Thursday, August 3, 2017

Grasping Beyond the Stars and Landing in Saxony

Space technology is not just since live streams of the relanding (CRS-11 Landing aerial view) of the Falcon 9 rocket, and several resupply missions to the ISS (International Space Station) made possible by the team around serial entrepreneur Elon Musk in the news. Planetary Resources, a bold start-up with the mission to mine Earth-near asteroids, co-founded by Peter H. Diamandis (he is also the co-founder of Singularity University, a visionary think tank with the mission to teach and empower leaders about the power of converging exponential technologies through various in-person and digital formats, whose chancellor Ray Kurzweil gave an outstanding keynote at the 4th Dresden Future Forum in 2010).

At first sight one would not expect Saxony, or more specifically Dresden, to play a significant role in this context. And yet, it does. More subtle through the person Prof. Hans Müller-Steinhagen, Rektor of the Technical University of Dresden (TU Dresden), who not only led the university to its current heights being one of 11 top universities in Germany with the "excellence status" in 2012. This even pulled in the interest of the New York Times which put a story up on this achievement in January 13, 2013

Dresden, once the home of the East German passenger plane industry in the late 50s and beginnings of the 60s, has transformed this legacy into being a viable part of the Airbus-family with the Elbe Flugzeugwerke EFW that is specializing transforming passenger aircrafts into freight liners. Even though situated on the edge of Germany, and even on the edge of the City of Dresden, there are many "hidden champions" in the aerospace industry (see the post "Engineered Serendipity Shaping the Future") and which can be found in the Cluster LRT Sachsen/Thüringen.

On top of this, the TU Dresden is home of the Institut für Luft- und Raumfahrttechnik, and one of the largest science communities in the field of Aeronautics in Germany, mainly at the former GDR Aerospace campus in Dresden-Johannstadt with international ties to ESA, NASA, and the International Space University (another startup by Peter H. Diamandis going back to late 80s when he and two buddies at the MIT founded it, now it has its permanent headquarters near Strasbourg, France).

Looking back five years in time when IEEE TTM (IEEE Time Technology Machine) took place right in the historic center of Dresden, SpaceX had just completed its first successful re-supply mission to the ISS (see "Boundaries Across Boundaries, Technologies, and Cultures") it makes perfect sense for another bold step. And it was there to come, not too unexpected as the curious observers of the developments would certainly confirm.

The DLR (German Aerospace Center) the national aeronautics and space research center the Federal Republic of Germany decided during its Senate Meeting end of June the establishment of seven DLR institutes across Germany. One of which is based in Dresden, at the TU Dresden, and it will focus on the "Research into the digitalisation of aviation"

making not only use of the excellent software industry base, the scientific research community, but also of the high-performance computing capabilities that the TU Dresden provides (and which other potential users are connected to such as the MPI-CBG which opened the Center for Systems Biology Dresden lately).

Today the inaugiration of the Institute of Software Methods for Product Virtualisation in Dresden has taken place and more about the event and first impressions, interviews, and statements are available through DLR's Twitter account through which the exciting news were announced on July 26, 2017,

and the specific hashtag #DLRdresden which has been in use since.

We congratulate all people, institutions, and companies who have made this amazing step possible, and with the #DLRdresden and its team most successful scaling into a prosperous and exciting future.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Engineered Serendipity Shaping the Future

It is been a while, on March 2, 2017, the Economic Development Corporation Saxony (Wirtschaftsförderung Sachsen GmbH) invited the press to their yearly press talk on the achievements of the past year and a lookout for the future.

