Posts Tagged ‘Germany’


deutsche Frauen in der Technik

Tuesday 28 January, 2014

I checked out this event last month “Engaging Women in STEM: Perspectives from the United States and Germany,” which was sponsored by the German Center for Research & Innovation in the German consulate just across from the UN in New York. Apparently they are streaming this as long as it stays up, so I’ll just provide highlights here.

The bottom line benefit to women getting involved in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) is that women think differently, & these disciplines could use new lines of thought.  We need disruptive ideas & more of those come from more diversity, just as we need to do a better job of translating basic research into better applied research, & then developing that into market-ready products.

Despite the Apollo effect of Kennedy’s increase in NASA’s budget resulting in more PhD’s, mostly men, it’s telling, & perhaps disappointing, that the 1st woman in space came from the USSR.

Germany’s German Aerospace Center (DLR) is the German equivalent of America’s NASA, plus energy, transport, & security.  It has a budget of 1.8B € for 32 institutes on 16 sites.  They’ve provided equal opportunities for women for the last 10 years, in which women have taken 30% of all positions, & a division to keep watch over this since 2008, & a Chief Diversity Officer who sits on the Board of Directors.

BrainGate2 was cited as a good example.

In addition to commonly-accepted mentoring by senior leaders of aspiring junior level employees, perhaps we should consider reversing the hierarchy & have juniors mentor the seniors on new technologies with which they are more familiar.

Many things are changing which should encourage women to get more involved in STEM, such as changing demographics, traditional gender roles, reconciling work & home life, a skilled worker shortage, increasing cultural diversity, & last but not least, legislation.  The potential benefits of changes in policy are increased opportunities for women, employers being viewed as more attractive workplaces, & organizations simply becoming more creative.  Structure follows strategy, so a key is changing the mindset to balance reality with innovation.  Women are underrepresented in STEM for societal, individual, & organizational reasons.  There are implementation, responsibility, & cultural issues.  Vicious circles which enforce unwritten laws or codes from dominant insiders conspire to keep women down.  Commitment to change & including all stakeholders are critical success factors.

Women have a great societal impact on engineering.  Their diversity leads to increased creativity, which encourages innovation.  Role models, mentoring, networking, non-profit associations, & starting early all encourage women in this direction.  i2e or innovation, invention, & entrepreneurship should keep students from getting distracted.  The Urban Assembly is a good example of an organization which has promoted women in this area. (The CEO of my 1st employer Xerox, Ursala Burns, is a graduate of Brooklyn Poly) The bottom line is we must change the mindset of society to make a change in this direction.

Panel Q&A

A girls-only robotics lab reached the same results as boys, but with a different approach.  Girls ask “why?”, while the boys simply break it down or destroy it to understand it.

Open Q&A

There is no magic formula, although the necessity is clear.  We need an Artemis effect for women, just as we had an Apollo effect for men.

60% of medical students are female.  German women are successful in civil engineering, but no women sit on the board of DLR.  Although other women were offered the opportunity, the panel still consisted of 2 men & 1 woman.

Women in STEM is similar to women in finance.  Families must be made compatible with work.  Women with children should no longer be stigmatized.  We need an attitudinal shift.  STEM participation is too low for both men & women.  Secondary education must be revamped.

We had this same discussion in 1978.  Women drop out of these areas early.  We need to be honest with ourselves.

Does society really value STEM?  We need to change child care so that women can come back to their jobs.  Change will come when men care for their kids.  Daughters need to ask “What can I do with technology?”  There are many piecemeal solutions @ the policy level.


German wind conference

Thursday 20 December, 2012

The German American Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest hosted a Wind Energy Business Conference with a focus on supply chain & service industries.  Nico Heinemen, of the Federal Ministry of Economics & Technology, greeted everyone & provided the 20 year history of wind energy in Germany & how the German government has supported it’s development.  They had 4 objectives:  1.  disseminate expertise 2. advance renewable energies  3.  boost the wind energy market  4.  provide comprehensive support for German companies.  60% found partners & they reduced the cost of entering the market by 30%.

Janos Buechner, of Energiewaechter, added that an additional aim was knowledge transfer.  His organization sponsors trips to Germany for research which lead to pilot projects.  In reaction to the Fukishima disaster, Germany will eliminate nuclear power by 2022.  72% of energy is used to simply heat space, so more R&D is needed on energy storage, efficiency, & grid expansion.  12.5% of energy consumed is of renewable energy, wind provides 2%, biomass 8.4%.  Renewables are 20% of the electricity market.  The benefits of more wind energy are less fossil fuels & more jobs.  40% of owners/investors in renewable energies are private individuals, 11% are farmers.  93% of Germans want an intensified energy turnaround.

