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How to best explain Digitalization and Innovation

How can companies be persuaded to embrace the benefits of digitization and Industry 4.0? Is it possible to make the spirit of innovation tangible? Dresden offers some very concrete answers to these and other questions.

Wettiner Platz 7

Frank Neuber of DREWAG, Dresden’s public utility company, removes the heavy lock on the door to Hall 9 of ‘Kraftwerk Mitte’. He pushes it open, and we enter a world where past and future meet. The hall – 3,000 square meters in size – is four stories high, with old brick walls. The air is cool in this abandoned control center, once full of humming transformers. In recent years, DREWAG has breathed new life into the old industrial site, which occupies 40,000 square meters of the city center. Until 1994, it was a smoking, coal-fired power station. Now, it’s home to cultural institutions like the Staatsoperette Dresden and theater junge generation. The Heinrich-Schütz-Konservatorium holds lessons here, and there’s also an energy museum, a nightclub, and cafés. It’s a creative interdisciplinary space, and Ronald Scholz just loves it. Scholz is the co-founder of software guidance firm Sherpa.Dresden. He and Nico Herzberg, head of vocational training at SAP Dresden, follow Frank Neuber through a still-vacant building. The paint is peeling off the walls in the stairwell, but that doesn’t stand in the way of Scholz’s vision.

Pit Stop: The Lernfabrik is constantly changing and converting. Not only visitors learn that digital transformation is an ongoing process.
‘It looks good’: Nico Herzberg and Ronald Scholz on a round tour.

“We need low-threshold offerings. Here, entrepreneurs should be able to see what digitization
can do for them. It should be a tangible experience.” But digitization, according to Scholz, has an Achilles heel: Everyone is hearing about this radical transformation, but the message often isn’t coming all  the way across. “A lot of people need to experience something first-hand before they’re motivated to tackle the topic for themselves.” Nico Herzberg nods in agreement. He was one of the first people to share Scholz’s vision. SAP plans to set up an innovation and training center in Hall 9 once it’s been renovated. “We want to think about what the future of work looks like and to share those thoughts with others,” says Nico Herzberg.

»Das Angebot muss niedrigschwellig sein«, sagt Scholz. »Die Unternehmer sollen hier erleben, was die Digitalisierung kann. Sie sollen diese Entwicklung anfassen.« An der Stelle beschreibt Ronald Scholz einen wunden Punkt der Digitalisierung. Alle lesen von dieser einschneidenden Transformation, doch die Botschaft kommt zu selten an. »Viele brauchen ein Erlebnis, eine Begegnung, einen Impuls, ehe sie das Thema angehen«, sagt Ronald Scholz. Neben ihm nickt Nico Herzberg. Er verantwortet die Ausbildung bei SAP Dresden und war einer der Ersten, die Ronald Scholz’ Vision teilten: SAP will in der Halle 9 nach dem Umbau ein Innovations- und Ausbildungszentrum unterbringen. »Wir wollen hier überlegen und zeigen, wie die Arbeit der Zukunft aussieht«, sagt Nico Herzberg.

„Entrepreneurs need places where they can experience digitization in a tangible way.”
Ronald Schiolz
Sherpa Dresden

The large software corporation wants to be open to the public. Hall 9 will become a kind of shop window, and a meeting place for Saxon businesses. Herzberg and Scholz follow Neuber up to the fourth floor, which is illuminated by a long skylight.
In three years, this will be a conference room, a place where ideas come to life. Herzberg and Scholz put their heads together and start discussing the upcoming renovations. They are not alone in their undertaking: Other partners have joined the project, including a bank and a health insurance company. There’s an urgent need for projects like this one: “There are so many companies in this state with over 100 employees. They have to start addressing the topic of digitization,” Scholz declares. It’s a topic he’s passionate about. “Those companies need a place where they can present themselves to potential employees with the right skill sets. They need a place where they can develop further.” It’s another sentence we can take to heart.

This is where one transformator used to stand next to the others. In its current state, visitors often refer to this place as a prison look-alike. As a joke Hall 9 is also called Alcatraz.

For more information on the Smart Systems Hub in Dresden and the visitor “trails,” check  out

Fotos: Lệmrich

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