Saxon State Minister for Economics, Labor and Transportation, Martin Dulig, SMWA, and Head of Wirtschaftsförderung Sachsen GmbH, Peter Nothnagel, welcomed the media and gave a broad overview on the activities and successes within the past year 2016. Despite the fact that the projects that the WFS facilitated a similar number of investments over the course of the year 2016 compared with 2015, the average invest volume was about half compared with that of the preceding year. Peter Nothnagel, "Auch kleine Projekte werden zu großen." (English: "Also small projects become large ones"). What at first sight might look as a not so positive outlook into the future might also be an early sign of focus shift from traditional industries towards advancing technologies. Such include space-related and exponential technologies such as additive manufacturing (also known as 3D printing or AM) and other business fields that are massively impacted by the rising digitalization (e.g. e-Mobility, autonomous driving, life sciences, IIoT) and economic activities around emerging digital business models.

Extruder for probe picking
In general, it once more became clear that the WFS is a major "anchor point" between Saxony, its scientific communities, the established and emerging SMEs (though mostly small in size, nevertheless big at highest quality levels) in the region, and the international business community. The event took place at the headquarters of Hoch Technologie Systeme GmbH (HTS GmbH), a small yet unique supplier and service provider specifically for the aerospace, space and rail industry with 33 employees and currently led by its founder Dr. Wolfgang Göhler who had founded the company in 1996. One of the reasons not only the wide array of well-trained engineers streaming out of Dresden University of Technology (TU Dresden) but also the unique density of companies and a cluster in the field of aerospace in the region.

In 2016, HTS GmbH had its 20th anniversary of operations,  RUAG Space, the space division of the Swiss RUAG Group, had announced the take-over of HTS in order to build on their long lasting business collaboration between the two companies which started in 2002 and has been successfully fulfilled projects around several space missions by ESA and players in the field. Quite surprisingly RUAG Space is involved in the project OneWeb. This ambitious project is supported also by serial entrepreneur and space enthusiast Sir Richard Branson and is aiming to position several hundred satellites around the Earth to provide internet connection to all regions of the world, especially remote ones as stated by Invest Switzerland on Twitter in late 2016.

from left: Dr. Axel Roenneke (RUAG Space), Dr. Wolfgang
Göhler, (HTS GmbH), Jakob Kania (Support Q GmbH),
Peter Nothnagel (WFS GmbH), Martin Dulig (SMWA)
As Dr. Axel Roenneke, VP Marketing & Sales of RUAG Space, stated at the press conference things are like to change dramatically in the space industry as it gets more industrialized.

Presently most of the equipment for space missions is small in number and unique, often made by craftsmanship. Whereas in the past building of a satellite took about nine months, processes, also supported by emerging additive manufacturing technologies in metal as well as in ceramics, now constructing three satellites per day (!) is one of the bold goals. Industrializing production processes, and keeping the highest standards is a challenge and an opportunity at the same time, bringing the relevance of lean (LAI, Lean Aerospace Initiative (1993-2012) by MIT), Industry 4.0 and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) into perspective. In this context, it is also worth to mention the conference on Industry 4.0 in Dresden, called "Industrie 4.0 - Sachsen stellt sich auf" (#SachsenIndustrie40).

During the event and afterwards it came up several times in personal conversations that the region, and especially Dresden with its legacy in material sciences, additive manufacturing expertise (the Fraunhofer Campus in Dresden is about to become a major research and applied research hub in the field)), the aerospace legacy and other technology fields may play a larger role than is presently visible in the space industry that is currently becoming more industrialized and scaling up. In this context, as scaling production processes need enlarged quality management efforts, Jakob Kania, founder and CEO of Support Q GmbH, was introduced. Support Q GmbH, based in the most eastern part of Saxony focuses on services enabling suppliers to deliver products, especially to the automotive industry to high-level quality standards. Jakob Kania had attended earlier last year a market research tour by WFS to Mexico where during one of the tour meetings a conversation with the head of the Mexican Automotive Supplier Association took place. This rather "unexpected" conversation pulled up a new potential market chance in Mexico where the automotive industry is currently scaling production, and with it as well as driven by rising production in the U.S. OEM plants, suppliers are coping with rising quality challenges with ramping production.

