Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hellerau - Where Art and Tech Dance Together

Yesterday the final presentation day of futureSAX - The Saxon Innovation Conference took place at the Festspielhaus Hellerau, an iconic building in the smallish suburb Hellerau on the edge of the globally known city of Dresden.

The area of what a little bit more than 100 years ago just heath land with scattered woods became an entrepreneurial and dance hotspot shortly after its founding as the first German "garden city" in 1909. The visionary entrepreneur, Karl Schmidt (link to "German History in Books and Images" by @GHIWashington), envisioned not only a new furniture production site but also a suburb where working, education and living would jointly go together in the most natural form (literally embedded into the landscape of that strip of land).

The prosperous business owner and his outstandingly new ideas attracted famous architects of the time to this new "venture" and furthermore pulled in artists like Emile Jaques-Dalcroze, a Swiss musical pedagogue, who finally became the initiator of creating the Festspielhaus Dresden to perform rhythmical gymnastics.

So it made more than sense to choose this location to showcase some of the amazing innovations, like startups scaling up and projects in the making, as well as established regional companies that have gone to take exponential technologies to transform there sometimes centuries-old business models. As 100 years earlier not only local and Saxon players, but also attendees from Berlin and other locations found their way to Hellerau. BTW, the location is most conveniently reachable via eMobility as a tram line (No. 8) operated by the local public transport corporation DVB AG has a stop ("Festspielhaus") nearby with a direct connection to downtown Dresden.

Saxony once again showed, that despite the edgy position within Germany, it has houses a high number of passionate and clever minds who are not just talking about shaping the future. They have dared to hand in their ideas, projects and startups putting their future on the "dance floor" where once Gret Palucca (and others) brought modern dance to the public.

To cut the story short, the prize ceremony has been banned on "digital tape" namely Facebook Live by technology passionate members of the SMWA_SN (Saxon State Ministry for Labour, Economics, and Infrastructure). Prior to the prize ceremony, a group of young dancers of the Tanzraum Dresden performed a wonderful that in some way resembled the struggles entre-/intra-/extrapreneurs face while working on their innovative ideas to see the bright light of success. It may take quite some time, not days, not a week, rather years or even decades.

Looking forward to the next edition of futureSAX in 2018 and the path there, rich of shaped serendipity encounters (here a short clip with John Hagel, co-chair of the Deloitte Center for the Edge on shaped serendipity) along the way.

Wrapping up on a day full of surprise encounters, meeting new and old friends one sentence captures what innovation is literally all about:

Innovation is like performing arts, you passionately have to stay with it through training, repetition until the idea becomes a reality. 

In short, the review on yesterday's experience will be captured what was coined #PresencingStatus back in the "early days" of occDD (Open Coffee Club Dresden, an idea we brought back from Boston back in 2009):
  1. Good - perfect location; dense, somewhat crowded place (enabling serendipity encounters); meeting friends from Berlin who are also in the #ExponentialTechnologies space; most inspiring conversations
  2. Tricky - 5 GHz WiFi networks may lead to connection problems (h/t to Hellerau's guest network that worked flawlessly over the whole time); noisy crowd during the pitches 
  3. Learned - Humble Inquiry (a concept Edgar H. Schein, Prof. Emer. of MIT Sloan School of Management with family roots also from Bad Schandau, Saxony as he writes in his autobiography "Becoming American"; "Are you at futureSAX in Hellerau today?") really led to a most surprising and rich conversation with someone who had not been aware of futureSAX 
  4. Action - Doing what we always do, weaving the various threads of information, events, and persons together into a bigger picture of Saxony that is truly more than what can often be read in the media outside Saxony  

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Grasping Beyond the Stars and Landing in Saxony

Space technology is not just since live streams of the relanding (CRS-11 Landing aerial view) of the Falcon 9 rocket, and several resupply missions to the ISS (International Space Station) made possible by the team around serial entrepreneur Elon Musk in the news. Planetary Resources, a bold start-up with the mission to mine Earth-near asteroids, co-founded by Peter H. Diamandis (he is also the co-founder of Singularity University, a visionary think tank with the mission to teach and empower leaders about the power of converging exponential technologies through various in-person and digital formats, whose chancellor Ray Kurzweil gave an outstanding keynote at the 4th Dresden Future Forum in 2010).

