Sunday, September 1, 2019

Pluralist Economics - Growth or Degrowth? It's not an either or

It must have been a social media post mentioning the announcement of the 3rd Summer Academy for Pluralist Economics that caught my attention some months ago. The thing that let me even dig deeper was the fact that the Club of Rome (initiator of what became quite a famous research study on the current state of the earth, climate change and how business should be done, "The Limits to Growth"; anyone who'd like a quick overview on the book check out the interview between Willem L. Oltmans and Jay W. Forrester, the creator of the field system dynamics and initiator of the report, which gives a quick glimpse into the book and its concepts that hold largely true still today in the 21st century).

Having participated in "Transforming Capitalism Lab", a sub-prototype of the MOOC "u.lab - Leading From the Emerging Future" that runs again this September for the 6th consecutive time since 2014, applying for the Summer Academy felt like something "not not to do!" I applied and a few weeks later got the notification that I am in. Can't say how excited I was, especially as my "economics days" were 25 years ago, and focus of work and interest had changed since quite a lot.

What really had drawn my interest was the fact that for the last ten years, since returning to Dresden right in the middle of the bursting Financial Crisis in late 2008, and seeing that "economics 101" neither had produced the "green meadows" of Eastern Germany nor enabled entrepreneurs and visionaries to pursue their dreams for the betterment of society in the region (the complete journey of mine in this context you find here).

Reading into the agenda of the Summer Academy and the previous ones, fond memories of myself sitting in front of Reuters monitors in the trading room of the bank where I did my apprenticeship between 1986-88 and seeing my held stock plunge into a "pit black hole" when the Black Monday happened on October 19, 1987. Not much explanation took place after that time (pretty much like what happened after the Financial Crisis in 2008). As a direct consequence I found myself studying economics afterwards, yet not getting satisfied by the classical curriculum at the university which (back then as still these days) focuses on trying to analyse the developments of the past, missing out the deeper exploration of the "Why?" consequently. Since these days in the late 80's, also experiencing a complete economy (the former GDR) in a massive transition over the last three decades, and having lived in Saxony for half of that time, I am trying to understand and explore other ways of the "natural" growth paradigm which has many "unintended side-effects" that we can see everywhere.

Garden of the Protestant Academy of Thuringia
So the question came up, "Which workshop to take?" amongst almost a dozen ones ranging from Marxist Economics via Feminist Economics to Complexity Economics. To get a glimpse of the variety of economic theory see here the overview at Exploring Economics. It turned out to be "Entrepreneurship and Diverse Economics", making the most sense. Arriving in Neudietendorf and meeting the workshop class on Saturday morning I could not be more thrilled to meet students from various fields (law and medicine including), consultants, policymakers coming from countries such as Colombia, Uganda, Germany, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands. The picture you see is the outdoor area which was going to be filled with people discussing the workshops, exchanging thoughts, playing chess or just having a great lunch or dinner outside over the next couple of days.

The core question that followed our workshop over the week was the following, "Does it always need growth or are there other paths of economic progress and well-being of society?"

However, what we see and quite naturally come about in conversation with colleagues and friends it is all about growth (without any mentioned boundaries). "Bigger is Better" seems to be the thing that drives society and the economy, all around the world - yet there are other approaches for companies.

After we had digged deeper in the theory and different concepts, often overlapping in some essential aspects such as giving back value to the society/community and strongly valueing sustainable processes, we learned about some examples of such companies. More of that including companies/projects to be found in this overview from which we drew much of the basis of our conversations in class.

Package of Amarelli liquorice
However, after returning from Neudietendorf and my mind buzzing with the inputs it gained over the week, memories of the past came back once opening the cupboard holding our tea and coffee: a box of liquorice manufactured by Amarelli. While on holiday in Italy we happened to visit their company, where we learned about the peculiar making of liquorice (Lakritz). The most stunning thing was that this company is in family hand since its founding in 1731. Even more so it is a member of a global community of family-owned businesses that had been founded more than 200 years, called The Hénokiens. What is so amazing about those companies (the oldest, a spa in Japan in family hands for 46(!) generations since the 8th century) is that all have grown to a certain size, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand employees.

Staying for generations in family ownership says one thing for sure, "Growth in numbers is not everything!"

Why not take some of the Hénokien wisdom into account when starting your company or leading an existing one?

For further research and learning around degrowth check out the following links:

Monday, April 8, 2019

5G Pulling the Pack Ahead, Especially on the Edge

Final talk at #IEEETTM 2012 in Dresden;
photographer: Ralf Lippold
It was a bright sunny day in late spring of the year 2012. Several hundred tech experts, researchers and media folks began to flock the City of Dresden. One could immediately sense the international flair near the Hilton Hotel in downtown right in the middle of the Altstadt, yet the miracle was over soon enough. The city itself often is described as a "cultural pearl" with a historic legacy that can be still today be visited. That it could be a modern day technology hot spot probably is not that well-known (at least outside the tech community). The TU Dresden was just about to hand its application to Excellence Initiative which would make it later the one university in the Eastern part of Germany holding the title of an "Excellence University".

This was seven years ago. If you'd be interested in what it was like you can read my personal experiences from that event here. From here the story evolves in ways that might not be so obvious, even for the curious outside observer, even at a local basis.

