Mittwoch, 6. März 2019

What if, ... we enable Moonshots for Europe?

Societies around the globe have been over centuries "muddling" around improving the current state, often with "unintended" effects outside the stakeholders' perception or mental models.

Often a leap forward has happened either due to a natural disaster or by societal shifts that triggered inventions and from that further social and technical innovations to take advantage of the arising challenge. But why not go for the "impossible" like "Landing the first man on the moon and bring him safely back to the Earth"? 

Technology historian Thomas P. Hughes describes in his book "Rescuing Prometheus - The story of the mammoth projects - SAGE, ICBM, ARPANET/Internet, and Boston's Central Artery/Tunnel - that created new styles of management, new forms of organization, and a new vision of technology" examples of such massive advances (or one could say moonshots). 

Even though, at first sight, the above is focused on technology only, the impact on societal and scientific innovations, like the newly defined field of system dynamics by Jay W. Forrester, later professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, or eventually leading to the founding of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL) or the Presencing Institute (both as spin-offs of the MIT Sloan School of Management). The key figures of the Presencing Institute founder Otto Scharmer kicked off a MOOC on the social innovation called Theory U that attracted more than 100,000 participants since its first run in early 2015. The focus here mainly on the human side, leaving at large out the involvement of technology. 

On the other hand, Google's "Mothership" Alphabet founded the Moonshot Factory (AKA x-company) a few years ago to make technological moonshots possible, such as working on providing internet via looms circling autonomously in the stratosphere. 

What if we take the social and the technological side and pack it into something bigger than the single parts? 

Wouldn't that be the opportunity to make a positive leap (for all) into the future? 

At the World Economic Forum 2019 in Davos Harald Neidhardt, founder of, presented a newly written book with the title "Moonshots for Europe" with inspiring thoughts to make that happen at a place where diversity, innovation, and technology (social and engineering) have a long-lasting tradition over centuries. 

Saxony, slightly on the edge of the German landscape, and nevertheless known for cultural heritage, bears all the potential to bring both sides (social and engineering) of technology together.

Once "Moonshots for Europe" hits the ground over here in Saxony, it certainly falls on fertile grounds and unexpected futures could become reality. For sure on the "Moonshot" projects scientists work already in the labs around the city and beyond. The IEEE Time Technology Machine that took place at the centre of Dresden in early summer 2012 already opened the doors into the arriving future

• • • • •

Either come on over to the tiny Free State of Saxony, slightly on the edge and yet right in the centre (we are happy to guide you further through the gems of the region) or have a quick look on the various fields via this overview provided by the Wirtschaftsförderung Sachsen (Economic Development Agency of the Free State of Saxony). 

Freitag, 10. August 2018

Bridging the Smartness of Startups and SMEs

Exponential growth, whether in nature or in the technology environment happens very very slow in the beginning, only to evolve quickly once beyond a 'tipping point'.

Here in Saxony, where Dresden and Leipzig are strong in the field of exponential technologies, emerging out of the legacy of the once dominant VEB Robotron (headquartered right downtown Dresden) during the GDR-times, things begin to shift quickly. 

A year ago the DLR (the German space agency) announced it DLR Software Institute based in Dresden, in the near future taking advantage of the installed supercomputer power at the Technical University Dresden. 
What seemed impossible to emerge just a few years ago, despite the region's reputation of being Europe's "hot spot" for semiconductors, microelectronics, and digital technologies in general, as its name "Silicon Saxony" clearly indicates, and stands for, is now "breaking through the surface". One year ago, the WFS (Wirtschaftsförderung Sachsen, or Saxon Economic Development Agency) held its yearly press conference on its achievements at a smallish company active in the aerospace domain, headquartered 30 min outside Dresden. Only there the audience, including ourselves, learned how prominent and present the actors, despite their size (literally dwarfs compared to the big and known players worldwide). Here is the story about this.

Many of these activities in the business-related context are emerging right now, and digitization (transforming analog data into digital data) and digitalization (making use of the digital data for the benefit of the company) playing more and more a crucial role to keep up the pace of the global (as well as local) competition, and setting a firm foot on profitable niches.