The key learnings from this press talk that might be useful for other industry leaders as well:
  1. take a long breath when working on something visionary (e.g. space technology)
  2. focus on core competencies and specific capabilities where you are a master in the field
  3. take opportunities (even when the outcome can not be clearly defined)
  4. never underestimate the value of an organization or region due to its size and position 
  5. observe closely how industry reality shifts swiftly with exponential technology advancement

Update per 2017-06-28 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

U.Lab - a self-learning orientated vehicle to shape the future together

#ULab has begun, and the social field is in the process of being cultivated. Now already by two u.lab hubs in Saxony: Leipzig & Dresden. Activities within Saxony check #ulabsaxony

Interested to learn about projects, and get to know change makers, and passionate people in Saxony, and from around the globe?

Join in the current MOOC "u.lab - Leading From the Emerging Future"

To have a quick overview, whether this could be something for you (personally), the organization you are part of or the community you are living in, here are some links (including some in German) or have a look at the Presencing Institute

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Seeds From 2008 are Emerging into #CitizenScienceLab

#CitizenScienceLab - A System Dynamics Think Tank for a Smart Zero Net Carbon City h/t @ClimateCoLab giving the opportunity through the Smart Zero Carbon Cities Challenge


Exponentially towards a future with net zero carbon output by engaging individuals & organizations, providing scalable learning & prosperity. (2016-05-23)

For more?

Read through the proposal to the very end (where the whole story is told in short)


Why don't you join "u.lab - Leading From the Emerging Future"(starting September)?

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Singularity and Exponential Change - April 20-21, 2016 Where is More to Learn

In "The Singularity Is Near" futurist and now Google's Chief Engineer Ray Kurzweil predicts a not so distant time in the future when computers have more computing power than humans, and will actually bring it on the road.

The metaphor "The Singularity" is taken from physics where it is used to describe the unpredictable chaos that is following the development of a "black hole".

What seems to most of us as a purely Sci-Fi dreamlike utopia or even dystopia can be felt already some forms that things are changing around us so fast that we as individuals and especially organizations often haven't learnt extensively how to cope with it.

Whole industries and their key players are threatened by digital competitors like the film industry with Kodak once being the "poster child". Despite the fact that an engineer at Kodak developed the first digital camera, which of course back in the day showed the concept, and the starting point of an exponential process that started at such a low level that the company denied any substantial progress on its development only to see itself filing bankruptcy for Chapter 11 in early 2012 (in 2013 Kodak rose again, though with a much smaller workforce, as a technology company).

What does it tell us?

Exponential technologies enable new-comers in the traditional business and industry fields to take advantage of digital technologies outpacing the business models of the traditional players, as Instagram, Pinterest and others did with Kodak.

Should your industry, and organization fear the same fate? Why, if you are open to see what is happening now already and where the exponential trajectory may lead impacting your own business models.

What till now was possible to learn at on a super-fast learning trip to Silicon Valley's unique think and do tank Singularity University either on a 10-week summer course or various shorter workshop offers at executive level now is coming to Germany with #SUGermanySummit (hashtag) in Berlin from April 20-21, 2016.

Most often we are stuck in our disciplinary boundaries. As a cartographer might not reach into #Industrie40 space and yet layout digitization might be a huge improvement factor in future production scenarios. So why not cross-learn what exiting technologies are around that might have positive impacts on our industry and work field. Engineered serendipity as described in article stemming from the Aspen Ideas Festivals 2014 might be exactly what participants (especially newcomers to the Singularity University community, as it is their first official appearance in Germany organized by SU Ambassador for Germany Stephan Balzer) will get.

Be open. Get overwhelmed. Take the relevant knowledge out of the conversation.

