Mannheim: One of the most inventive cities in the world
Mayor of Mannheim Dr Peter Kurz on what Mannheim is doing to attract young, innovative startups to its new technology campusShow transcript
The city of Mannheim is one of the most inventive cities in the world, with about 4.95 patents per 10,000 people. Mannheim’s Mayor, Dr Peter Kurz, discusses some of the highlights, and explains the culture of innovation and investment that Mannheim is trying to foster in its new technology campus.
The New Economy: The city of Mannheim has been thrust into the global spotlight with smart innovations. Here to share some highlights: Mayor Dr Peter Kurz.
Now Forbes of course has listed your city as one of the most inventive in the world, with approximately 4.95 patents per 10,000 inhabitants. Tell me: which projects really set you apart?
Mayor Dr Peter Kurz: Yes of course! The main topic is to look into the future, but we have also a great history of innovation. The car, invented by Karl Benz, within our city. The bicycle in 1817. A special tractor; most common fertilisers were invented here. So you see, there is a history of big innovations and big companies emerging from these innovations. And we foster this very much.
We focus on what we call the fourth industrialisation, or the fourth revolution in industry. We foster new innovations in mobility, because of our traditions. For example, we established a project called Primove, which is run with inductive energy. So it’s wirelessly fuelled. And this is a really great innovation that runs through our city. And this is just one example where we are also connected as a city to our industry and to help innovation thrive.
The New Economy: So tell me about some of the types of companies you’ve been able to attract.
Mayor Dr Peter Kurz: We are very much focused on three different clusters.
Smart production is one topic. We want to attract especially young companies to create an atmosphere of venture capital in this field.
Then we have a close look on the field of medical technology. We are right now building up a campus. We have big companies like Roche and Sanofi and also young startups that are interested in this new campus.
Third topic for us is creative industries: I think it’s very important to create a very attractive atmosphere for technical innovations.
So, these are the main clusters and topics that we try to foster.
The New Economy: Now you must be building a technological grid infrastructure that supports all of these innovative companies.
Mayor Dr Peter Kurz: There is the basic technology: the grid itself. We have to provide broadband technology.
The second is of course wireless LAN. In the city we are now expanding our network with partners from the business side. And what I mentioned also is the clusters, the business development centres with staff, with cluster managers, with connectors: this is part of our grid too.
The New Economy: So let’s discuss one novelty in particular: that’s your power grid. Tell me, how does it work?
Mayor Dr Peter Kurz: The new energy world is really a main topic within Germany. And on the technological side there are challenges. One is that we need a different grid from the one in the past. It needs to be intelligent.
Also, for example, we have two projects that are very innovative. One is the so-called Mannheim model, where we supervise the energy use. And that puts us in the position to steer the grid in a better way, so we know the producers and the consumers, and their habits.
The second is a project called Strombank. That’s an energy bank, so you can store energy, and you can deliver energy as a prosumer. And this energy will be paid back if you need it. This is also a technologically new concept, which puts us at the forefront of the new energy world.
The New Economy: So how do you get companies to support your energy goals? I mean, this is really an issue that so many cities struggle with.
Mayor Dr Peter Kurz: We have two different approaches, which are of course connected to each other.
One is that we founded a joint agency for climate change. This is a public-private partnership, and it brings to us the possibility to subsidise new projects to fight climate change.
The other is that we have contracts with big players. So we started with two big companies, and these companies’ aims were defined: the aims were very ambitious for our city: we need to reduce our energy needs by 40 percent by 2020, compared to the starting year 1990.
The New Economy: So tell me, what are the other innovations we can look forward to from Mannheim?
Mayor Dr Peter Kurz: I think the specialty in Mannheim is our approach: how we want to run the city, and especially our city administration. We gained a sustainable award in Germany for this approach, so we are very much oriented on measurable objectives.
This is also part of our innovation, which drives our city.