Tom Lange, Policy Advisor to the German Wind Energy Association (DWEA), noted that DWEA is the largest wind association in the world with 20K members.  Cumulatively by 2012, the German wind industry has provided 30,016.47 MW of power with 22K wind turbines.  Germany has an installed capacity of 29K MW;  Spain is next in Europe with 22K MW, & then France @ 7K MW.  In 2012, Germany had 102K jobs in the wind sector.  Germany has led a big media campaign for wind energy & creating new standards for grid expansion & storage.  Europe has a pilot grid, but needs a common EU energy policy.  Improvements in wind-turbine technology have resulted in turbines growing from 100m high which produce 600kw of power in 1995 to 180m which produce 2K kw of power now.  German expertise leads in forecasting in complex terrains like forests, using new materials, technology integration, & test facilities.  Challenges in offshore wind production are logistics, cable connections, grid expansion, & financing.  The outlook for wind energy depends on Germany’s 2013 elections &  common EU wind energy growth decrease.

Dr. Nancy Dahlke, of Key Wind Energy, discussed operations & maintenance (O&M) of wind farms in Europe.  The main difference is inthe costs between being reactive to solve problems or using reliability-based service which seeks to eliminate problems before they occur.   Condition-based maintenance requires CMS, a Condition Monitoring System.  The best is to combine a reliability-based system with CMS.  Siemens earns the highest grades for service & Enercon the worst.  Full maintenance contracts are being required by banks.  Costs vary by manufacturer.  An energy information/distribution center provides status reports, scheduling of maintenance tasks.  All this requires highly-qualified staff, so it helps to minimize employee turnover.  This increases predictability & accuracy.  Wind farm operators are becoming energy traders.  As quality requirements increase, maintenance is becoming more important than repair.

Luke Lewandowski, of Make Consulting, offered an overview of the American wind energy market.  The long-term policy outlook is unclear while macroeconomic trends create headwinds.  Services markets are optimistic.  Comprehensive tax reform is expected soon.  Growth is supported by renewable energy standards programs.  2007-2012 were big building years.  A new comprehensive energy policy is needed.   2-5 year warranties which have been driving the market are set to expire.  As the installed base grows, it slows growth.  As the serviceable market grows, so does competition.  The US market can be divided into 3 segments with advantages & disadvantages for each:  2011->2016

  1. 1. independent service providers 16%->12%
  2. 2. turbine OEM’s (GE, Siemens) 48%->42%
  3. 3.  self-performers 36%->46%

For all, financial & technical risks must be balanced.  Wind service business models evolve into hybrids of those just mentioned.  The largest US owners favor self-performance service.  It’s the owners who are learning service that are driving warranties.  Overcapacity is driving OEM’s to diversify & focus on O&M.  Turbine OEM’s are serving warranty extensions.

Kimberley Smith informed us that Acciona Energy works in 13 countries on 5 continents with 225 wind farms, 6K wind turbines.  They’ve achieved this by using a global multi-sourcing strategy.  The US challenge is how to excel when going from a Boom market to a Gloom market.  Supply chain management points to increasing globalization over localization, systems overcoming tiers, & necessitating industrial standards.

Martin Lubahn, of Winergy Drive Systems, let us know US content in wind turbines is 70%.  Growth in Canada & Latin America are offsetting weakness in the American market as service’s importance grows.  Supply chain management requires 90% uptime in North America & ISO 9001 certification.  The life cycle of services logically leads to a focus on costs.  Should a town provide service?  What about spare parts & quality assurance, & reporting?  Decreasing visibility, investment & reaction time come @ the same time as increasing volatility & currency risk in the industry.

The following German companies also made presentations:

  • Rewitec GmbH
  • cmc gmbh
  • Directtech global GmbH
  • windigo GmbH
  • Saarteco GmbH
  • Trendelkamp Technologie GmbH

German mid-size companies examples of growth

Tuesday 13 November, 2012

The German American Chamber of Commerce held an event highlighting the backbone of the German economy, the “mittelstand”, mid-sized firms, in Success Strategies from the “Mittelstand.”  This was a fairly big event, as Dr. Juergen Friedrich, CEO of Germany Trade & Invest was flown in from Germany, who noted that American firms are the biggest investors in Germany & that transatlantic commerce comprises 2/3 of the world’s economy.  In Germany, mechanical & electronic technologies contribute to 50% of all exports & 34% of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

