Every year, the Hamburg Copenhagen Business Forum is a must for Jens-Peter Saul, CEO of Rambøll, one of Europe’s leading engineering companies and consultancies. Saul, 51, is also president of the German-Danish Chamber of Commerce. In 2015, Olaf Scholz Mayor of Hamburg appointed him Hamburg Ambassador to Copenhagen. During Wednesday’s (February 28, 2018) bilateral conference, Saul will hold a keynote entitled “The Vision for a Joint Region”. In an interview with Hamburg News, Saul outlines his ideas for closer, bilateral co-operation.
Hamburg News: Mr. Saul, can you outline your vision for the joint region?
Jens-Peter Saul: We are creating a considerable infrastructure solution with the Fehmarnbelt Tunnel which will link Denmark even better with mainland Europe. That should be an impulse to actively use the potential of the interlinked region. Take, for instance, climate and environment. Olaf Scholz, Mayor of Hamburg, coined the termed Wind Capital (Hamburg) of Germany”. And in 2017, Denmark generated a record 43.3 per cent of the overall energy needed with wind power stations. If this trend can be developed, the region could become a sustainable valley and attract and encourage companies to set up businesses there. This would in turn create an innovation and knowledge cluster and thus a smart region. But more importantly, we must start putting concrete projects in place now to achieve this vision.
Hamburg News: The Fehmarnbelt Tunnel is a milestone…
Jens-Peter Saul: The Fehmarnbelt crossing is one of the biggest infrastructure projects being planned in northern Europe. It brings north Germany and eastern Denmark closer and connects continental Europe with Scandinavia. Companies will soon feel the effects of physical connections such as shorter and more cost-efficient transport routes, improved accessibility and easier access to markets bordering Germany and Denmark.
The Øresund Bridge is an impressive example of positive integration on the respective labour markets. In 2010 alone, Øresund commuters accounted for EUR 740 million in value added to the Danish economy. Rising commuter numbers have helped counter the lack of skilled professionals in Denmark. Sweden saved EUR 175 million on expenditure for unemployment benefits. We expect German planning approval in 2018. Then, work on the tunnel may proceed quickly. But we should not wait until the tunnel has been completed. We must take concrete measures to boost the region together. Only then will we benefit fully from the project.
Hamburg News: What kind of measures are you thinking of ?
Jens-Peter Saul: The region would certainly benefit from joint branding. But getting away from the focus on the Hamburg Metropolitan Region and Copenhagen and instead viewing the region as a whole with all the opportunities would be sensible as well as bringing the Ostholstein and Lolland/Falster out of their marginal positions. Putting that into the fore, soliciting firms and encouraging them to start businesses there can strengthen the economic clout of the entire region significantly in the medium and longer term. Such a joint effort would interest especially start-ups that need big networks. I can imagine increased co-operation with universities and founders.
Hamburg News: As CEO of Rambøll and as president of the German-Danish Chamber of Commerce, you have great insight into both markets and regions. What is your impression of the present bilateral co-operation?
Jens-Peter Saul: There is still plenty of potential and work remains to be done. Not many people in Hamburg know Copenhagen and vice versa and I mean not only as tourists. When I arrive in Hamburg with a delegation, the participants are repeatedly amazed by what Hamburg has to offer. We have to step up the marketing efforts on both sides. The awareness that a great city with fantastic opportunities lies only 288 km away must be improved noticeably. After all, Hamburg is a launching pad to Germany for many Danish companies. Ramboll, which I manage, is a good example. Launched in 2013, Rambøll employed only 80 staff then in Hamburg. Now we employ over 225 in Hamburg and 500 people across Germany. The collaboration is going very well in some sectors and both sides are very willing to move even closer together.
Interview by Yvonne Scheller