Dear readers,

the southern German region of Neckar-Alb is home to over 60 Steinbeis enterprises working in an astoundingly multifarious range of specialist fields, from textiles to production and automation technology, microelectronics, sensors, renewable energy, business information systems, marketing and management, clinical biomechanics, and regenerative medicine – just to name a few of the specialties covered by Steinbeis companies, many of which are based at local universities. The Neckar-Alb region is shaped by small and medium-sized businesses, as well as by the manual trades. Many of the companies in the area are owner-managed and the owners understand their customers’ requirements well. These frequently result in new projects for the Steinbeis Network. Collaboration between Steinbeis and local SMEs fuels novel ideas, lucrative niche products and new USPs. It also safeguards jobs. Solving problems and coming up with new concepts means moving fast, and the rate at which companies innovate must be rapid: today’s idea is tomorrow’s implementation. This is where collaboration with Steinbeis comes in, and Steinbeis is ideally geared to partnership through its smoothly running network. Turning to myself, I have been actively involved with Steinbeis for nearly 35 years. I started in technical consulting but later moved on to head up the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Process Development. At the center, our main focus is on developing new production methods across a whole host of industrial applications. Examples of our main areas of work include 5-axis CNC sink erosion (once mocked by some, now a standard process the world over) or electrochemical erosion using modular pulsed DC technology up to 10 kHz and 10,000 amperes at peak pulse (once dismissed as toying in the laboratory, now components made with this process are flying through our galaxy). During these 35 years with Steinbeis, I believe an important framework has also been established for furthering the successful development of medium-sized companies. Personal commitment is a must to ensure that innovation maintains the necessary momentum. This is not much of a problem for larger companies, since, in percentage terms, fuelling innovation has little impact on the overall workforce. But it’s a central issue for SMEs. If a company staffed by 20 employees wants to set aside two developers, that is already 10% of the manpower. The fact that SMEs still manage to develop new products is only because people – right up to the boss – essentially invest their own “part-time” resource into problem-solving, frequently with the support of Steinbeis. So it is extremely important that workers are qualified and highly trained. Ultimately, the success of SMEs boils down to their ability to “think opportunity” and “think business application and industry,” without taking their eye off the ball. Our strong partnership with the Reutlingen chamber of commerce (IHK) and its role in the Neckar-Alb region is definitely worth mentioning in this context. Everyone is singing off the same song sheet, and perhaps more importantly, they are all singing in harmony! I hope you enjoy reading this latest edition of TRANSFER and that it provides you with much inspiration. Prof. Karl Schekulin


Prof. Karl Schekulin is the director of the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Process Development in Reutlingen, just one of over 60 Steinbeis enterprises in the Neckar-Alb region. All Steinbeis centers in the area

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