11 March 2022 - OWL is the leading digital region in Germany

Congress Digitale Zukunft@OWL

OstWestfalenLippe is a pioneer in the digital transformation of the economy and society - and a role model for regions throughout Germany. Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, NRW Minister President Hendrik Wüst, Economics and Digital Minister Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart and Transport Minister Ina Brandes all agreed on this. On Thursday at the Digital Future@OWL congress in the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum, 59 projects showed how it's done - from smart villages to digital education programmes to cultural platforms and the strengthening of voluntary work. The organisers - Digital Model Region OWL, Heinz Nixdorf Foundation and OstWestfalenLippe GmbH - were thrilled with the results and the enormous response, with 200 participants on site and a total of 1,900 visitors watching the livestream. As initiators, they want to promote the exchange of experience and the transfer of good solutions to the entire region. They also want to jointly tackle new challenges such as sustainability and climate protection, resilience, securing skilled labour and quantum computing.

"OWL is characterised by the fact that digitalisation is seen as an opportunity, not a challenge. This combines cutting-edge technology and agility," Minister President Hendrik Wüst made clear. With the leading-edge cluster it's OWL, the region is a leader in Germany in the field of Industry 4.0. OWL also sets national standards in the digitalisation of administration and in the field of quantum computing. Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger sees the danger of Germany falling behind as a location for innovation. "We are an inventor nation and must make use of our research strength. OWL is a very dynamic region. The leading-edge cluster it's OWL successfully demonstrates how technology transfer from science to SMEs works. Germany needs more of this," Stark-Watzinger continued.

Model applications from OWL for the whole of Germany - but also new challenges

The digitisation of the administration is an important location factor. NRW Economics and Digital Minister Prof. Dr. Andreas Pinkwart has set himself the goal of decisively advancing the digitisation of administrations in North Rhine-Westphalia. "The Digital Model Region OWL has done important pioneering work for this and successfully developed many applications. The entire state can now benefit from this. Of the five model regions in NRW, OWL is number one," praised Pinkwart.

NRW Transport Minister Ina Brandes underlined the importance of the region for networked mobility in North Rhine-Westphalia. Within the framework of the REGIONALE project 'E-Line-Carsharing', for example, a new approach is being tested for the first time in Germany to close the gap between the railway station and one's own front door in rural areas. On defined routes, smaller settlements in Borgholzhausen are connected to the existing public transport system with electric vehicles. People drive themselves and can give others a lift - free of charge for owners of a local public transport ticket.

However, the discussion at the congress also highlighted new challenges for OWL and Germany. These include, above all, the current shortage of skilled workers. "The proportion of top university graduates who go into business is continually decreasing because many of them start their own companies," explains Christoph Keese, author and managing director of Axel Springer hy GmbH, who worked in Silicon Valley for a long time.

Normally, innovation cycles run one after the other. Currently, however, companies have to deal with revolutionary upheavals in many areas, for example in the fields of sustainability, resilience, energy supply and quantum computing. "This requires courage, curiosity, a sense of proportion and entrepreneurship. OWL combines all of these qualities," Keese continues.

Tackle it and move on!

Against this background, the organisers of the Digital Congress agree that they want to get stuck in and keep going. Paderborn's Chief Digital Officer Christiane Boschin-Heinz sums up: "The creative projects and the great feedback at the congress have impressively shown that OWL is very well on track. However, we can still make better and faster progress. Digitalisation still holds a lot of potential for service orientation in administrations, individual mobility, participation and volunteering."

To achieve this, the forces and activities in business, science, administration and politics must be bundled and intensified even more. OstWestfalenLippe GmbH is a good platform for this. "With our OstWestfalenLippe 2025 strategy, we have created good conditions for tackling the new challenges together. To this end, we will take up needs from the region, develop model solutions and create support services for companies and administrations. The congress was an important milestone for this and has provided a lot of impetus."

Nikolaus Risch, Chairman of the Heinz Nixdorf Foundation, is enthusiastic about the response and the results of the congress: "We have created a unique forum to bring together the many creative minds from the region. The congress format with impulse lectures, each of which was presented in three minutes, worked excellently. And I would hardly have thought it possible that we would attract so many interested parties. I am convinced that we will find ways to offer this congress format again at the HNF in about two years with updated and exciting new content."