Are New Work and “Work 4.0” a must for every company amidst digital transformation? When will innovation-driven competition become a threat? In April, HSBA’s Square Innovation Hub opened as a nucleus of ideas, contacts and encounters to give movers and shakers in Hamburg’s economy an opportunity to deal with similar questions. Christoph Wöhlke, CEO of Budnikowsky, heads the Board of Innovators at the square. Hamburg News spoke to him in an interview.
Hamburg News: Mr. Wöhlke, what does the square have to offer commerce in Hamburg?
Christoph Wöhlke: The square can help approach a topic that many people find very confusing and which is shrouded in myths. And it offers an opportunity to deal with the question of what digitalization means in concrete terms for (my) company or companies. While large companies get support from big consultants, small and mid-sized companies can also familiarise themselves with the topic and try out their initial strategies in the square.
Hamburg News: Are companies in Hamburg willing to embrace digital change?
Christoph Wöhlke: Certainly. However, just a few remaining companies believe that digital change will pass while many others are still hoping for transformation. But these companies are biding their time and waiting to find out exactly what is coming. The rapid pace of digital change is difficult. Adapting to such change is often a cultural process and does not unfold quickly. On the other hand, many companies know how to seize the opportunities offered by digital change. But the gap between these two points of view is widening.
Hamburg News: Is Hamburg well positioned for digital change?
Christoph Wöhlke: A first step is the University of Hamburg’s recent rise to Excellence University as it will receive more attention and improved funding. We must now determine the skills needed for the future and improve the conditions for founding a company in a university environment. Such a start-up-friendly climate makes Hamburg generally more attractive as a location for innovative companies in Germany and abroad. This leads to a lively exchange with people from all over the world. Hamburg is a cosmopolitan city and has benefited from this in the past. We have to expand this in future.
Hamburg News: So, we have to work on our attitude?
Christoph Wöhlke: The basic requirements include general criteria e.g. fibre optic expansion, 5G, affordable offices and living spaces, skilled workers and incubators. An open, tolerant climate and togetherness are also important. It is about letting people here participate in the development. This also includes a certain attentiveness on the part of the city. Winners and losers will emerge in the course of digital transformation. We must ensure that no one feels excluded and highlight opportunities for everyone.
Hamburg News: How can that be achieved?
Christoph Wöhlke: By addressing the effects of digitization intensely and at an early stage. Think of the city centre as an example. Stationary trade there is losing importance as a driving force. In this respect, I would like to see a progressive approach to the future of our city.
Hamburg News: And how do you rate our digital future?
Christoph Wöhlke: I believe that the right extent of digitisation and in the appropriate channels can make a significant contribution to society. Our world is more individual than ever. Being able to to live one’s life as one pleases is a boon. But we must keep an eye on the risks and opportunities. Technological developments can certainly help tackle major challenges such as climate change. But on the other hand, blockchain technology consumes vast amounts of energy. We need to be fine-tuned and proactive against this backdrop.
Interview by Yvonne Scheller