CR: It's true, the numbers just don't add up. Our trade association BITKOM says Germany has around 24,000 graduates from software-related degree programmes. Our branch of the software industry alone wants to recruit 25,000 software engineers per year. And on top of that, you have Bosch, Siemens, and any number of other engineering companies who want to be on the cloud and part of the IoT. And for that, they'll need software engineers – 10,000 per year in the medium term, according to the German Engineering Federation. Something urgently needs to be done about this. This is the top priority for the Bremen office as well: we need to make significant investments in training and education here! As I see it, education policy is the new economic policy. The public debate about which side of the state border a new warehouse should be built on is becoming ever more intensive, but in economic terms it is of comparatively little importance for Bremen.
Let's now look in the other direction: what can Silicon Valley companies – whether venture capital firms or other organisations – find in Germany that might interest them?
RvdH: There are around 40,000 start-ups in the Bay Area of San Francisco alone; in Germany the figure is about 2,000 in total. What they are looking for is a way in to the industry, that's to say companies that they can work with. This spells opportunity for medium-sized businesses, provided they offer the start-ups a platform on which to test and launch their products – something they can't always find in the USA. If an SME approached them in Silicon Valley and said "We can easily make your sensor technology or your visualisation technology in my factory", then the SME could strike a deal. And a deal like that can give a mid-sized company a competitive edge.
CR: That's how I see it too. In Silicon Valley it is almost impossible to purchase innovations simply as financial investments, because there's so much money at stake. The way to do it is to say I have a particular asset, such as drive technology or automation engineering, and put that on the table. Then I would look for potential strategic partners in the digital industry who could benefit from this asset.
RvdH: Precisely. The problem, however, is that many mid-sized companies have no idea what their asset is, at least when it comes to digital business models. Often it is only when they actually come to the Valley that they realise what they have to offer and can identify the weak spots in their existing business model.
Mr Ranze, what does Bremen in particular have to offer American companies?
CR: Why is encoway growing faster than its rivals? The answer is simple: we've got the people. Since the beginning of the year, we've hired eleven new employees, having posted only one job advertisement – online of course. The IT industry here might not be huge, but I think as a region we have the third highest output of IT graduates in Germany. At the moment we are training skilled workers here and sending them down to southern Germany – a kind of reversal of the regional redistribution scheme where the richer federal states help to fund the less well-off ones. As a location, Bremen could therefore be of interest to some larger IT companies as well – perhaps not for Google, but certainly for medium-sized software firms. Unfortunately, there isn't any public discussion on the subject.
Mr van den Hoevel and Mr Ranze, thank you for speaking with us.
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