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Zukunftskonferenz „Innovationsstandort Norddeutschland“ © Yvonne Scheller

Future Conference on Innovation in north Germany

"Reinvention" characteristic of Hamburg -a look at Hamburg's innovative strength

Digitalisation strategies, the north German energy transition, the region’s economic attractiveness, investment in the future of industry and ports and the potential for the Hamburg Metropolitan Region topped the agenda of the first “Future Conference on Innovation” ended Thursday (November 8, 2018). Organised by Hafen Hamburg Marketing, Hamburg Invest and Partners, the conference offered an overview of present events.

Pioneers of technological development

During his welcoming speech at the Ingenieurwerk in Hamburg, Dr. Peter Tschentscher, Mayor of Hamburg, termed digitalisation and the energy transition “two megatrends” which are likely to dominate the future. He expressed confidence in Hamburg’s clout and noted: “We have the necessary know-how. We are pioneers of technological development and that makes us strong.”

“In Hamburg you do it!”

Robert Pfarrwaller, HamburgAmbassador to Austria, said a traditional self-confident attitude towards international business and especially “doer qualities” of citizens are traits of Hamburg’s economic strength. Citing Bismarck’s “politics is the art of the possible”, Pfarrwaller compared Vienna with the Hanseatic city and noted: “In Hamburg you do things, in Vienna everything is possible.”

Port’s gravitational pull

Pfarrwaller stressed the Port of Hamburg’s importance while Dr. Rolf Strittmatter, Chairman of the Management Board of Hamburg Marketing GmbH and Managing Director of Hamburg Invest, said: “The Port is Hamburg’s centre of gravity.” Around 125,000 jobs in Hamburg alone are linked to port. And its near 830-year history is a strong foundation on which to build the future combined above all with the tradition of Hamburg’s merchants: “We know how to earn money, but also how to reinvent ourselves time and again.”

NEW 4.0 alliance

Strittmatter, an economist by profession, is keenly aware of the strong links between “innovations and investments”. Quality takes precedence over quantity, he stressed, adding: “Knowledge and technology-based investments are important.” The large-scale NEW 4.0 is a a union of economics, science and politics and foresees supplying Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein with 100 per cent renewable energy by 2035. “Such a project of the century cannot be achieved alone, but only in a strong innovation alliance,” said Professor Dr. Werner Beba, co-ordinator and head of project management. Around 60 partners along the entire value chain in the energy sector have joined forces in NEW 4.0. However, Beba noted: “There will be no energy turnaround without digitalisation.”

Journey to the future – destination unknown

Dr. Sebastian Saxe, Chief Digital Officer in the Hamburg Ministry of Economics, Transport and Innovation is responsible for Hamburg’s digitalisation strategy and setting the course for a “journey into the future, the destination of which is still unknown”. Tangible examples of innovation opportunities rather than risks can allay fears of an uncertain future. Such examples are being presented on the Future.Hamburg platform and more prototypes are likely to be presented at the upcoming ITS World Congress, which Hamburg is hosting in 2021. “Driving will be autonomous on roads and on water. Tugs will be autonomous in the complex port environment,” Saxe explained. The new mobile radio standard 5G is currently being tested in the Port of Hamburg. Saxe said Hamburg’s motto: “We are the digital gateway to the world.”

Great dynamism in Hamburg

Professor Dr. Henning Vöpel, Director and Managing director of the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI), said the world of tomorrow will be very different, and predicted: “Location and competitive factors will change fundamentally.” Data management will replace industrialization: “Knowing what and when will be the key, not know-how.” Vöpel also expressed confidence that the course towards change has already been set. “For two or three years now, I’ve been observing a great deal of dynamism in the minds of the people of Hamburg.”

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