A few months ago, a new project to accelerate the joint work between digital startup providing digital solutions and industrial SME in order to build on both strengths, got started and funded by the SMWA (Saxon State Ministry for Economics, Labor, and Traffic). Its name is "Digital Smart Events"

Beginning of September a first workshop on the topic of "smart maintenance" is taking place at the IoT Testbed of the University for Applied Sciences HTW Dresden. What's so special about that? Not only that leading managers of SMEs get a chance see Industry 4.0 in action and can get a sense of what can be used in their own's organization context. The three local companies which partnered together (two of which are or were lately startups with innovative applications) work hand-in-hand bringing to life what often is foggy and hidden in flashy headlines.

Firm No. 1 captures the data streams from the machines
Firm No. 2 connects the data with other applications such as
Firma No. 3 bringing the machine to visualization on a tablet with all relevant maintenance data

.... and in the end, a digital service for maintenance experts is created that can be used to dramatically reduce the time to maintain the complex machinery at vastly laid-out or even remote plants and production facilities.

Sounds too good, to be true?

Here you find more (in German, as the workshop itself will be held in German - GoogleTranslate or other tools should give a clear sense of what it is about)

→ "Smart Maintenance durchgängig integriert" ("Smart Maintenance fully integrated")

In case you'd like to know more about the three companies providing the workshop, here you find more:

1. ELCO Automation GmbH (especially the division Monkey-Works)
2. SQL Projekt AG (with its tool Transconnect®)
3. 3D IT GmbH (with its innovative "Govie"-engine)


Dienstag, 17. Oktober 2017

Exponential Technologies Pairing with Transforming (Traditional) Industries

Since the opening of Singularity University at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley in summer 2007, a lot has happened. Not only has SU opened up quite a bit (the last conference Exponential Manufacturing was completely live streamed, and is available on the web to rewatch (partially) to anyone's convenience, see this compelling article "We Are What We Make: Manufacturing's Digital Revolution is Here" on the conference was written by Alison E. Berman), it is opening dependencies in Eindhoven in the Netherlands (which opened on 2nd of June in presence of Queen Maxima), and their first official appearance in Germany at SingularityU Summit Germany in May 2016 (on Twitter and Facebook more under to be found under the hashtag #SUGermanySummit).

For the 2018 edition the hashtag is #SUGerSummit).

The public awareness about these exponential technologies that are largely based on the properties of digitization and the "6 D's of Exponentials" (how Peter H. Diamandis, one of the co-founders of SU calls this phenomenon ) is still low. The topics seldom make it in the local, and even national newspapers in a way that the topics connected with the challenges in the region. Even if they are available on social media it is by far not clear who will get notice of this, and how business leaders who might have a slight feeling that something is happening, yet sense that they will eventually affect their business, but they are not certain how to react in an appropriate time, and resources frame.

What is quite certain is that different cultures and industries around the globe will react, and adapt in quite different ways. Whereas the "Americas" have been the explorers for centuries (Silicon Valley is just one of its foreseen outcomes), "Asia" is a "buzzing hive-like" multi-cultural area, "Africa" a "forgotten continent", and Australia and Oceania so far away from the rest despite their explorer culture, Europe seems to be out of the show, as it tends to be slow.

... and yet, despite the fragmentation of nations within Europe, recent struggles in the EU about pressing social and economic challenges, and languages that are not widely spoken around the world (German, Italian, Finnish, ... to name just a few) the tide is shifting, or better to be said, rising. This not being a sign of drowning threat rather opening up the opportunity for "big wave surfing" wisely preparing to make valuable use of the upcoming opportunities for civil society, and the business community alike.

Europe's strength of the past has been in inventing, designing, and business innovation around machinery, England was the hotspot of the 1st Industrial Revolution based on the steam engine.

Over the last couple of months quite astounding conferences took place in Dresden, Saxony (which used to be the economic "powerhouse" of Germany for a long time until 1945, based on silver, and other ores first in the 13th century, about a hundred years ago the economic heart fueled by art and science was beating in the region). Early successes in optics and fine mechanics lead to becoming Dresden the main ICT provider for the COMECON states during the "cold war", and now it's again Europe's most prominent hub for semiconductors, microelectronics, and adjacent science fields like material sciences, and life sciences.