Ken Bremer, Director of Germany Trade & Invest in Chicago, provided a little background about German mid-sized firms.  95.3% of Germany’s 3.7M companies are family-owned, & 85% are managed by the owners.  24.7% are focused on manufacturing, vs. 13% in the US.  Mid-sized firms train 83% of all trainees, employ 13.9M workers or 61% of all employees, & generate 39.1% of total turnover of German companies.  1300 firms are named as market leaders in electronics, engineering, & industrial products, compared with 366 in the US.  Export revenues have risen from €144B in 2000 to €186B in 2010.  German mid-sized firms use these strategies for success:

  • long-term approach
  • stable client relationships
  • human resources continuity
  • close ties to the local region
  • innovation-54% of firms brought new products to market vs. 34% average for EU firms
  • sound finances-48% with their own equity, 31% debt, 13% public assistance
  • government support

The 1st panel discussion topic was Advanced Manufacturing, which included panelists from Fraunhofer IWS, Rocklin Manufacturing Co., Trebing & Himstedt Prozessautomation GmbH & co. KG.  Orders are down since the onset of the crisis & there is a decline in the knowledge & experience in manufacturing as well.  The US suffers from a herd mentality as they transition from NAFTA-induced macquiladoras in Mexico to manufacturing in China & reshoring back again.  It’s a challenge to find the right person to help in global expansion.  In many cases a local presence is required for support.  Monitor transfer prices on a daily, weekly, & monthly basis.  Follow your customers or other partners to foreign markets-for example 1 firm simple dove-tailed on Siemens distribution network, which got them access to off-the-radar prospects.  It’s also important to create an American website to increase visibility in the US.  To overcome some of these barriers, build personal relationships & do what you say you’re going to do, all of which requires commitments of time & money.  Do your due diligence, be patient, & have realistic expectations.

Panel discussion #2 centered around Green Tech, featuring speakers from Berghof Systems, SIGA Development LLC, & WEMA Glauchau.  1 German firm survived state ownership, but when it was sold to a Soviet firm, they were no longer able to track where their machines were.  They found the Koreans are more reasonable than the Chinese.  Once you learn to export, replicate the process.  Products are developed in Germany to solve specific problems, then standardized for other markets.  Another firm used specific strategies to expand from, for example, Grand Rapids, MI, to Detroit, to Chicago.  Energy policy should establish renewable portfolio standards, determine where we can recycle energy, & provide other incentives to work more efficiently.  Scarce resources are always limited for small firms, but small firms typically have more time than money.  It’s especially difficult to build a business without training, so firms are looking abroad to hire.  Germany’s dual training programs with 1 week in school & 1 week @ work for 3 1/2 years creates well-trained apprentices who don’t just work machines, they learn the systems.  “If you want to sell smart products, you can’t hire dumb people.”  Solving customer problems, finding solutions for customer needs, & simplification by integrating processes all drive German innovation.  Developing products & processes faster & better than competitors is the best way to assure intellectual property protection.  Many countries have banks similar to America’s Export-Import Bank which provide guarantees for sales to high-risk countries.  Knowledge transfer is a problem-German firms bring employees to Germany to expressly deal with the problem.  Learn by doing.  Go there.  Only the paranoid survive.

Other contributors came from LEM Software/Engineering Consultancy for load & energy management, Luri Watersystems GmbH, & Photon AG

While you’ll rarely see meteoric rising firms like Google or Facebook come from Germany, you almost always count on 2-3% productivity improvement every year.  It’s a different mentality, but 1 that works for them. American firms would do well to learn from Mittelstand firms strategies for success.


managing diversity in Germany & India

Tuesday 20 December, 2011

I was recently invited by the National HRD (Human Resource Development) Network on the occasion of their Silver Jubilee celebrations to speak, & chose to talk about Managing Diversity-a cross cultural comparison between Germany & India.  I would report on it, but I was too busy talking to take notes.  Here’s the presentation, if you are so inclined:  Managingdiversitycrosscultural .  This was great preparation for my upcoming blog post.


northern German green technologies

Thursday 18 August, 2011

It’s appropriate that the last international event I attended in Chicago before I left for India was with the Krauts, the 1’s who got me started in all this international stuff. They hosted this event: GREEN TECHNOLOGY: COOPERATION PERSPECTIVES FOR THE US MIDWEST REGION AND NORTHERN GERMANY  Part of the visiting delegation was stuck in Hamburg because of bad weather, but the show did go on.

