We started an earlier article by going back in history to find the future: Venice 1505, and the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, the German Merchants’ Inn, gloriously restored on the Grand Canal, an arrow flight from the Rialto Bridge. This became the model for our first EU Tech Center in China. The idea was the same a home-from-home for entrepreneurs and businessmen trying to break into a new economy with all its differences in culture and approach. We offer flexible space for all the different services new business people would require: office space; meeting space; conference space. And along with that, there are local contacts to ease the way into the local business community. The differences between the twenty-first century and the sixteenth are obvious: the exponentially more sophisticated levels of technological support the quill and the abacus are confined to the museums these days and the extension of our hospitality to include all European businessmen, and not just Germans. But the core idea is the same!

This piece takes a step further into the future by introducing our latest innovation, the Virtual Tech Center. This follows the same basic model, but instead of travelling back in time to Venice or flying out to the Liaoning Shenfu Demo Zone in North East China, all you have to do is fire up your computer and head off into the Cloud! And there, believe it or not, you will find everything you can currently find in the EU Tech Center in China. The idea is to match the real world with the virtual world: the one mirrors the other. They are twinned. And the beauty of this is that everyone can access what EU Tech Chamber partnered with EU Senate are offering.

But to start at the beginning. The idea for the perfect Virtual Tech Center came some while back. While we worked out what it needed to contain, we commissioned an architect to design the building for us: a real building, in a real location, that you could drive to and walk into. Unfortunately or happily, as it seems now our first location fell by the wayside. But we had the plans, drawn with precision to the smallest detail. And the conviction grew that in fact we could build our futuristic Center digitally! Our hub in the Cloud would have the same relationship to the real world as Wikipedia has to the twenty-four volume encyclopaedia which used to gather dust on the shelves of so many home in the last century.

The original planning started before the Covid Pandemic, but of course as the whole world was driven online by successive lockdowns, our Cloud Center became the perfect answer to the problem of keeping business going under the most difficult circumstances. Yes, there was Zoom, which must be given huge credit for sustaining the necessary links between companies and countries; but our vision is far wider and offers a much deeper level of connectivity. You can Zoom all you like, but we want to streamline the process of contacting the people you need to be talking to. And to that end, we have filled the Virtual Tech Center with almost limitless possibilities of exploring and expanding your company’s connections.

Our first thought was for our members. EUTECH has 1,800 members. These members hold regular webinars over 200 a year and each of these will be available, live, in our virtual Conference Hall. Outsiders can register to join these Webinars as their interests determine; and for those who miss the live event, we have the Library in which we will build an archive of recordings so that none of the wisdom, the insights, the challenging new thoughts that are generated will be lost. The EUTECH sections also hold working group meetings over 700 a year and these too can be conducted in the Virtual Tech Center, without anybody having to leave his or her home or office.

But the virtual vision doesn’t stop with our members, important though they are. We want to attract the almost limitless numbers of European tech companies who collectively are going to lead the continent and beyond that the world towards the solutions which the whole planet so badly needs. And to do this, we will continue to match the physical world with digital exhibitions and trade fairs. There will be a permanent exhibition spaces where companies can demonstrate what they have to offer. Each company will be accessible through their own booth, and a click will take you into their world as they wish to present it. If you like what you see another click will link you to one of the firm’s representatives. The introduction is made easily with no fuss, no messy exchange of mobile numbers, fumbling for business cards etc and no time-wasting meetings that in hindsight weren’t necessary.

Don’t worry we’re not trying to take the fun out of doing business. Business remains and always will remain a construct put together by people getting to know each other and helping each other achieve their visions and their targets. While never eliminating competition, we see the future as being much more collaborative, with common interests in expanding markets and the development of new technologies bringing companies together in creative partnerships. But introducing those prospective partners is the challenge which we are addressing. We all recognise that in the past we have expended vast amounts of time with little to show for it on unnecessary journeys; meetings that meandered on getting nowhere; afternoons rushing round trade fairs with the sinking feeling that the more you strive to see everything the less you actually see.