What most people don't remember is that Dresden was once a major hub for print technology, and today still over 130 companies in the region are active in this area. Mostly rather small, they don't receive much attention, as they would have due to their former economic power. KAMA GmbH (founded 1894 under the name Sächsische-Cartonnagen-Maschinen-Actiengesellschaft) was currently showcasing its latest products that enable print finish of small lots of folded/ printed packages with rapid change-overs.

The reason to mention this that this company is not just only one of a dozen print-related companies the world biggest trade fair for print and media in Düsseldorf at DRUPA (May 31 -June 10, 2016) which takes place every four years. The globally acknowledged trade fair has dared to step into the digital space beyond embedding smart technology already in their machines. The industry is placing itself on the intersection of many emerging trends like additive manufacturing, print-on-demand, Industrie 4.0, IoT, sensors, etc.

To make the stroll around the halls more pleasant and easy, even if you were not in Düsseldorf, check on Twitter #drupa2016 on what happened there.

Quite coincidently, Saxon State Minister for Labor, Economics and Infrastructure, Martin Dulig, will be touring the Netherlands, including Eindhoven visiting the High Tech Campus, this week, October 17-20, 2017, #NLtourSN (to follow on Twitter and Facebook). Within short distance there are two other hotspots of exponential technologies, science and, of course, business connections (have a look on the map (link), and how one gets across the city by bike). Singularity U The Netherlands is one of the two others, and TU Eindhoven the other one.

Just imagining such a constellation in Dresden which holds all the ingredients for good, only to be used effectively with all stakeholders, including citizens, for co-shaping the future with local businesses and engineering ingenuity.

When I should bring the essence of the above into a #PresencingStatus (short personal reflection) it is that:
  • Good - a minister who is going to places (outside his normal working area) where the highest future possibilities are in another state and "on display"
  • Tricky - connecting with the local community to what is feasible (even in the case the basis for future progress seems low, SMEs instead of DAX-registered companies), and pull them into an opportunity as the CEO of KAMA GmbH has been doing for quite some time
  • Learned - blog posts in draft-mode of the past may become timely when serendipity is happening, digital communication enables to expand the vision and also connect with the #GMISroadshow which touched down in Dresden just a week ago (see post on other blog, though in German)
  • Action - we will follow the activities in the Netherlands as soon as they are on social media via HTxA and HTxAlive 

Montag, 5. Juni 2017

The Exponential MOOC - by Singularity University

Singularity University most recently in June 2017 has started a MOOC around exponential thinking, technologies, organizations, and its implications on society.

The introductory course is free of charge, self-paced and worthwhile (not only to learn something new but also to connect with a community of like-minded people around the world). Do you dare to join in?

Here the link to the courses:

PS.: In case you are serious, and would like to learn first hand (via digital communication) from the upcoming Grand Solutions Program 2017, #GSP17, check them out on Twitter 

Mittwoch, 8. März 2017

Stepping outside the comfort zone is when learning scales

Today, Sunday March 5, 2017, is the final day for handing in applications for the Global Solutions Program GSP17 of Singularity University.

Different to the first application which I successfully did (in 2011 for the #GSP11) and which I had the (not-solved) challenge to raise $25k within one (!) week the 8-week accelerator program is paid for by Google mainly.

So after one year of pausing, I took it to my heart and started the application some weeks ago. The process is pretty much streamlined, including essays about achieved successes as well as failures, and  an outlook into the future on personal goals.

... and as you might suspect one real challenge is there also:

making a 2 min video answering three short questions. This really pulled me out of my comfort zone, delaying it until the very last moment almost.

Here the video (which due to passion rising went off to almost 2:30 min):

As John D. Sterman, the Jay W. Forrester Professor of the System Dynamics Group at the MIT Sloan School of Management once told me in a private message after introducing me to some colleagues, "Now the ball is in your field. I am stepping out."

Freitag, 16. Dezember 2016

Crisis - Opening Future Opportunity Windows

Prior to the two-day conference #SUGermanySummit this year a tiny mockup of a project (not bigger than a shoe box) triggered my curiosity and caught my & our interest.

