“Berlin: Plenty of space for innovation”

The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Michael Müller, about Metropolitan Solutions and the positioning of Smart City Berlin

Dovetailing Asia Pacific Weeks with the Metropolitan Solutions event is an approach that benefits both platforms. For Berlin, both as host and in terms of content, it is a substantial gain – Michael Müller

Smart city concepts and sustainable urban development are the keywords of both the Asia-Pacific Weeks and Metropolitan Solutions events. Why is Berlin such a good location for global dialogue on these issues?

As the capital city of one of the world’s most powerful economies and as an international city offering quality of life, Berlin plays a key role as far as these issues are concerned. There is an outstanding sense of dynamism here, especially given the particular history of our city and the catching-up process the city has undergone during the last few years. Smart solutions to challenges in many different spheres of life are already being researched into, developed and applied. Berlin is a kind of shop-window for Germany – in terms of economics, science and urban development policies. That’s why I am really delighted that no less than two exceptional platforms in Berlin – Asia-Pacific Weeks and Metropolitan Solutions – are addressing Smart City approaches to sustainable urban development.

How can Berlin provide inspiration and ideas for sustainable urban development?

Berlin is a growing city. In the last few years between 40,000 and 50,000 people have relocated annually to the capital. That of course entails major pressure on local politicians to act in a range of policy areas: upgrading the infrastructure, generating affordable housing, providing schools and daycare centers and last but not least creating more jobs. Berlin is very fortunate to be able to play an active and forward-looking role in shaping this growth. For our city is not yet complete, it is developing and provides plenty of space for innovation. Berlin’s Senate is investing a great deal in sustainable solutions, as are our State-owned companies and the local business community. What I believe is particularly important is that our actions are not just aimed at providing a dynamic economic and business environment but also always keep quality of life for Berliners in mind. Berlin needs to remain a great city in which to live and work.

What role does the Smart City concept play in Berlin’s future economic development?

In the last ten years the Federal Capital has undergone the most dynamic economic development of any of Germany’s federal states. That should remain so, and we need to keep enhancing the power of local businesses to innovate. Smart urban technologies play a key role in this respect. We in Berlin have now defined a strategic framework, the Smart City Strategy, which states our objectives and determines spheres of action, such as housing, mobility and the economy. In the next few years Smart City solutions will play an increasing role in adding value in Berlin, given the wide range of tangible projects, like for instance the expansion and transformation of Tegel airport into an R&D and manufacturing location and into a shop-window for urban tech.

How will Berlin’s dynamic start-up scene be a factor for urban technology innovation?

Berlin has become one of the world’s most high-profile start-up hubs. People from all over the world come to us to action their ideas here. This start-up dynamism has long since become an important component in Berlin’s process of economic growth. And a remarkable percentage of new jobs are created by these start-ups. The digital economy, including for instance the e-commerce or games segments, enjoys a particular status. However Berlin-based start-ups also play an increasingly more important role in other industries like mobility or energy. Solutions for the Smart City of tomorrow are being generated via partnerships between the applied sciences and established businesses. And that strengthens Berlin’s position as a hotbed of innovation.

Dialogue with other large cities has a long tradition in Berlin. How does the German capital benefit from these partnerships?

In a wide variety of different ways! For “travel broadens the mind” are not just empty words but rather an expression of life experience. Politicians, the business and cultural communities, even the people themselves benefit from this form of intercultural communication. If you consider the Metropolis network of major cities, in which both Berlin and I personally play a very active role – as an association we address urban development policy challenges, look for smart solutions and new perspectives, and member cities, which are all confronted by very similar development policy challenges, learn from each other. This creates new cross-border economic and cultural relationships and friendships too, if you’re lucky.

What are your personal expectations of this year’s Asia-Pacific Weeks event?

I am really delighted that the Asia-Pacific Weeks event is addressing the fascinating topic of Smart Cities and believe that dovetailing APW with the Metropolitan Solutions event is an approach that benefits both platforms. For Berlin, both as host and in terms of content, it is a substantial gain.

Michael Müller is a German politician of the Social Democratic Party of Germany. He is the Governing Mayor of Berlin since December 2014, and President of the Bundesrat since November 2017. This makes him deputy to the President of Germany.