Even if you can't be in Berlin in person connecting via digital technology, namely in the communication such as Twitter, Facebook or else and check out the speaker line-up, and program on the SingularityUniversityGermanySummit website.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Vibrant University Engagement - Exponential Knowledge Flows

An empathic, energetic, open minded, networked, student-life interested staff member needs a way to effectively to engage relevant university stakeholders, et. al. on one goal because otherwise energies of engaged staff members are wasted and engagement goes to zero.
Here is what emerged of different ideas, and got resurfaced while doing a MOOC together with an energized international team #CitizenScienceLab:
  1. weekly online meeting (30min) of heads of staff/ departments about ongoing things (minutes shared publicly within the university)
  2. public online forum (within university net)
  3. free WiFi access in all campus premises (including cafeteria) for students, staff, and alumni
  4. gamification of interdepartmental communication
  5. Facebook page with interactive elements (providing credit points to students who involve, and staff, professors) 
  6. Systems Thinking/ System Dynamics as new curriculum (touching all other departments
  7. real-world (within the university) use cases on improvements
  8. a startup accelerator within the university (without public funding, in order to enable students to learn to run a business earn money for the rent, and learn for future work)
  9. publish all (!) thesis 
  10. only allow thesis with companies that are fully published to public (so knowledge is spreading across disciplines, and time)
  11. OLED-flat screen at university cafeteria
  12. WikiWall at very places within the university campus where different disciplines meet
  13. publishing the regulations of certain university-related funding projects
  14. entrepreneur boot camps as part of the general curriculum for all departments (including distance learning teams)
  15. providing funding for conference attendees at other universities around the globe to learn what their approaches are
  16. create ambassador teams of alumni (physical)
  17. create ambassador teams of alumni (virtual, e.g. just on Twitter/ Facebook)
  18. making it for new professorships a must to have a Twitter account
  19. alumni days
  20. summer school
  21. entrepreneurial incubator (funded)
  22. eliminate paper work across the staff
  23. deliver laptops/ mobile devices to all staff (with usage tracking)
  24. person tracking so one can find relevant discussion partners across campus (either professors, students)
  25. creating an alumni network with added value (what?) for them
  26. allow alumni to use university web services/ free of charge WiFi around campus
  27. mentor-mentee groups (with alumni)
  28. organize tours to companies that are run by alumni
  29. create multidisciplinary teams to solve city-based challenges (becoming part of the curriculum)
  30. establish an Ultimate Frisbee league (leadership, tracking of body movements, mobile computing application, interdisciplinary, competition)
  31. encourage staircase using (instead of the elevator) by providing incentives (to be used via swipecards) for staff, and students
  32. Install seating opportunities in prominent areas of the campus where large, diverse mass of people flow by
  33. engage special interest groups for improvement of processes e.g.. Lean Thinking, System Dynamics
  34. engage politicians to do empathy walks for a day through the campus, telling in realtime what is good/ tricky / learned / action (#PresencingStatus)
  35. Doing a #PresencingStatus (What is good? What is tricky? What have I learned? Next minimal viable action?) as a standard process for incoming students (after four weeks, bachelor students in their 2nd year, master students in their 1st year, professors, staff members) and publish those findings
  36. engage as a university (with the non-obvious challenges around the transition from university to work) during the Global Entrepreneurship Week, and Lean Startup Workshops in Dresden, that I plan to organize)
  37. open-door policy
  38. student counseling 15 min with #PresencingStatus - on a PostIt® for all, see
  39. establishing standard processes to bring university news across floors, departments, and stakeholders (e.g. web-based standardized documents)
  40. bringing the needs, and challenges of the different departments within the university to the public (#PresencingStatus)
  41. lowered workload
  42. single-entry-point where news from all faculties streams in in real-time
  43. drawing together public websites of faculties where news come up
  44. make sure that once published work is reachable even when servers, URL are changed in the future
  45. automatic streaming of information about departments, university, student work, events
  46. include the relevance of serendipity into the curriculum, and on the website of the university (with given examples where it turned to amazing results)
  47. bringing together technical departments with non-technical departments on student projects
  48. GoogleHangouts with alumni interviews (standard questions, #PresencingStatus; once a week, public, inviting up to 8 students
  49. Workshops on specific topics led by alumni at the university (live streamed) to give students the work experience 
  50. lowering workload of staff members (what is really necessary? what is helping the student? what is going wrong over and over again (systemic failure)?
  51. Interactive both like @SenseableCity's bus stop in the university entrance hall where bypassers can leave a message