Rapid First Response Center@rfrc_eu
Mirko Bass, one of the two initiators of this idea, explained the purpose to me and what seemed abstract and small in cardboard became a powerful vision. Having an influx of foreign language speaking refugees also in Dresden a service providing real-time translation services via digital communication technology in a healthcare context. Over the course of the next months, I followed the progress of the project. As TEDxDresden approached in September 2016 in Dresden with the motto "The Social Turn", the idea of inviting Mirko and Harald (the 2nd mastermind of the concept and leading figure behind MLOVE) to Dresden (actually the sister city of Hamburg) came to mind.

What seemed like an obvious project, considering the partners (as seen on the picture on the right), was by no means an easy march through. Corporate projects always have a clear output, and financial return. This idea, as tiny as it seemed in the beginning, had neither. Being an employee at CISCO did not help much to bring it off the ground and visibility it now is attracting. Not only that the Krankenhaus Hamburg-Eppendorf caught interest, the Red Cross and the Dorit und Alexander Otto Stiftung (link to video documentation) but over time networking connections widened and the project caught interest outside Germany. It was Greece, and CISCO's country manager, that led to the involvement of Startupboat.  Soon enough the vision to bring one container to Samos (from where the founder of Startupboat comes from), just several hundred meters away from Turkish mainland, one of entry points of refugees to the European Community became reality.

Here the 'power of connection' becomes reality again. A week ago Mirko sent me notice of an event, as part of the #TLVweek (Tel Aviv Week) at Factory Berlin. Tuesday afternoon at 2pm I found myself in a small street in Berlin near U-Bahn station Bernauer Straße bumping into an arriving participant from Israel searching for the location.

Here you details to the event: Startupboat @ Factory

What happened then, overshot my expectations. Not only hearing about projects like ROC21, Institute for the Future, the Pritzker Prize, Park(ing) Day, Zaatari Refugee Camp (Jordan), National Day of City Hacking, Migration Work and more. Overwhelming to say the least. Connecting these dots, and enabling new developments and take adaptive moves to bring these early stage projects even more so forward into social impact and involving citizens and migrants alike.

Paula of Startupboat
Mirko of RFRC

Where there is a 
vision there is a way

... and doing a final #PresencingStatus on this experience last week:

  • Good - new learning, new contacts, widening the scope
  • Tricky - coping with a cold, power plugs for smartphone rare (as most often)
  • Learned - take opportunities as they open up; Impact Hubs involved (also part of #ulab)
  • Action - connecting people with people in my network (done!), #ShapersUnited (Dresden)

Mittwoch, 30. März 2016

Industrie40 - Is Now, and Hannover Messe Ante Portas

Last week government of Saxony and Plattform Industrie 4.0 invited stakeholders involved in the changing landscape of business towards a digitally driven one to "Industrie 4.0 - Sachsen stellt sich auf" in Dresden. About 400 participants from across all possible stakeholder communities, from HR to politics to banks to chip manufactures, and ICT companies and CEOs of local SME followed the invitation.

As disruptive as it feels digital is nothing new in the business world, even outside chip factories or car manufactures, though everywhere there is vast room for improvement and valuable use cases and applications.

#Industrie40 is the German expression for IoT (Internet of Things) in a production and manufacturing context, one of the core industry field in which Germany is strong and world-clas to this day. It was coined and published during the 2011 Hannover Messe (article in German) by several ministries and engineering organizations (which are also the driving force behind the current activities at Plattform Industrie 4.0). This year's main topic at Hannover Messe 2016 will be Industrie 4.0 so it makes sense to extend the view towards the underlying technology platforms that will enable this transformation (and not just within the fenced properties of production plants).

However without the necessary technology there will be little to no implementation of the vision of digitalization in the manufacturing space. With having a major chip factory by GLOBALFOUNDRIES (formerly known as AMD Dresden) in Dresden it is worth to read into what an expert has to say:

IoT is Now! (PART I) • IoT is Now! (Part II)

by Rajeev Rajan

It is going to be an exiting future, and it is happening today. Why don't we take active part in it ourselves?

PS.: A first view on last week's conference #SachsenIndustrie40 can be found here.