Chicago’s new mayor Rahm Emanuel made a showing  before he ran off to open a school & noted that German firms employ 36K employees in the Chicagoland area.  On environmental notes, he added that Chicago has the most headquarters of wind companies & the most urban solar farms in the U.S.   He also wants to double the number of LEED certified buildings in Chicago.

You should be able to find most of the information presented @ the conference on the GACCOM website, so I’ll just hit the highlights here.

Frank Horch of the city of Hamburg kicked off by letting us know that his city is the 3rd largest port in Europe & 3rd largest aviation location in the world.  Jan Rispens of Renewable Energies Hamburg (erneuerbare energien hamburg, gmbh) said Germany has set a target of 20% of it’s energy needs served by renewable sources by 2020.  Investments of €20B has created 340K jobs & now creates 17$ of total energy production.  Solar is still expensive, but they are building solar photo-voltaic cell farms.  25 renewables companies in Hamburg employ 4K with a turnover of €5B.  60% of the world’s wind energy know-how is within 2.5 hours drive from Hamburg.

Panel 1:  Vattenfall is the #2 generator of wind power.  15% of their electricity comes from renewables & now they must replace the 20% of electricity that was generated by nuclear power.  Nordex created 200 jobs when they opened their new plant in Arkansas.  They see 25% better wind potential than in Germany.  AWEA has 2500 members & collaborates with EWEA.  Commonwealth Edison will be required by law to provide 20-25% of it’s energy via renewables by 2050.

Panel 2:  Buildings consume 1/2 of all energy consumption & create 1/3 of CO2 emissions.  Heating & cooling take the most energy, so investment in insulation is needed.  While green building of CO2 neutral houses mitigates environmental impact, the more pressing issue is how to make the existing housing stock more efficient.  1.6M ft2 are LEED certified daily in the US.  According to energy modeling data, predicted energy use occupancy goals are not being met.

Panel 3:  Energy transmission & storage are still challenges.  Hydrogen fuel cell technology is coming in the next few years.  There are 3 criteria for electrical/utilities issues:

  1. Whether or not it’s clean energy is a political issue.  Rechargers are 100% renewable.
  2. All users should be entitled to free access.
  3. Charging stations must fit with urban development.

Battery-operated cars are coming to the market before hydrogen powered cars, but hydrogen filling stations are expensive & it’s not certain that there’s a market there yet. Changing traffic lights to LED’s saved 70%.  Hamburg’s Climate Action Plan devotes €25M to these issues from the public budget.  We need to use the 3 S’s:  save, store, & substitute.


PBS video on the fall of the wall

Thursday 21 April, 2011

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs hosted a screening of the video After the Wall: A World United & hosted a panel discussion immediately afterwards Germany United: The Story of a European Powerhouse featuring the director/producer/writer Eric Stange, Christian Friedrich Ostermann, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s European Studies Program, & J.D. Bindenagel , who was U.S. deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, East Germany, at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. You can watch the preceding video The Wall:  a world divided @ the bottom of the above-mentioned webpage.  You can rent the video we saw on Netflix & see it aired on Chicago’s WTTW on 8 May.   Here’s a summary of the panel discussion.

All of this was predicated on Gorbachev’s commitment to non-violence & non-intervention.  It was not just the East Germans who opened their borders, it was the Poles & Hungarians as well.  The reform of travel rules was an accident, & the result was the breaking down of the wall when an East German official mistakenly gave the OK to the mass media to report that the wall was open before it really was.  Prior to the fall of the wall, the Americans were pretty much MIA in recognizing the imminent changes.  Bindenagel was struck by the pace of what happened, as if it were a video on fast forward.  Conventional wisdom held that the USSR would defend the DDR, but the 1st meeting between Bush & Gorbachev didn’t happen until 3 December, 1989 when the DDR was on the verge of civil war while 400K Soviet troops stood by.  Demonstrations in Dresden & Leipzig set the popular mood, so it wasn’t just East Berliners who made the 1st moves.

This documentary was created because George HW Bush didn’t think Americans knew enough about the significance of these events & wanted to give Gorbachev credit for what happened.  Researchers found leaders of resistance who risked everything before the wall fell.  Ironically, organized religion was the chink in the Soviet armor because it became a sanctuary for activists.


