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Tech Solutions from and with the City – Interview with Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of Labor and Economic Affairs at the City of Munich

Clemens Baumgärtner in a suit in front of the roofs of Munich
22 August 2022
Family Businesses & SMEs

A thriving innovation culture – whether national or international – needs places where the future can emerge. Munich is such a place. Here, people develop digital solutions that shape the international market, solve societal challenges… and wouldn’t exist without a strong local network that supports their growth. We’ve talked to Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of Labor and Economic Affairs at the City of Munich. He reports on how innovation comes to life here and how the city administration contributes to that.

What success factors and strengths does Munich as a digital tech location have?

Munich’s economy is characterized by a broad and balanced mix of sectors. The ICT sector (information and communications technology) is an elementary part of Munich’s economy. It stands for a high variety of cross-sector and applicable technologies.

In the last ten years, we’ve registered a rise of employment of 72 percent in the ICT sector – a factor that has proven to be particularly stabilizing in times of the Corona pandemic.

Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of Labor and Economic Affairs at the City of Munich

Despite Corona, the ICT sector is not only a catalysator for innovation but also a true generator of jobs. Almost 11,000 job opportunities have emerged over the past two years, an increase of more than 12 percent.

The developments in the research-driven high-tech areas are also pleasing. Next to above-average job growth, the sector is the one in which digitalization is particularly pushed forward. Munich is not only digital but also a high-tech and innovation hub. These areas are very intertwined here.

The expertise and resources of companies from the sectors mentioned above are surely strengths of this digital location. At the same time, there are many other factors that encourage corporations like Apple, Google, and IBM to settle here.

Digital, High-tech, and Innovation Hub – What is Special in Munich?

The diverse ecosystem and close connection with players in Munich are definitely a plus. These include notable and internationally successful companies, universities and colleges alike. They drive research and bring much sought-after talent to the job market. The public administration’s role is important, too. The City of Munich supports the development of this digital and innovation hub in many ways, for example through the city’s innovation contest. Also, small and big initiatives and institutional multiplicators in Munich foster networking and opportunities for cooperation.

An absolute driver of new technologies, digital transformation, and a source of new innovations is the dynamic start-up and founding scene of Munich.

Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of Labor and Economic Affairs at the City of Munich

In the survey “Deutscher Startup Monitor” of 2021, 77 percent of founders in Munich rated the start-up ecosystem as very good or good. This is 12 percent above the federal average.

The role of entrepreneurship centers like UnternehmerTUM is fundamental here. Out of an idea from 20 years ago emerged Europe’s biggest innovation and entrepreneurship center in our state capital. For us, this is a stroke of luck that has enriched our location from the start.

Which ideas and solutions will we need in the future to bring digitalization in Munich further – as a blueprint for Germany overall?

Like local authorities worldwide, the City of Munich is facing challenges we can’t solve alone. Next to areas like mobility, the protection of our climate, energy, and healthcare, this includes the digital transformation.

That’s why we have to create framework conditions even more so that sustainable solutions for the city of the future can emerge. With the Munich Urban Colab, we’re on a good way since its opening about a year ago.

Clemens Baumgärtner, Head of Labor and Economic Affairs at the City of Munich

The Colab is a joint initiative of the City of Munich and UnternehmerTUM. The goal of the Munich Urban Colab is to offer a platform for the development of smart city solutions – open to start-ups, established companies, research, talent, creatives, citizens, and the city’s businesses as well as the administration of the City of Munich.

Since the opening, we’ve experienced incredibly high demand. National and international delegations want to know more about the Munich Urban Colab and are enthusiastic. There’s been the idea of Amsterdam imitating a similar model. This leads us to the topic of best practices. For us, it is clearly the Munich Urban Colab.

Digitalization is based on digital infrastructure. Where does the City of Munich stand in terms of broadband and mobile communications?

During the Corona pandemic, digitalization accelerated fast in all areas of life. Consequently, the requirements for the digital infrastructure in Munich are rising. That’s why we are pleased about the positive developments with the fiber-optic network while being confronted with challenges in the area of mobile communications.

The fiber-optic network in Munich is being built continuously. While the SWM (“Stadtwerke München”, the public utilities of Munich) and M-net have substantially invested in the extensive fiber-optic network in Munich since 2007, Telekom has been active particularly since last year with an investment of 500 million euros for the fiber-optic network in Munich as well as the mobile communications standard 5G. The public utilities have connected 630,000 households to the powerful and future-proof network so far. By the end of the expansion work in 2023, it will be almost 650,000 households. Telekom will have connected about 55,000 households until the end of 2022.

The situation in mobile communications is held back by limited resources and a supply that is not always ideal. The city desperately needs new cell towers for the extension and optimization of the existing grid operation. But this often fails when looking for locations. Right now, the mobile network operators have applied for 700 new cell tower locations to extend and maintain their current operations, but only 18 of them have been built in the past two years. To foster the mobile network’s extension, the City of Munich decided in July to launch something like a mobile communications counsel to foster the extension on the municipal grounds, too.

Thank you for the interview!

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