  52. RSS feed connecting hub bringing news of different departments up in realtime 
  53. microblogging / chat program for all staff members (indicating online status, so questions/proposals/meetings can be done online/offline at no constraint
  54. glass doors at offices
  55. 3D-model of university campus with appropriate origin of information from RSS-info (point 52.) so deeper inquiry can be done directly
  56. smartphone app for university microblogging, and location-based  - with gamification incentive (such as most direct contact with professors, response-time evaluation)
  57. online, visualization of room occupance in the buildings around campus (who, what, when) - so interesting thesis presentations or such can be visited
  58. creating an ideation environment (dschool-like) within easy reach within campus main building, inviting also outsiders (for fresh ideas)
  59. University speed-dating evenings on challenging questions that students and stuff bring up over and over again
  60. PlasticLogic (electronic paper) in the main hall visualizing all courses and their rooms currently so one gets an overview
  61. WikiWall-net within campus (8x8 matrix for each department that is fed by automatic RSS-feeds + individual input), with daily capturing
  62. MIT Sloan CONDOR solution to track the information flow across the floors, and departments (without tracking exact names), so information constraints or overload can be examined
  63. semantic-web solution to capture information flow 
  64. put the formal curriculum out of work and create an entrepreneurial university - learning by doing only (like Team Academy, including the given faculties as the grounding)
  65. open office building like BMW Plant Leipzig,
  66. bilingual website to attract foreign students to include other cultures
  67. sponsoring of books to the library (with mention of the giver in the book and electronic catalog including how to be reached via social web)
  68. Yearbook of all students (current) and electronic (printed on-demand basis) supplement with all alumni (with current base, work position)
  69. Upon entering university short one-page pitch (person, background, interests, hobbies, social media presence, past work, picture, etc.)
  70. Staff yearbook (and one-pager or three tags # on each person)
  71. University BarCamp (during the week; free for all - practical design thinking workshops with practical relevance - get all stakeholders into dialogue
  72. Twitter account for each department just like MIT Cambridge (e.g.
  73. Professors on Twitter (have a single entry point to find their accounts; e.g.
  74. Short cafeteria-based 5-10 min workshops about what to write on Twitter or share in general (e.g. )
  75. Creating a "creative communication office" (e.g. Orbiting the Giant Hairball, The Creative Paradox), one person as knowledge flow catalysator
  76. Chartering a train (for roughly 700 persons), and run a week-long boot camp train tour (having flip charts, WiFi, and other facilities onboard)
  77. sponsor a university world tour to learn who other universities tackle the challenge of communicating across campus
  78. Initiate "viral campaigns" about news about the university that have to be spread into the public, and across campus
  79. run ideation workshops (public to anybody) with oversized electronic boards for visualization
  80. Surface table and touch-sensitive whiteboards in hallway 
  81. visualize flow of moving information across different departments (especially on where waiting time appears) - these are the points where intervention and inquiry into root causes are most effective
  82. no data closure on information flow
  83. put a system dynamics department into place to act as internal flow improvement accelerator
  84. writing a book by alumni "What was really really good, and should be replicated from the old days"?
  85. inviting alumni and professor emeritus, as well as staff who have left the university 20 years ago - engage in dialogue to learn from them
  86. on entering the building send via your smartphone on what was hindering good information flow yesterday
  87. Café outside at the entrance where all meet
  88. encourage staff and students to take tram and bus (gamification, such as meeting at least two people of the university to talk with on the bus and so get into conversation)
  89. regular fire alarms (every quarter) - that is when people meet
  90. make a day when every staff member wears a name badge with name, department, and three hobbies/ interests
  91. create an open day in departments (one by one) and enable that others learn about your work and challenges
  92. Job rotation (and only for a few days) so to see what the others do 
  93. internships for university students (of all faculties) by university at fields that students feel could be improved
  94. cross-faculty projects that have the intend to generate revenue in a lean startup approach
  95. mentor firechats (live covered by students on Twitter)
  96. students mentor staff on new media usage in business context
  97. open office with laptop use, and only electronic documents (paper scanned directly)
  98. smartphone app where small incremental improvements indivuals have achieved within university information & knowledge flow (e.g. establishing an alumni group, or a Twitter account)
  99. Innovation Nights where students pitch 5 min (5 pages) improvement ideas on things that bother them, sponsored catering/ drinking
(taken from my first assignment of #DTActionLab MOOC 2013 offered by Stanford University)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Disruption - Social AND Technological Paired

