Mr. Wulf, as chairman of the board at Baden-Württemberg: Connected e.V. (bwcon), you promote the interests of IT in Baden- Württemberg. What are the main topics bwcon is involved in?
According to our own statutes, the objective of bwcon is to promote strategic technology for the economic and residential regions of Baden- Württemberg. We perform two roles in this respect, which are mutually complementary and result in some interesting synergies. Firstly, bwcon is a high-tech network that has an influence throughout the whole state and beyond – the key word here is globalization. Secondly, bwcon is the biggest regional IT network in the central region along the Neckar river, with the most IT jobs amongst its members. We work with big IT companies like IBM and HP. Despite this, there are a multitude of smaller and mid-sized specialist hardware producers, plus some highly influential medium-sized providers of IT services and highly innovative software developers that run down the backbone of this network. Thirdly, bwcon is the network of user networks, which makes the results achieved in IT and science available to mid-sized users in industry and the creative business sector – the key term here is “first adopters.” At the same time, we cooperate closely with other networks. The main focuses here are travel and transportation, health care, production and energy. Fourth and finally, bwcon has a strong commitment in its work to promoting talent and startups.
In 2014, bwcon e.V. joined forces with Steinbeis and founded the limited company, bwcon GmbH. What benefits does this bring to your members and how will this help the state of Baden-Württemberg?
We wanted to exploit the opportunities that have arisen over the years as bwcon e.V. gained stronger visibility and better positioning. To do this, we needed some kind of unit which would be in a position to carry out larger projects. Steinbeis was the right partner for us. bwcon GmbH is taking on the entire ITC business with the media and film company MFG Baden-Württemberg, and it will be the operative arm of the association, although it can also take on tasks for the Steinbeis organization. The benefits for bwcon member companies stem from the synergies that are already emerging for bwcon and Steinbeis. bwcon’s strengths are its contacts and its work with industry in Baden-Württemberg. Steinbeis has exceptional access to sources of knowledge such as the universities. It has an especially strong position in terms of technology transfer, in the same way bwcon has with fostering innovation and startups. Together, this creates the portfolio of a provider of innovation services, which benefits all parties. Ultimately these are the companies and employees, and thus the economy and society in Baden-Württemberg.
Where do you expect bwcon e.V. to be in five years and where will bwcon GmbH be by then?
Companies will continue to network through the association, especially on a multidisciplinary level, to significantly enhance innovation and this fuels the competitiveness of companies from Baden-Württemberg compared to their domestic and international counterparts. The association wants to become the most powerful multi-technology business network in Europe, but not just in five years. The limited company with Steinbeis should fulfill the objectives of its umbrella organizations and always be financially independent. At the same it should bolster the impact and visibility of the Baden-Württemberg economy by working on state, national and EU projects, on behalf of, but also involving, the member companies of the association and Steinbeis Enterprises.
You are also a board member of BITKOM and the LVI. What other potential synergies do you believe that creates?
In its role as the network of user networks, bwcon e.V. not only should, but must collaborate closely with other networks. This by no means implies collaboration and competition are not possible in parallel – it’s about open innovation. Instead, networks complement each other and help all that oblige. It’s within that context that I fulfill my role as a board member for different associations.
Alf Henryk Wulf is board chairman of the non-profit association Baden-Württemberg: Connected e.V. (bwcon), a business initiative aimed at promoting innovation and Baden-Württemberg as a prime location in the high-tech industry. The association is a shareholder of the limited company bwcon GmbH which was set up with Steinbeis. Its role is to support companies, organizations and individuals in the use of strategic technologies.
Alf Henryk Wulf
Baden-Württemberg: Connected e.V. (Stuttgart)