The unsung stars are often owner-operated companies whose specialisation gives them a clear focus. And they come up with some resourceful ways of defending their lead through consistently investing in research and development – a field in which Saxony is easily one step ahead; a key factor behind the success of many Saxon products. Further important factors contributing to the “hidden champions’” success include the state’s business-friendly policies and good education system.

Saxony’s world market leaders are quick off the blocks

Saxony’s hidden champions: their innovative entrepreneurship and flexible reactions to constant change in their sector means these front runners do not depend on their brand being a household name. 

Focus, the key to success

Many of them dominate the entire global market in their sector – but though they have the upper hand in niche markets, the “hidden champions” are relatively unfamiliar. However, they are what really drives the German economy. Several are based in the east of the country. With 29 world market leaders, Saxony has almost as many global players as all the other four eastern states put together.

Today, researchers define “hidden champions” as companies that are among the top three players in their market segment worldwide and No. 1 on their continent, bringing in a turnover of up to 5 billion euros. In Saxony, they are found in a variety of sectors, from traditional makers of musical instruments to construction material manufacturers or IT providers. A small selection includes:

FEP Fahrzeugelektrik Pirna GmbH Co. KG 
An important European manufacturer of switch components, connectors and plastic parts for the automotive industry, FEP also steps in to solve tough problems with lasting future effects. The company is resolutely following its goals of global expansion and strengthening its market leadership.

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ZABAG Security Engineering GmbH
This finalist in the 2019 Mittelstand awards ceremony does global business in security systems. ZABAG’s systems for gates, turnstiles and barriers protect sensitive areas all over the world, from embassies and airports to prisons and well-known companies’ production facilities.

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Norafin Industries (Germany) GmbH
Norafin has established itself in the market as a supplier of high-quality special-purpose nonwoven fabrics. The company, based in the Ore Mountains, produces technical textiles for the protective clothing industry, filter manufacturers and users of composite materials, and offers skilled workers from all over the world a new home.

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C. A. Seydel Söhne GmbH
Harmonicas for the 21st century – their stainless-steel reeds, the only ones of their kind, produce a modern-feeling sound and are valued by musicians all over the world.

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Freiberger Compound Materials GmbH 
The Saxon town of Freiberg is home to a leading global producer of compound semiconductor substrates. The company has a strong ethical stance, placing great value on the environment and social responsibility.

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Kirow Ardelt GmbH Leipzig 
Located in Leipzig, Kirow Ardelt GmbH is a mechanical engineering company that occupies the top spot in railway cranes worldwide. Kranunion cranes can be found at sites around the globe.

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CommSolid Dresden
This Mobile IP company CommSolid is the leading manufacturer of ultra-low-power solutions. The team of engineers, doctorate holders and creative minds are among the few people around the globe to successfully handle the communicational challenges of the IoT market.

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Wälzlagertechnik GmbH 
The key to this Dresden company’s success lies in its specialisation in developing bespoke, premium and individual solutions for highly demanding fields of application. It delivers to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and various other European countries.

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Start-ups and new business ventures move ahead

As well as traditional companies and SMEs, start-ups and new business models are also gaining ground in Saxony. Young companies such as Spreadshirt or Wandelbots are also taking the whole world by storm. They, too, benefit from the state’s optimal conditions: the high concentration of research institutions and Saxony’s innovative spirit combine to make the state a breeding ground for new ideas.

Many companies are already reaping the fruits of success, but it doesn’t stop there: the Saxon hothouse for hidden champions is still expanding. If the state continues its success story, the 29 local companies identified as world market leaders will soon be growing in number. 

One thing is certain: Saxony will be doing everything in its power to nurture that future trend.

Photo credits: Central Saxony district, Wandelbots