At first sight one would not expect Saxony, or more specifically Dresden, to play a significant role in this context. And yet, it does. More subtle through the person Prof. Hans Müller-Steinhagen, Rektor of the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden), who not only led the university to its current heights being one of 11 top universities in Germany with the "excellence status" in 2012. This even pulled in the interest of the New York Times which put a story up on this achievement in January 13, 2013

Dresden, once the home of the East German passenger plane industry in the late 50s and beginnings of the 60s, has transformed this legacy into being a viable part of the Airbus-family with the Elbe Flugzeugwerke EFW that is specializing transforming passenger aircrafts into freight liners. Even though situated on the edge of Germany, and even on the edge of the City of Dresden, there are many "hidden champions" in the aerospace industry (see the post "Engineered Serendipity Shaping the Future") and which can be found in the Cluster LRT Sachsen/Thüringen.

On top of this, the TU Dresden is home of the Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrttechnik, and one of the largest science communities in the field of Aeronautics in Germany, mainly at the former GDR Aerospace campus in Dresden-Johannstadt with international ties to ESA, NASA, and the International Space University (another startup by Peter H. Diamandis going back to late 80s when he and two buddies at the MIT founded it, now it has its permanent headquarters near Strasbourg, France).

Looking back five years in time when IEEE TTM (IEEE Time Technology Machine) took place right in the historic center of Dresden, SpaceX had just completed its first successful re-supply mission to the ISS (see "Boundaries Across Boundaries, Technologies, and Cultures") it makes perfect sense for another bold step. And it was there to come, not too unexpected as the curious observers of the developments would certainly confirm.

The DLR (German Aerospace Center) the national aeronautics and space research center the Federal Republic of Germany decided during its Senate Meeting end of June the establishment of seven DLR institutes across Germany. One of which is based in Dresden, at the TU Dresden, and it will focus on the "Research into the digitalisation of aviation"

making not only use of the excellent software industry base, the scientific research community, but also of the high-performance computing capabilities that the TU Dresden provides (and which other potential users are connected to such as the MPI-CBG which opened the Center for Systems Biology Dresden lately).

Today the inaugiration of the Institute of Software Methods for Product Virtualisation in Dresden has taken place and more about the event and first impressions, interviews, and statements are available through DLR's Twitter account through which the exciting news were announced on July 26, 2017,

and the specific hashtag #DLRdresden which has been in use since.

We congratulate all people, institutions, and companies who have made this amazing step possible, and with the #DLRdresden and its team most successful scaling into a prosperous and exciting future.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Engineered Serendipity Shaping the Future

It is been a while, on March 2, 2017, the Economic Development Corporation Saxony (Wirtschaftsförderung Sachsen GmbH) invited the press to their yearly press talk on the achievements of the past year and a lookout for the future.

Saxon State Minister for Economics, Labor and Transportation, Martin Dulig, SMWA, and Head of Wirtschaftsförderung Sachsen GmbH, Peter Nothnagel, welcomed the media and gave a broad overview of the activities and successes within the past year 2016. Despite the fact that the projects that the WFS facilitated a similar number of investments over the course of the year 2016 compared with 2015, the average invest volume was about half compared with that of the preceding year. Peter Nothnagel, "Auch kleine Projekte werden zu großen." (English: "Also small projects become large ones"). What at first sight might look as a not so positive outlook into the future might also be an early sign of focus shift from traditional industries towards advancing technologies. Such include space-related and exponential technologies such as additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing or AM) and other business fields that are massively impacted by the rising digitalization (e.g. e-Mobility, autonomous driving, life sciences, IIoT) and economic activities around emerging digital business models.

