Q: What are the economic development priorities for Hamburg and the strategy for attracting FDI?
A: In Hamburg, the future is built on tradition. Hamburg is not only a city of trade, but also an important industrial location. And everything is developing rapidly. Today, this traditional merchant city is a Germany-wide pioneer for ecommerce, with Otto Group and About You, a unicorn, being two prominent examples here. Hamburg’s industry is developing just as swiftly and places a strong focus on new cross-sectoral technologies. As a port city, ‘future mobility’ is a leitmotif for us. In all of these fields we perceive ourselves as a testing ground. In Hamburg, innovations emerge and new enterprises evolve amid a vibrant startup scene. And anyone seeking to contribute their technological know-how or relocate their technology here is very welcome.
Q: Is Brexit having an impact? How will economic relations with the UK change?
A: The UK’s departure is a turning point for the EU and also for Hamburg. At the same time, the UK and Hamburg maintained close economic relations as early as the 13th century, and thus long before the EU was founded. Our relationship is certainly going to survive the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. And for any companies in the UK that now need a location in the EU, Hamburg is of course an option. That said, we are mainly in dialogue with companies from Asia and North America that are no longer wishing to launch their European operations in London, but rather within the EU. This tends to apply to startups as these will be able to find the relevant experts in Hamburg. Yet we are hoping for a return to normality in the medium term.
Q: In which sectors are the greatest investment opportunities and why?
A: We keep a strategic eye on those companies that can offer the greatest added value, create good jobs and have an innovative approach that is likely to last for decades to come. For example, we are currently involved in inspiring talks on the subject of hydrogen in port logistics. Another focal theme is artificial intelligence: flanked by political support, the Artificial Intelligence Center Hamburg was launched only recently by stakeholders from business, science and society. At this new AI facility, the scholarly expertise that has evolved in Hamburg for years is being connected with practice-oriented fields of application in industry, with the aim of successfully transferring knowledge through groundbreaking AI projects. Other innovative technologies, such as 3D printing, are already part of everyday industrial life in Hamburg, for example in aviation and in medical technology.
Q: What are the main challenges the city will face economically in the near future and how can they be overcome? There are worries over an economic downturn in Germany – is this being felt in Hamburg?
A: A slight economic downturn can indeed be observed in Europe, and also in some parts of Germany. However, Hamburg has not been affected by this. In fact, we are currently at the peak of growth. In addition to technology-driven startups, it is mainly the real estate sector that is driving our economy. Today, economic growth is mostly recorded in the services sectors, and these are more likely to be located in urban conurbations rather than in rural areas. As a result, metropolitan regions within and outside Germany are increasingly turning into growth centres. Hamburg is of course also benefitting from this.
Q: What makes Hamburg a city of the future, in your opinion?
A: In Hamburg, we are creating networks between business, science and society and are thus promoting entrepreneurial courage and leeway for innovative ideas. To this end, we have established locations such as Hammerbrooklyn, where urban stakeholders, companies from all industries and other bright minds from around the globe get together to experiment, to learn from each other, and to implement innovations. So we are basically using digital change to shape the future of the city, the economy and society in a way that benefits people at large. Science City Bahrenfeld is another example here: this completely new quarter in Hamburg will be entirely dedicated to innovation, with the German Electron Synchrotron as its centrepiece. Hamburg can be regarded as a testing ground for new developments, and this will also make us relevant to companies that had never previously considered investing in Hamburg.