Three events that don't see connected too much, and yet they perhaps are showing one of the great "opportunity windows" of our time.

(1) Quite recently "U.Lab - Transforming Business, Society, and Self" a MOOC with about 40k registered participants led by M.I.T. Senior Lecturer Otto Scharmer has come to an end. (2) At the same time Singularity University (an institution founded by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil and based on the impact of exponential technologies on bold challenges that humanity faces these times) is getting unexpected awareness. (3) In Paris are meeting the heads of state of 195 (!) countries to discuss, debate and come to a joint agreement on how to tackle what we get aware on a global scale across all possible boundaries: climate change

(1) When during a book stand stroll I stumbled across a book with a peculiar name "Presence" I wasn't really aware until the Financial Crisis hit Germany about a year later. Disruptive economic impact could be almost felt and seen over night, Qimonda a chip manufacturer closed in Dresden in mid 2009, a washing powder production plant in Genthin was about to be shut down in late 2008.

The question that came up in 2008 in my mind, "Isn't that a waste of human capital in the purest sense? Shutting down a plant. Resettling all the high-paid experts to other regions. Getting social work relations to regrow. ... can this be transformed in a positive way by bringing digital technology to create economic, and social value alike?"

Around that time the news about a newly set up institution in Silicon Valley and the name Ray Kurzweil reached the city of Dresden (2), and so the idea to pair social and technological impact found its way into a working prototype in the city over some months. Dozens of interested people joined in, and were eager to find solutions to the severe economic conditions. An old ballroom was quickly found, things began moving in even more exponential manner, and digital communication combined with "Theory U" (the follow-up book and approach for large-scale social change) was meant to be the "magic sauce" to make the "impossible reality".

The vision of pairing technology and social innovation (Theory U) took hold, and emerged over the years into several smaller prototypes, and experiments (to be found on this post on another blog).

The concept that emerged in summer 2014, largely after a professor in nano-technology had given a short interview on the essence of applied research and the current lack of academics, business and society to make positive wide-spread use through new products, and services made it into the Global Plan 2014 of the MIT Climate CoLab. It stayed there as a handed in proposal waiting to be grown at the appropriate opportunity.

(3) Lastly a few days ago on Monday, November 30, 2015 the 21st Conference of Parties (COP21) started and the world is looking what the leaders of the world we come up with to tackle climate change, or in other words "to aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, with the aim of keeping global warming below 2°C"

Three disconnected seeming events that when you get yourself on your "mental helicopter" and rise some hundred meters above ground level, or even well into Space ("Overview Effect") there is a glimpse to do together as a global society what Kelvy Bird has captured during an event last year in the little town of Nauen close to Berlin.

We are all connected on this small planet called EARTH and eco-awareness at large through technology is possible, if we choose together to do so!

Why not? What is holding us individually and collectively (across all possible boundaries) back? What would set us loose to achieve?

In this sense welcoming your thoughts - Ralf