Enterprise software giant SAP is looking to exploit the large student pool in Berlin and neighbouring Potsdam through a new innovation centre that was officially opened today.

The academic hub in north east Germany is home to the Hasso Platner Institute for Software Systems Engineering, nine Berlin universities, the Fraunhofer Institutes, and outlets of Stanford University and MIT. 

Speaking at the opening, SAP chairman Prof Hasso Plattner, said: "SAP has to be close to the 150,000 students in Potsdam and Berlin. It cannot be that we can’t find the right people here." 

Through the SAP Innovation Centre, which Plattner described as "simple, open and nice", the German firm is tasking 150 staff with creating new application areas for its software, from personalised cancer therapy to online gaming. 

"The purpose of the innovation centre is to identify ideas at an early stage. We will co-innovate with partners and turn these ideas into a software solution," said Dr Jürgen Müller, co-head of the SAP Innovation Centre. 

The Innovation Centre, split across sites in Potsdam and the SAP headquarters in Walldorf, will also work closely with the 1,200 start-ups using SAP's in-memory computing HANA platform, which the firm has put at the forefront of its growth strategy. 

"There is a vibrant start-up scene in Berlin and in this area there are a lot of tech companies," said Jens Krüger, co-head of the SAP Innovation Centre. "We need partners and fresh ideas coming in. This is a unique chance to get some of them on board."

SAP said it wants to combine the agility of start-ups with the firm’s expertise in business software to create the next generation of applications. 

Before any new applications are rolled out commercially, SAP said it will trial prototype versions with partners, such as the Hasso Plattner Institute for Software Systems Engineering and the Fraunhofer Institutes.