1. Ms Pop, why are industrial enterprises moving back to the cities?
What we have been observing for years is that cities are gaining more and more inhabitants. Not, as in most developing countries, for reasons of poverty or lack of prospects. No, it is above all qualified, often young people, who are now looking for freedom for creativity, for completely new opportunities to develop in cities. Short distances between the home and the workplace, a high quality of life, good infrastructure for everyday needs and cultural offerings are central criteria when deciding on an employer. And this is especially true in those sectors which determine the pace of the economy. Berlin is now regarded as one of the most attractive locations for specialists in the digital economy. More than 70,000 people already work in Berlin’s digital economy today, and this number could even triple by 2030. We therefore have the potential in terms of talent and skilled workers, and companies know that they can find qualified employees here in Berlin, especially for the digital working world. And they also know that highly qualified employees are in short supply. This means that more and more companies are following the skilled workers they require when deciding on a location – and not the other way around. So companies, including those in industry, are once again looking for proximity to cities in order to be attractive for qualified personnel.
2. Last year Berlin was still on a great path to path and known as a hotspot for start-ups – then Corona came. What is the future for Berlin as a business and innovation location?
The Corona pandemic has hit Berlin’s economy with full force and across the board. Nearly all sectors of the economy have been affected by the crisis – to varying degrees, of course. It is becoming quite clear that now, after the initial easing, individual sectors will develop very differently. In the catering and hotel industry, at trade fairs and congresses, in the cultural industry, we know that it will take longer until something resembling normality can return. In other sectors, things could go faster, provided that business routines on the supply and demand side return to normal. In the digital economy, for example, growth is already evident in some areas.
We reacted very quickly to the pandemic in terms of economic policy with emergency aid, thereby supporting around 420,000 jobs with a minimum of red tape, and have now added a targeted, EUR 500 million economic stimulus package. In addition to the federal government’s programs, we are assuming responsibility for continuing to stabilize Berlin’s economy and getting it fit for the restart post-Corona. We will be subsidizing commercial rents of small and medium-sized companies with up to €90 million. To this end, we are setting up an emergency aid program that will bridge commercial rents with a 50 percent subsidy in an individual application procedure. In addition to expanding liquidity support for small and medium-sized enterprises, we will, for example, be setting up a congress fund to promote the trade fair and event industry. Together with the federal government, we will continue to support companies, self-employed persons and start-ups that are in need as a result of the Corona pandemic.
3. The fight against the pandemic has resulted in the widespread pooling of resources. As a result, a topic that has dominated the political debate in recent years, the climate crisis, has receded into the background. How is your conference reacting to this?
For me, urban tech clearly also means finding solutions that help to overcome the climate crisis. Yes, I would even go so far as to say that urban production is particularly interesting in those places where production, services and logistics can be carried out with low emissions. CO2 emissions in particular are increasingly becoming a location-relevant challenge for growing cities. This is why we are taking a very specific approach here in Berlin with our Solar City master plan. The relevant lines of action are as follows: More solar systems on roofs, better conditions for landlord-to-tenant electricity supply and more intelligent use of combined heat and power generation. Or take electric mobility. Berlin is already regarded as a hotbed for innovative and sustainable mobility and transport systems, and not just within Germany. We are the largest practical laboratory for electric mobility in Germany. Both topics – solar energy and electric mobility – are being completely rethought in the urban environment today, with innovative, digitally based ideas and concepts. And because Berlin is at the forefront of this field, I see great opportunities for the city and local companies to seize and exploit the potential that is emerging.