Hamburg News: More than 2,000 members in 650 firms have made the former cluster network, Hamburg@work, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, a digital pioneer. Looking back, what are you particularly proud of?
Uwe Jens Neumann: In late 1995, the Hamburg Business Development Corporation (HWF) held the first meeting of the “Hamburger onlineKapitäne“ for internet-minded firms. At the time, that was really innovative as the internet was still quite new. The Förderkreis Multimedia emerged from the “onlineKapitäne” later. The former then became a private partner of the city’s Hamburg-newmedia@work initiative – a public-private partnership with the senate and the Ministry of Commerce under Senator Dr. Thomas Mirow. The internet hype at the time saw our members soar by 800. The white membership card soon gave people admission to events in the scene and was a proper status symbol. Those were exciting times! The internet bubble burst with a loud bang in 2001, but we did not retreat. We just kept going because we always believed that the internet and digitalisation would mark the start of fundamental change. When the hype subsided, we became more down-to-earth and concentrated on IT and telecommunication. The initiative and the private-commercial association became Hamburg@work. The launch of the Hamburger IT-Strategy Days in 2002 has certainly been our greatest success over the past two decades. This little meeting has morphed into the leading conference of its kind in the German-speaking region and most CIOs meet there. The IT-Strategy Days illustrate clearly the change in our content from media economy to digital issues that affect commerce overall.
Hamburg News: What are the biggest challenges facing companies in terms of digitalisation?
Neumann: The biggest problem is the lack of courage about digitalisation especially in small and mid-sized companies. Where do you start, what measures are sensible? Are management and staff pulling together? The technical part of digitalisation is not the problem. That happens! But the requirements lie in the working world and society. We are trying to be helpful by bringing companies and experts together and giving firms an opportunity to network among each other. There are so many parallel initiatives and offers, but there is not enough exchange between the clusters. Interdisciplinary thinking sparks digital disruption. We wish to initiate offers there in future and to solidify Hamburg’s role in the transformation of Germany.
Hamburg News: A view to the future – what are your goals for the next 20 years?
Neumann: In a nutshell, we at Hamburg@work want to be THE digital cluster in the Hamburg Metropolitan Region in 2025. To this end, we are pushing ahead with interdisciplinary digitalisation projects that we experienced in the past years in the IT and media industry and would like to see across all economic sectors. We wish to support Hamburg’s important economic clusters e.g. logistics, life science, aviation, renewable energies and maritime industries with our efforts. We are holding talks about collaboration with clusters in logistics and the health industry at present.
Interview by: Karolin Köcher
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