Extruder for probe picking
In general, it once more became clear that the WFS is a major "anchor point" between Saxony, its scientific communities, the established and emerging SMEs (though mostly small in size, nevertheless big at highest quality levels) in the region, and the international business community. The event took place at the headquarters of Hoch Technologie Systeme GmbH (HTS GmbH), a small yet unique supplier and service provider specifically for the aerospace, space and rail industry with 33 employees and currently led by its founder Dr. Wolfgang Göhler who had founded the company in 1996. One of the reasons not only the wide array of well-trained engineers streaming out of Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) but also the unique density of companies and a cluster in the field of aerospace in the region.

In 2016, HTS GmbH had its 20th anniversary of operations,  RUAG Space, the space division of the Swiss RUAG Group, had announced the take-over of HTS in order to build on their long-lasting business collaboration between the two companies which started in 2002 and has been successfully fulfilled projects around several space missions by ESA and players in the field. Quite surprisingly RUAG Space is involved in the project OneWeb. This ambitious project is supported also by serial entrepreneur and space enthusiast Sir Richard Branson and is aiming to position several hundred satellites around the Earth to provide internet connection to all regions of the world, especially remote ones as stated by Invest Switzerland on Twitter in late 2016.

from left: Dr. Axel Roenneke (RUAG Space), Dr. Wolfgang
Göhler, (HTS GmbH), Jakob Kania (Support Q GmbH),
Peter Nothnagel (WFS GmbH), Martin Dulig (SMWA)
As Dr. Axel Roenneke, VP Marketing & Sales of RUAG Space, stated at the press conference things are like to change dramatically in the space industry as it gets more industrialized.

Presently most of the equipment for space missions is small in number and unique, often made by craftsmanship. Whereas in the past building of a satellite took about nine months, processes, also supported by emerging additive manufacturing technologies in metal as well as in ceramics, now constructing three satellites per day (!) is one of the bold goals. Industrializing production processes, and keeping the highest standards is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time, bringing the relevance of lean (LAI, Lean Aerospace Initiative (1993-2012) by MIT), Industry 4.0 and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) into perspective. In this context, it is also worth to mention the conference on Industry 4.0 in Dresden, called "Industrie 4.0 - Sachsen stellt sich auf" (#SachsenIndustrie40).

During the event and afterwards it came up several times in personal conversations that the region, and especially Dresden with its legacy in material sciences, additive manufacturing expertise (the Fraunhofer Campus in Dresden is about to become a major research and applied research hub in the field)), the aerospace legacy and other technology fields may play a larger role than is presently visible in the space industry that is currently becoming more industrialized and scaling up. In this context, as scaling production processes need enlarged quality management efforts, Jakob Kania, founder and CEO of Support Q GmbH, was introduced. Support Q GmbH, based in the most eastern part of Saxony focuses on services enabling suppliers to deliver products, especially to the automotive industry to high-level quality standards. Jakob Kania had attended earlier last year a market research tour by WFS to Mexico where during one of the meetings during the tour a conversation with the head of the Mexican Automotive Supplier Association took place. This rather "unexpected" conversation pulled up a new potential market chance in Mexico where the automotive industry is currently scaling production, and with it as well as driven by rising production in the U.S. OEM plants, suppliers are coping with rising quality challenges with ramping production.

The key learnings from this press talk that might be useful for other industry leaders as well:
  1. take a long breath when working on something visionary (e.g. space technology)
  2. focus on core competencies and specific capabilities where you are a master in the field
  3. take opportunities (even when the outcome cannot be clearly defined)
  4. never underestimate the value of an organization or region due to its size and position 
  5. observe closely how industry reality shifts swiftly with exponential technology advancement

Update per 201-10-25
- Bauteile für Luft- und Raumfahrt aus dem 3D-Drucker, idw

Update per 2017-06-28