• Ramona Pop, Brain City Berlin

    "Berlin is a city of innovation"

The Berlin Brandenburg Innovation Award has been awarded since 1992. The aim of the competition: to present and promote future and marketable developments by start-ups, established companies or networked research institutions. This year the number of applications was 221, which is higher than ever before. 69 submissions alone came from partnerships of science and industry. On 27 November the winners will be announced in Livestream. Ramona Pop, Mayor of Berlin and Senator for Economics, Energy and Public Enterprises, in an interview with Brain City Berlin. 

Ms. Pop, what characterizes the innovative spirit of Berlin? 

Berlin is a city of innovation and is strong in the future sectors: As the undisputed start-up capital of Germany, the trends of digitization are conceived and promoted here. Practically all DAX and numerous international corporations have their digital subsidiaries located in Berlin. The Joint Innovation Strategy with Brandenburg (InnoBB 2025) has focused for years on sectors that will be particularly in demand after the crisis such as the health, energy and mobility sectors. Here we have particularly strong players in business and science. The lessons of the virus are: To promote crisis resilience and digitization and tackle the decarbonization of industry in good time in order to combat the climate crisis. The Berlin economy will be able to offer solutions for precisely this, both to the rest of the country and to the world. The mixture of creativity and science, of training and research and companies that use the knowledge produced here for new products and business models makes Berlin a city of innovation.

The transfer of knowledge between research and business is a key strength of Brain City Berlin. To what extent does this interdisciplinary networking inspire the innovative strength of the capital region?

The networking of research and business is essential for the innovative strength of the capital region, and in this way, different perspectives are thought out together. Transfer approaches and joint projects, which are created in particular as part of the joint cluster work and also the Berlin Brandenburg Innovation Award, activate the existing research and development potential along the entire value chain. We are moving forward and are expanding the various locations for networking and development. In this way start-up centres, incubators and accelerators – for example in science and technology parks, companies and scientific institutions – have a permanent place in our city.

This year the number of submissions for the Berlin Brandenburg Innovation Award is particularly high. 69 submissions alone come from partnerships between business and science. What do you attribute that to?

It is wonderful that we have received more applications than last year. 69 submissions from partnerships between business and science alone shows that the approaches to strengthening knowledge and technology transfer introduced in the master plan for the Industrial City Berlin and in the joint innovation strategy are becoming more and more visible and are having a greater impact. It will certainly be a great challenge for the jury to select the winners from among all the submissions.

One of the objectives of the Joint Innovation Strategy of the Berlin and Brandenburg is to support regional actors in meeting the challenges of tomorrow in an innovative way. What are the future challenges for the business and science region Berlin?

The business and science region Berlin is currently still facing the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. In the medium and long term, however, the focus will be on other challenges. These include future-related topics such as digital health, clean technologies and intelligent transport systems. Furthermore, there are many other challenging tasks beyond the cluster boundaries in terms of digitization, sustainability or professional development. Technology fields such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) or the Internet of Things (IoT) are rapidly growing in economic importance as cross-sectional areas. So, there is a lot ahead of us. With innoBB 2025, we have created a very good basis to address these issues and to put the economic development of the capital region on an even more solid footing.

The current coronavirus pandemic is probably the greatest challenge for business, science and society in Berlin at this time. Does the crisis force the stimulation of the innovative strength of the region? 

Right now we are seeing: A crisis like the current coronavirus pandemic is not only a major challenge for society as a whole, but it also creates innovation. With the Berlin Brandenburg Innovation Award, we want to draw attention to companies that are coming up with intelligent solutions for the challenges of our times. Support for local companies during the coronavirus crisis, sustainable ideas for generating renewable energies and quick solutions in administration - that is how diverse and up-to-date this year's submissions for the Berlin Brandenburg Innovation Award 2020 are. They strengthen the economic power, create sustainable jobs and are proof of the lively innovation culture in the capital region. 

What significance do alliances like the Berlin University Alliance and the non-university network “Berlin Research 50” have for the innovative strength of Berlin?

Alliances such as the BUA or the non-university network “Berlin Research 50” are important cooperation platforms for the international science metropolis of Berlin. They have set themselves the long-term goal of transforming Berlin into an integrated research area and the leading science location in Europe and to act as a platform for dialogue between research, politics and society. This offers great opportunities for the innovative strength of Berlin, for example with regard to joint structures and strategies in the areas of spin-offs or internationalization and in the implementation of an effective and efficient transfer of knowledge and technology.

If you could wish for something for the future of the Science location Berlin, what would it be?

For the future, I would wish for an even more strongly integrated research area for the Science location Berlin, comprising universities, industry and civil society. The city looks back on a varied history as an industrial and scientific metropolis and now has the unique opportunity to play among the world’s best with an excellent ecosystem. We are already on the right track. The Nobel Prize awarded to Emmanuelle Charpentier from the Berlin Max Planck Institute shows what is possible.

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