Senator Frank Horch is going over some files in his office on the eighth floor of the Hamburg Ministry of Economics. A brief glance at his watch reminds him of the next pressing appointment. Yet, he still takes time to discuss key issues facing the Hamburg Metropolitan Region this year with Hamburg News.
Hamburg News: Senator Horch, the port is not everything, yet Hamburg is nothing without the port. Let’s begin with adjusting the Elbe fairway. When can we expect the bulldozers?
Frank Horch: We have never been as far ahead as we are today. The most important steps are behind us. We expect to obtain building permission and to start preparatory measures this year. Of course, bulldozers are not the sole issue. That is a highly complex and elaborate process with mainly environmental aspects. But yes, we want to start in 2018.
Hamburg News: Hamburg’s economy is associated mainly with the port abroad. Yet structural change requires far more…
Frank Horch: Naturally, the port is and remains important as the main hub of economic procedures. The economy is essentially about infrastructure policy. But the port is in the middle of profound change as it always has been during the course of it’s over 800-year history. Today, Hamburg’s economy is adding forward-looking sectors such as 3D printing, which we are funding by putting EUR 30 million towards more activities at the Fraunhofer Insitute and nano technology.
Hamburg News: Apart from adjusting the Elbe, what are the three main focal issues in 2018?
Frank Horch: Innovation is increasingly important to commerce in Hamburg and is close to my heart. We wish to push ahead with collaboration and networking between science and commerce. We are promoting ideas that become successful business models and products. Start-ups are one of our focal points in 2018. We have already begun with the new start-up hub at Hamburg Invest as a central point of contact for the main players in the sector. We also want to boost innovation and growth with EUR 100 million in funds from late 2018. The city will put EUR 10 million towards the funds while investors will put EUR 90 million towards it. Intelligent mobility and digitalisation are an important, overall issue.
Horch: “We need a new understanding of mobility”
Hamburg News: Critics say Hamburg is on the verge of gridlock. How do you wish to solve the problem with intelligent mobility?
Frank Horch: We have to develop a new understanding of mobility. Many people associate traffic mainly with congestion and construction sites; that is unacceptable. If possible, I wish to give everyone an understanding of what mobility means in the 21st century. There is no right, single means of transport. Thus the emphasis is presently on networking and using digital offers and information about railway offers, buses, and shared transport including bicycles and of course, private cars. In a city of 2 million people and especially in metropoles with 5.3 million people, you should always ask when is the right time to arrive at my destination.
Hamburg News: Transport is crucial in connection with the Intelligent Transport System (ITS) World Congress which Hamburg will host in 2021. Around 10,000 experts from transport, mobility, IT, telecommunications and the logistic sector as well as scientists and politicians are expected then. But how will the congress benefit the people of Hamburg?
Frank Horch: The congress in 2021 is a separate issue. But many projects such as Hamburg Electric Autonomous Transportation (HEAT) for autonomous driving, emission-free shuttle buses are being launched in the run-up across Hamburg. This is in addition to many other projects such as finding parking spaces intelligently, interlinked traffic lights and underground tickets on mobile phones. The people of Hamburg will perceive that positively. We wish to become Europe’s model city. Mobility is more transparent and is a palpable expression of digitalisation in everyday life. That includes testing the new 5G mobile telephony standard in Hamburg. The EU has chosen our port as Europe’s only testing ground for 5G in the commercial sector. That shows our significance. Tests of 5G are being undertaken in Turin for the private sector.
Hamburg News: That brings us to third issue – digitalisation. You will soon be sharing your office with Mr. Sebastian Saxe of the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA).
Frank Horch: Indeed, Dr. Sebastian Saxe, Chief Digital Officer at the Hamburg Port Authority, will spend 20 per cent of his time as CDO supporting the Ministry of Economics and will push ahead with our digitalisation measures overall. We have taken great steps and made tremendous progress in terms of digitalisation. Of course, Dr. Saxe will have his own office.
Hamburg News: Many people view digitalisation as a gigantic, job destroyer. Analyses indicate that automation is putting nearly every tenth job in Hamburg at risk.
Frank Horch: There can be no talk of that. Yet, I wish to stress that we will accompany the process of digitalisation actively as it will not regulate itself. We will install a process to reach Industry 4.0 as intensely as Labour 4.0. We will support employees in sectors that undergo stark change with education and training i.e. the entire staff-qualifying process. Sustainability is also important in that context. Digital transformation must be social and ecological so that we secure jobs and maintain the high standard of living in Hamburg as an important feature of the location.
Hamburg News: Many thanks for the interview Senator Horch.
Interview by Karolin Köcher