THEnsgar Hinz speaks in anger. "I am a technician," the president of the Association of Electrical Engineering, Electronics and Information Technology (VDE) apologizes suddenly in the middle of his presentation. "That's probably because I'm so emotional about this topic."
Hinz has a lot to say about the beginning of the world's largest industrial fair, Hannover Messe. "Obviously, we are too good to realize that the swan song at the industrial site in Germany has begun," complains the association's representative. "Especially when we talk about decisive future technologies, cross-cutting methods and skills, we are still a mediocre average in the world comparison." Anyway, Hinz is right: "The Made in Germany brand is disappearing."
Above all, the subject of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is to direct the representative of the industry. "Germany has not recognized the dimensions for years and rested on its prosperity and status quo. Now the competitive position is modest compared to Asia and the US," says Hinz with reference to the current VDE-Tec-Report 2019. A survey published in this study sees Germany far from good results in this central issue for the factories of the future.
Siemens is the only German company in 16th place
Only 1% of the 1300 companies and universities surveyed attribute a pioneering role to the industrialized country of Germany. By far the leaders are the US and China, followed by Japan, Israel and South Korea.
"60% of all global patent applications for AI come from the US, closely followed by China," the VDE report says. Of the German companies, only Siemens reached 16th place. "In Innovation KI, the difference to the top of the world seems unattainable," says Hinz.
Hinz obtains approval from the Association of German Engineers (VDI). The professional organization also conducted a survey among its members. The result: Germany loses the connection with KI. Only 14% of the 700 engineers interviewed see the Federal Republic in a good position. That's not even half as much as the previous year when VDI asked the same question before.
On the other hand, China, which now sees almost 61% of engineers in a leading role, has recorded gains. The Chinese are just behind the US, with a consent rate of almost 68%. "The result is worrying," says VDI President Volker Kefer. "In addition to the fact that almost two-thirds of experts believe we do not have the skills in Germany to use AI technologies efficiently." Against the backdrop that artificial intelligence promises substantial productivity gains, this may be the case in the future. a huge brake on the economy.
There are several reasons for the complicated situation, according to the associations. For example, lack of money. "More than half of companies and universities complain that in Germany and Europe there are not enough funds to implement revolutionary technical changes," says VDE chief Hinz.
Although politics seems to have identified AI as a strategic issue. "The federal government is alarmed," Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) said at the opening of the Hannover Messe. However, she was not sure enough, "if we already have the prerequisites to actually play around the world." The goal is to help boost investments of three billion euros by 2025.
In addition, Merkel has announced closer cooperation with Sweden, this year's partner country of the world's largest trade fair. However, from Hinz's point of view, this is far from enough: "In international comparison, these are just trace elements."
US and China use data much more intensively
In fact, many are investing in other dimensions. China, for example, is worth $ 150 billion in AI by 2030, it is said. In the US, it is $ 1.3 billion per year. Two years ago, there were almost seven billion dollars. "In addition, there are the full safes of the world's leading technology companies such as Amazon, Alphabet, Microsoft, Apple and Facebook," says Hinz. "We're never going to follow that."
From the federations' point of view, more problems are added – about attitude. "At first we are concerned about this," says Hinz. In the US and China, data would be used without restriction for research. "And we're discussing morality and data protection." At the same time, the infrastructure in this country is inadequate.
Nor are there any experts – and therefore know-how. According to VDI, in the fourth quarter of 2018, an average of 126,000 jobs per month was available in the engineering and information technology job market. This is also different in the Far East. "The 20% of the most talented Chinese in the universities of the People's Republic of China are, in total, more than all the students in Germany together," says Hans Schotten, scientific director of the German Research Center for AI in Kaiserslautern (DKFI). Germany must therefore continue to open itself up to foreign students. "That's no alternative."
DFKI is highly recognized around the world. Schotten agrees with the associations: "I already see a certain drama," he says. "Germany's position is threatened in some areas of AI more than that." However, the scientist sees opportunities in certain fields of technology. Not in the so-called B-to-C field, that is, in consumer applications. But very well in at least selected industrial areas.
"We have to unite AI in a concentrated way with those industrial sectors where Germany has the greatest competence, for example in mechanical engineering, automation, logistics or automotive engineering." The strength lies in the combination of know-how on industrial processes and automation. as with a modern AI method kit. "It's only possible with a clear focus."