What we want to do is to remove as much of the unnecessary stress as possible from business relationships, by helping people to meet the right partners and potential collaborators to take their projects forwards. Much better to have three or four pleasant, sociable meetings over a relaxed coffee or a meal, leading to successful outcomes than succumbing to the January sales mentality and getting lost in the crowd. In fact, forget the crowd altogether, and join us in the Cloud where you will find not only virtual exhibitions, but also virtual trade fairs, which you can visit in your own time, at your own pace, without even having to think about booking a flight or putting a line through whole days in your diary. And so, in addition to virtual exhibitions, we will be putting on virtual trade fairs which you can browse at your leisure, arranging meetings at your discretion.

Because an additional advantage of our virtual world is that you will be able to find out all you need about people even as you meet them. You will have access to their products, their range of skills, their visions of their own futures. Put simply, the hectic will be gently pushed out of the Virtual Tech Center back into the world of traffic jams, lost luggage, stress and nervous exhaustion! Maybe it’s time to take a look round the premises. As you can see from the illustration, the Virtual Tech Center is an impressive piece of architecture, fitting snugly into an interestingly shaped landscape. This conceals the building’s capacity, but once you enter the lobby, you can take in the extent of what is on offer.

The Ground Floor houses the Conference Room and the Special Exhibition Room. The Conference Room can host six conferences at the same time. A key stroke will allow you to view the big screen on which speakers will appear. Our speakers and we have over 600 a year, each with a vast span of experience and innovative energy will be live in real time, so it is worth registering to be part of the audience. Though again to reiterate, if you miss anything it will be archived in the Library for anyone who wishes to trace something they may have missed or wish to recommend to a colleague. What’s more, you can access the speaker’s details as he or she talks, so the experience becomes a step up from passive listening. We like to call it ‘active matching’, so if the person is someone you think you would like to do business with, you can schedule a meeting with a click.

The Special Exhibition Room will be devoted to a succession of topics picked from our portfolio of our core topics anything from Climate Action to Market Expansion. This is also where we will host host trade fairs, inviting exhibitions from Africa, say, or Latin America, and allowing new players to demonstrate what they have to offer and to see whether we can extend the global network which be believe to be the only route to a better and fairer future for all people on the planet. The three upper floors continue in the same vein, like a virtual department store of inspirational and innovative possibilities. Staying with the global theme, the third and top floor is dedicated to our regional partners: Africa, China and Latin America. Each economic area has its own space and that will be filled with individual booths occupied by separate companies, each with its special contribution to make and possibilities for collaboration.

The booth is the staple throughout the building. Each appears as combination of an office, reception area and salesroom. You can browse with your cursor, picking up brochures, watching short videos, and following links to other interesting places. Should you wish to make personal contact, that is easy as well, and it is worth mentioning that when you come to speak to the person you have arranged to meet, you will not use Zoom, but a European alternative of which we are extremely proud.

For although EUTECH and the EU Senate are globally orientated, we do start from a European perspective, and certainly believe that European technology, innovation and growth are key determinants of successful outcomes for the planet as a whole. That said, we should stress that we are not sponsored or controlled in any way by the European Union. You will not see us parading the circle of golden stars and are completely independent. Of course we deal mainly with companies from the EU’s 27 members, but warmly welcome our fellow Europeans who have followed another path to national identity.

Completing our tour, the second floor is home to our Topic exhibitions, which cover everything from SDGs to Start ups and our various Commissions, which are the driving engine of our philosophy and ambition. The world needs Climate Action, it needs to recognise and embrace the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but there is also a requirement for a coherent policy for harnessing the huge range of new technologies that are the only practical hope we have of achieving a fair and safe environment for all.

And that leads conveniently to the first floor which houses our Technical Exhibitions. We have three large divisions of activity: Life Science, Urban Technology and Industry. And these are really the powerhouse of our endeavours, covering every aspect of technology that is remotely relevant to achieving our aims.

It is also the way in for many of those who choose to join us. Whether you are large or small, a visionary start-up or a well-established company looking to adjust to the challenges our new world is throwing up as we leave the twentieth century far behind us, you are welcome. Get in touch, introduce yourselves; and we can take it from there by seeing where your particular area of expertise would best fit in, and then helping you set up your booth and taking your place in the appropriate exhibition space. Thanks to the generosity and vision of our sponsors, there is no charge. Our intention is simply to give future-orientated partners the opportunity to showcase and share their unique contribution to making our vision a reality.

We profoundly believe that our collective activities in the virtual world can have a huge impact in the real world. We look forward to greeting you as new members!

Florian Frhr. von Tucher
EU Tech Chamber.