  • The economic impact @ 1st was drastically negative on the united Germany, when they created a monetary union & converted East German debt into West German debt-it killed them.  They’ve paid $100B for each of the last 20 years, which has been equated to 4 Marshall Plans.  The longer term effects are still being determined.
  • There was some resentment on both sides after reunification, but it had to be done.  The US encouraged $8.5B in investment in the 5 new federal states by Dow Chemical, Guardian Glass, etc., which created great relationships for US businesses through these investments.  There was an exodus of skilled labor from east to west, which created labor shortages, which were also fueled by low birth rates, & globalization.  Germans questioned immigration policies & multiculturalism in asking how open they were to foreign workers.
  • The main difference between the fall of the wall & the recent “Middle East Spring” is the level of violence, which changes everything.  In East Germany, the Stasi headquarters was attacked, but there was no violence.  The West German constitution had article 23, which allowed older parts of Germany to rejoin, so there was already regulatory governance structure to allow it to happen.  Germany had Helmut Kohl leading the charge, although he originally couldn’t conceive of reunification, he proposed confederation.  Reunification was proposed by a Russian to him.   So Germany is very different because it had prefabricated solutions in NATO, the EU, etc.  Also, those who made the revolution did not end up running things.  The situations are a little bit similar in that the East Germans’ future looked bleak, & they felt they had little to lose by change, which is a similar mentality to that they had in Egypt.

whither the european union?

Friday 11 February, 2011

Ralph Folsom was back for his 10th annual lecture on international business & trade law @ the John Marshall Law School Center for International Law in a talk entitled “Whither the European Union?”  He opened by quoting Yogi Berra, a favored quipster, “If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?”  Folsom essentially took us through a legal history of Europe decade-by-decade since 1949, weaving in some themes that spanned over time, such as human rights.  These were spawned by the European Convention on Human Rights by the Council of Europe in 1950, & culminated in the Treaty of Nice EU Charter of Fundamental Rights “declared” in 2003 & became binding law in 2009 (UK & Poland opted out).  Interesting things to note:

  • the extent to which France led the initial integration, (although perhaps it shouldn’t be, as it was in response to “the German problem”)
  • the slowness of the Brits to integrate, 1st because of their own hesitancy to give up the notion of their empire, & then blocked by deGaulle for 10 years
  • Greenland “withdrew” from the EEC in 1983 to escape the highly regulated fishery industry in the EEC
  • Although not members of the European Union, Norway & Switzerland have aligned themselves tightly with the EU by mirroring much of the legislation the EU has passed.

So “Whither the European Union?”  Iceland wants in, so they can be ripe to be bailed out.  The Balkans show growth for the future, but what does that mean for Turkey?  How will the economies of Portugal & Spain hold up after the financial breakdowns in Greece & Ireland?  The people of Europe have spoken a number of times when European constitutions have been voted down in France &  Holland.  As the largest economy in Europe with the most financial might, biggest contributor to & benefactor from a unified Europe, Germany is a key decision-maker in the future of Europe.  The general questions posed to them are how committed are they to the EU as is stands now?, & how much are they willing to pay to keep it that way? They’ve already put 100M Euros in to bring in the IMF as sheriff in Greece & Ireland & created a 1TR Euro safety net to protect against future crises.   German elections are coming in the spring, so we will find out soon what the German electorate thinks.

Folsom doesn’t see a break-up or breakdown of the EU.  Although the legislators might have been ahead of the people in proposing a European constitution & there is still concern that they may be creating a federal monster in Europe, French & German leadership is strong.  Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel suggested a potential free-trade agreement (FTA) for Europe with the US as a result of the failure of the Doha Round of WTO negotiations.  Canada is negotiating right now with Europe on an FTA, which could be a model for the US.  A key sticking point is agriculture.   They know where they’re going, as the EU structure has endured.


  • China has bought goodwill in Europe by buying Greek & Irish bonds.  The Chinese trade surplus is not nearly as great with Europe as it is with the US.
  • There is no formula to resolve the issue of managing a currency, the Euro, with central monetary control of the money supply by the European Central Bank (ECB), but without any fiscal control of many very diverse federal country budgets over what they spend.  It’s been suggested for the ECB to enforce sanctions, but a unanimous vote of financial ministers is required & that won’t happen.  They can’t even agree on a definition of insolvency.  The Germans simply want to make sure that federal government deficits don’t exceed 3% of each country’s GDP.
  • An alliance between the EU & NAFTA makes sense, but again, the hang-up is on trade in agriculture & Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
  • There are rumblings of undercurrents of opposition to increased federalism in Europe.  There is a reason the German government hasn’t asked its people to vote on it.  The ringer is that the German constitutional court hasn’t bought into the sovereignty of the European Court of Justice.  Merkel doesn’t want to surrender German sovereignty to Europe.
  • The UK actually joined the EU with a trick that did not require the OK of its parliament.  The Brits are team players with the EU, playing by the rules & implementing lots of legislation, but they do lose a lot of debates there.