four universities of applied sciences and three private colleges of art, music and theology are the most important centres of research and teaching in Saxony-Anhalt. With 18 research facilities, the extra-university research institutions (Fraunhofer, Leibniz, Helmholtz, Max Planck) are also strongly represented in the region. The various priorities set by these institutions, and the interdisciplinary and inter-institutional cooperation between the experts who conduct it help the universities, colleges and research institutes to acquire prestige transcending state boundaries.
The Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg (OvGU), established in 1993, is partner in the Beyond EDP consortium. The profile of the university is focused on engineering, the natural sciences and medicine. It also views economics and management and the social sciences and humanities as essential disciplines for a modern university in the information age. In 2016, some 14,000 students have been enrolled at the OvGU.