With the right mindset, the right people, and the right amount of capital, anything is possible - so Peter H. Diamandis, founder of XPRIZE, Singularity University and co-founder of Planetary Resources

One thing that was mentioned by one of the co-organizers, Prof. Gerhard Fettweis, at his planetary talk was the "tactile internet", literally the real-time interaction via data communication. Back then and mostly still today is the latency time of signal travelling through fibre cables or via air. Listen to his visionary talk at the 2013 Johannesberg Summit. What was still missing was a technology that enables signals to move fast enough to almost create real-time situations (e.g. relevant for remote-control surgery or autonomous driving) even at short distances and not like space-related distances as SpaceX and PlanetaryResources had launched their operations earlier that year.

In 2014, just a year later, Dresden-based technology blogger Heiko Weckbrodt (aka Oiger) captured a live presentation on what was going to become the next generation in mobile communication. And roughly around the same at the Date 2014 the "Tactile Internet" found its way again into the conversation in Dresden, this time in connection with the cfaed (Center for Advanced Electronics Dresden - one of the funded excellence projects at the TU Dresden researching in the "electronics of tomorrow").

Two years later, the focus of the Hannover Messe 2016 was "Industrie 4.0" (a term coined in 2012 in order to establish a brand around the German efforts towards what is commonly known as "The 4th Industrial Revolutions". It was about to pull in local companies and research institutes in that area to the giant fairground (formerly base of the EXPO2000) in Hannover. Additionally, in early spring the  MP of the Free State of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich, had initiated a local conference in Dresden on "Industry 4.0" (in German). Several hundred stakeholders flocked to the International Congress Center Dresden and a social media there can be still the spirit of that day be captured via the hashtag #SachsenIndustrie40. Industry 4.0 and real-time interaction with as little latency between connected machines certainly was in need for technology beyond cable or WiFi connectivity. Examples of the difference could be seen in Berlin during the 1st SUGermanySummit in May which was also attended by Saxons, namely the boundary spanning mind behind HTxA - HighTech x Agency. An overview of what happened during these two days in Berlin, seen from a Saxon perspective, has been captured here.

Even though the events over the years since 2012 look like single dots in history, a closer look certainly reveals an ongoing development and like patient upbringing of camellias (a flower originating in China and Japan which has a long, and lately rising, relevance in Saxony; famous examples are the "Pillnitzer Kamelie" at Pillnitz Castle or "Königsbrücker Kamelien" at Castle Königsbrück). Like a jigsaw puzzle, things only become visible only shortly before all the dots/pieces are connected and the "big picture" comes into view.

Press conference on Tuesday, April 2, 2019, #HM19;
photographer: Ralf Lippold
The latest highlight took place at the Hannover Messe 2019, just this week, where the City of Dresden held a press conference (live stream via Periscope from minute 59:00 onwards) together with several partners, e.g. Future Mobility Incubator of Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH (Transparent Factory), Airrays GmbH5G Lab Germany, Smart Systems Hub, T-Systems MMS GmbH, SQL Projekt AG led by Robert Weichert, WeichertMehner (furthest on the left)

More details on the press conference and adjacent activities around technology see the Dresden Convention website. The following conferences in Dresden touch on 5G-, telecommunication-technologies, as well as applications. Don't miss to take into account and in your travel plans.

  1. connect-ec: Germany's first telecommunications trade fair (German), May 2-5, 2019, connect-ec (open for the public), May 4-5, #connectec2019 (Twitter)
  2. IEEE 4th 5G Summit Dresden, October 1, 2019, @5g_lab
  3. IEEE 5G World Forum Dresden, September 30 - October 2, 2019 

.... as always, this could only be a small dip in the pool of amazing things ongoing in Dresden. Stay tuned for more, check on Twitter, and see recapture from personal experience and staying close to this years' Hannover Messe via our Twitter activities. 

Ralf Lippold 

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. WolfgangGöhler (HTS GmbH), 
Martin Dulig (SMWA), Peter Nothnagel (WFS GmbH), 
Jakob Kania (Support Q GmbH)
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 2017-10-25
- Bauteile für Luft- und Raumfahrt aus dem 3D-Drucker, idw

Update per 2017-06-28 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

U.Lab - a self-learning orientated vehicle to shape the future together

#ULab has begun, and the social field is in the process of being cultivated. Now already by two u.lab hubs in Saxony: Leipzig & Dresden. Activities within Saxony check #ulabsaxony

Interested to learn about projects, and get to know change makers, and passionate people in Saxony, and from around the globe?

Join in the current MOOC "u.lab - Leading From the Emerging Future"

To have a quick overview, whether this could be something for you (personally), the organization you are part of or the community you are living in, here are some links (including some in German) or have a look at the Presencing Institute

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Seeds From 2008 are Emerging into #CitizenScienceLab

#CitizenScienceLab - A System Dynamics Think Tank for a Smart Zero Net Carbon City h/t @ClimateCoLab giving the opportunity through the Smart Zero Carbon Cities Challenge


Exponentially towards a future with net zero carbon output by engaging individuals & organizations, providing scalable learning & prosperity. (2016-05-23)

For more?

Read through the proposal to the very end (where the whole story is told in short)


Why don't you join "u.lab - Leading From the Emerging Future"(starting September)?