As this is the year’s last edition of Visions for Europe, it seems appropriate to review the progress made in 2022 and to look ahead to where we will be going in 2023. Of course, the world – or at least Europe – changed radically in February and our editorial addressed that. No one could have believed before it happened that Putin would break every international rule and invade Ukraine, completely overturning the status quo, and casting a shadow over millions of people worldwide. Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and gas was exposed as a terrifying weakness, and many countries dependent on Ukrainian grain found their very existence seriously challenged. And now as we approach the end of the year, there is a high risk of global recession. The future remains unforeseeable, but we must still do our best to plan for a better future and hope that the world will revert to something recognisable as normality, as quickly as possible.
As the publisher of Visions for Europe, I can take satisfaction from completing a second year of the magazine. Two things have changed for the better. While we remain committed to a physical magazine (carbon neutral, as I will never be tired of confirming) – and have even doubled down on that commitment by printing a German version, we realise not everyone can get hold of a copy, so every edition is now also available online.
Some of you may not be aware that our determination to get our message across has led to the start of our series of podcasts. The podcast has been a global phenomenon over the last few years, finding audiences of hundreds of thousands. This is partly because some people simply prefer to absorb information (and entertainment) through audio; but also, because audio allows audiences to listen while engaged in another task – whether driving, gardening, or doing the laundry. The human voice is perhaps the most effective way of getting something across. After all, we much prefer face-to-face meetings to thresh out problems or explain issues, so an enthusiastic and well-reasoned podcast probably has more impact than an article in a magazine (however interesting and well-written!).
But beyond the covers of Visions for Europe, the Chamber can also reflect on a highly fulfilling year. One way of looking at it would be to talk about the EUTECH ecosystem and to show how the pieces fit together.
It has been a transformational year. One major change is the move away from remote working. As detailed in my recent article, we now have a new Head Quarters – in Bad Wiessee, one of the most glorious settings Germany can offer. Who would not be inspired by a beautiful lake surrounded by mountains?
We have some thirty-five to forty people working for the Chamber, and 25% of them now work in the new Head Quarters, with all the benefits that brings in terms of instant contacts, face-to-face meetings, and the enjoyable and creative atmosphere that a team of people working together will naturally create. A casual conversation between two colleagues taking a break by the water’s edge could spark a brilliant chain of ideas in a way that would be most unlikely in the average Zoom or Teams meeting.
Not that we have neglected the digital world – far from it. A second huge leap forward this year has been the upgrading of our digital Hub. This was a prototype (technically a Minimal Viable Product, or MVP) that we knew we would want to replace as soon as we could. It has served its purpose, reaching not only all our members but further afield to the wider world, hosting events, facilitating networking, allowing businesses to set up their virtual stalls for people to visit, and inviting firms to participate in virtual trade fairs. I wrote an enthusiastic article about it when it was launched. But now I am proud to be able to report that the new, vastly improved platform, Tech.Forum, has proved a huge success, expanding the range of possibilities in a virtual environment.
Starting in February 2022 and with encouraging support from the EU, we have proceeded step by step. As always, maximum accessibility has been the driver. If we are to achieve the urgent mission to establish a green and sustainable planet, we are going to need to talk, share and collaborate as never before.
Tech.Forum is spectacularly capable of making that possible. Networking is easier; all our events are now available live; we now host virtual events for other companies and organisations, leading to the fact that the virtual capacities for our members have been greatly enhanced.
Rather than simply presenting the Chamber, the eutech.org home page now hosts sixteen home pages! Each of our alliances has its own home page, covering the full gamut of our colleagues’ interests, from Food and Farming to Renewables and carbon-free energy. Each now has a stand-alone space in which to promote and explore their particular areas of expertise. So, we have the Africa Alliance, the China Alliance, the America Alliance; we have a Climate Alliance, a Finance Alliance, a Sustainable Manufacturing Alliance; an Energy Alliance, an Environmental Alliance and a Smart City Alliance. But of course, each also stands shoulder to shoulder with the others, producing the like-minded and committed community that we need to reach our goals, in Europe and across the world.
Perhaps the most impressive innovation is that we are now able to host firms, companies and, think-tanks from outside our EUTECH alliance. High priority conferences can now be put live on the Tech.Forum platform.
In effect, we become a partner, the ‘digital twin’ of the actual event. Imagine booking a venue for your conference. You state your requirements – a big hall for keynote speakers, smaller rooms for panels to discuss particular topics, etc – and you expect the team at the venue to provide what you’re looking for. It’s exactly the same in the Cloud. Our team will set it up according to your instructions, expanding your potential audience, extending your capacity to network and debate globally. This was something we had not thought about at the beginning, but now it seems obvious. It is something we can certainly be proud of. As a measure of how we have ramped up our digital capacities, I can tell you that next year we are planning to host over 800 activities on the platform, from the big hybrid summits we are doing, to webinars, extending networking meetings, and the board meetings of the Alliances, as well as our new friends and partners who want us to set up digital conferences for them.
For the future, gazing into the dark clouds of 2023? In the first year after the pandemic, we have eased back into the three-dimensional world of physical events. Next year will see more. We have planned to host four big summits to which our colleagues from all disciplines will be invited to extend the range of participants, these will be hybrid events. Those who are able to attend will have the pleasure of enjoying a live event. Those who experience Bavarian hospitality first hand will undoubtedly have more fun than those sitting in front of their screens.
At the core of each event will be the collaborative exchange of new ventures and, new opportunities to help bring the changes our planet so desperately needs. And it gives me the greatest pleasure to contemplate each of our 16 Alliances also hosting their own hybrid events, sharing and growing improvements in their particular specialisms.
Winston Churchill famously said, ‘ I’m an optimist. There doesn’t seem much point in being anything else.’ We all need some of that Churchillian spirit as we stand by our values, stay loyal to our vision, and strive all the harder to achieve our targets and complete our mission.
Florian Frhr. von Tucher
Chairman EU Tech Chamber