Talk of houses on the moon conjure up the impression that the world is almost too small for Arne Weber, CEO of HC Hagemann. And the longer one listens to this passionate builder, the more realistic his vision becomes. Weber is a lateral thinker and a visionary who makes things possible. A look at his futuristic lighthouse in Hamburg’s Hafencity dispels all doubts.
Hamburg News talked to Weber and Dr. Rolf Strittmatter, Managing Director of Hamburg Invest, formerly HWF Hamburg Business Development Corporation (HWF), about Weber’s latest project, the Hamburg Innovation Port, lighthouses, houses on the moon, possible and impossible inventions and the future of Hamburg.
Hamburg News: Mr. Weber, what is the status of Hamburg Innovation Port (HIP) – the new research and technology centre. Are you on schedule?
Arne Weber: Not quite, unfortunately. The first cut of the spade was scheduled for October. But we had to postpone it because of the ongoing approval procedure. However, demand is enormous at present. If it were up to me, we could start immediately.
Hamburg News: Mr. Strittmatter, three innovation parks are being planned; ZAL is operational and now HIP. The European X-ray laser XFEL recently opened and Hamburg has become Germany’s capital of start-ups. Although Hamburg already has plenty to offer, it is still not perceived as an innovative city. Why not?
Rolf Strittmatter: That has to do with the conventional perception of Hamburg as a traditional industrial and port city. On the one hand, that is where we can link up. Yet, it is our basis of innovation on which we build our future. Networking also has a tradition in Hamburg as a trade and merchants city and is vital for innovations.
Hamburg News: And that means?
Rolf Strittmatter: That means image enhancement and working with strong pictures. That does not mean marketing only universities and colleges and industry. Marketing will be at the interface between commerce and science. Hamburg is a “free port of in innovations” and has many untold stories.
Arne Weber: Innovations occur in every sector and they are a must. If I stop developing, then I can close down. That applies to both builders and owners of curry sausage booths. Certain things can really be achieved in China. We can get a lot going here as well, but we have to be faster. We talked about the research and innovation parks seven years ago. It’s only now that they are becoming reality.
Rolf Strittmatter: We have indeed made considerable progress. Hamburg Invest will take over the development, marketing and operating Hamburg’s research and innovation parks and push them ahead. But first, I wish to mention something fundamental: innovations occur on different levels. We need these places to allow innovations to unfold. But we also need people like you, Mr. Weber, who press ahead courageously. We also need municipal support. We need transfer and networking between commerce and science so that ideas become products and services. Ideas alone are not enough and this where Hamburg’s forte lies. Some say those with ideas move to Berlin and those with business models go to Hamburg. There is an element of truth there. As I always say: “Berlin is for baby food. Hamburg is for solids (laughs).”
Arne Weber: Everyone must come up with ideas in their respective sector. The extent of inspiration is crucial and that is certainly more pronounced in university surroundings than in the countryside.
Hamburg News: You do not seem to lack inspiration. You have just built the great lighthouse and the Channel Hamburg association is a beacon project for all of Hamburg. You could rest on your laurels. But instead, you are going full speed ahead with HIP. What motivates you?
Arne Weber: I need new challenges all the time. Otherwise, I would be bored. That’s how the lighthouse came about. I once had a lighthouse in the German Bight. I stood up there at the railings and thought: “Why do people live on Earth?” My employees thought I was joking when I said we were going to build a lighthouse. Some refused.
Hamburg News: When you are not building lighthouses or innovation parks, what else would you like to build?
Arne Weber: Hmm. It would be nice to build a house on the moon. Others are already working on that. But we should manage to build a single-family house with a 3D printer.
Hamburg News: How?
Arne Weber: We would probably have to set up a company for that. Some people have already expressed interest and want to become involved. I would also like to build a hotel like no other before. It would be fully digitalised and reduced to the real needs of a business traveller based on the fact that 90 per cent of a hotel and its services are not used at all.
Hamburg News: That sound incredibly exciting. We will definitely watch that. Mr. Weber and Dr. Strittmatter, many thanks for this inspiring talk.