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Transatlantic Cities of Tomorrow in Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Mainz

From June 19 to June 25, 2022, a 21-person delegation of Germans and Americans visited Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Mainz as part of the third round of exchanges of the ACG’s Transatlantic Cities of Tomorrow: Digitalization and the Future of Work initiative. The cohort of education and workforce development administrators, entrepreneurs and innovation experts, representatives from economic development agencies, municipal associations, and city and state governments expanded on their experiences from their U.S. trip in April.

The group of 10 Americans from Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Denver, and 11 Germans from Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Mainz began their program in Stuttgart. Meetings kicked off with a visit to the Welcome Center Region Stuttgart which offers international skilled specialists assistance when they arrive in the region, serves as a point of contact for all questions related to living and working in the region, and provides support to companies wanting to hire skilled workers from abroad. The IHK-Stuttgart / Chamber of Industry and Commerce provided an overview and insights into the German dual system of apprenticeship training. The delegation then spent an afternoon at ARENA2036, a research campus located at the Universität Stuttgart which is an innovation platform for cooperation between science and industry with the main focus on future mobility. During the visit, the group had presentations with Cyber Valley and the Universität Stuttgart’s Institute of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Science, Semanux, a Cyber Valley start-up, Startup Autobahn, and learned about robotics at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA. At the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, the group learned about their Center for Virtual Engineering and an initiative of the State of Baden-Württemberg called Digitalakademie@bw which is meant to help local governments and the public sector utilize digitalization to enhance their services and achieve efficiencies in their processes. At the Ferdinand-Steinbeis-Insitut they learned about the network’s support to science and academia by leveraging the know-how derived from research, development, consulting, and training projects to transfer this knowledge into application to founders and start-ups. Wrapping up Stuttgart, the Wirtschaftsförderung Region Stuttgart gave an overview of economic development in the Stuttgart region and how it works with companies, municipalities, start-ups, investors, professionals, and journalists to promote business.

In Heidelberg, the delegation visited the new Heidelberg Innovation Park, a hub for innovation in IT, AI, digitalization, and life science being developed on the site of the former U.S. Army’s Patton Barracks. Meeting at the Business Development Center Heidelberg, the group learned about the Technologiepark Heidelberg, which integrates scientific research and application-related developments in order to support science-oriented companies in the development of new products. Further input on the Heidelberg region’s digitalization efforts was provided by the Digital-Agentur Heidelberg, the Amt für Digitales und Informationsverarbeitung, and the Metropolregion Rhein-Neckar. At InnovationLab, participants learned about a collaboration between partners from academia and industry, including BASF, SAP, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, and the Universität Heidelberg, that is using new materials, processes, and printing technologies to develop flexible and hybrid electronic systems. In an engaging discussion with the Vice Rector of the Universität Heidelberg and the Smart Campus Solutions division of the university, the delegation obtained an understanding of how an institution of higher education is facing both the challenges and opportunities of digitalization and innovation, something the university has now centralized in hei_INNOVATION. The final visit in Heidelberg brought the group to the Gründer-Institut Heidelberg at the SRH Hochschule Heidelberg to learn about methods to actively engage students from all faculties in the topic of entrepreneurship during their studies.

During the delegation’s visit to Mainz, they first met with the Bundesagentur für Arbeit Mainz to discuss the tasks and objectives of the employment agency and to exchange views on current challenges posed by the digital transformation in the labor market. At the TechnologieZentrum Mainz, the group heard about the incredible impact BioNTech, an early company started at the TZM, has had on economic development in Mainz, attracting a range of biotech companies to the area. The Mainz Department for Economy, Urban Development, and Regulatory Affairs provided an overview of the city’s efforts to develop Mainz as a science and technology center and its support for digitalization at companies which is critical for growth in multiple business sectors. Under the theme “Fostering Digital Mainz”, the group met at the Gutenberg Digital Hub, a collaborative initiative to promote a culture of exchange and learning from and with each other with the goal of making digitization sustainable in companies, the city, and the region. While there the Kompetenzzentrum Intelligente Mobilität (KIM) discussed smart city projects and provided an overview of mainzDIGITAL, the city’s digitalization strategy to develop a comprehensive, intelligent infrastructure, including in the city administration and in municipal companies. As part of Digitaltag2022 the delegation engaged in a conversation with Minister Alexander Schweitzer of the Rhineland-Palatinate Ministry for Labor, Social Affairs, Transformation and Digitalization about the state’s “strategy for a digital life” which includes digital equity, infrastructure, transparent democracy, and education. The group’s final visit in Mainz took them to lulu Conceptstore, an old department store relaunched as a startup incubator for retail stores in the center of the city which also contains a makerspace for youth to explore vocational training and career paths.

Following the two week-long visits to the United States and Germany and based on lessons learned, the participants have identified a number of initiatives to potentially implement in their home communities as well as areas of collaboration between their communities both regionally and across the Atlantic. The participants will now develop community action plans to continue the engagement of everyone and to help ensure that there is a tangible impact from the exchanges in the participating communities.

The next round of reciprocal exchanges will take place in September and December 2022 and will include Philadelphia, Trenton, and Newark/Jersey City in the United States, as well as Schwerin, Rostock, and Hamburg in Germany.

Transatlantic Cities of Tomorrow: Digitalization and the Future of Work is organized and administered by the American Council on Germany with generous support from the Transatlantic Program of the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany through funds of the European Recovery Program (ERP) of the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK).