Interview with Clemens Baumgärtner

19 November 2019

1. How have your city policies incentivised Munich to be a leading city for creatives and entrepreneurs and how do these policies reflect Munich’s overall strategy on Innovation?

Munich’s policy towards creatives and entrepreneurs is based on the so called ‘Perspektive München’ (Munich perspective), that was first voted through in 1998 and has been regularly updated ever since. Originating from one of its guidelines ‘Munich – city of knowledge’ we develop and support a diverse range of promising initiatives and formats to incentivise the creative and entrepreneurial sector.

The most important governance structure for innovation within the city and based on those findings is the Team of Excellence for Culture and Creative Industries which is an innovative administrative structure by itself. Combining three city departments; the culture, the real estate and the department for economy and labour, this team is innovative administration itself. Companies from the creative industries can find free consultancy there, networking opportunities and training possibilities. A crowdfunding platform as well as a designated funding programme allow for access to adequate financing and international programmes increase market access. Finally, and most importantly for Munich, it offers real estate opportunities to young entrepreneurs and start-ups with a creative industries background. This matrix was built to offer companies from the creative branch a one stop shop service within the city administration.

For example, right now we are building the Munich Urban Colab in a public-private partnership with the UnternehmerTUM, which will be the new innovation and incubator centre for Smart City Solutions, providing over 11,000 square meters of co-working spaces and prototype building facilities. The city of Munich supports different ecosystems by organising events like the city’s Open Data Hackathon, by partnering with other cities, for instance with Amsterdam in the Dialog Kreativ, by co-operating in the Munich Start-up portal, or simply by sponsoring or supporting local events. The city administration itself is also opening itself more and more to innovative ideas and is testing new technologies and applications in real municipal test fields, whether in European Projects such as Smarter Together or in the context of our yearly innovation challenge.

Nevertheless, we appreciate, that we can still further improve our innovation policy. We do so by defining our strategy in certain fields in more detail. As such, we are currently writing an integrated smart city action programme for example.

2. Could you describe how citizens are involved in the process of developing creative and resilient solutions to counter challenges of rapid social and economic transformation, as well as strong competition and the environment?

Munich continues to be one of Europe’s growth motors. We have, however, only been able to maintain this position by actively accompanying the economic change over the past 30 years. On the one hand, the Munich Employment and Qualification Programme has helped unemployed workers or workers threatened by unemployment to qualify further. In cooperation with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce and other institutions, we have taken care to ensure that the placement of jobseekers in the local economy functions smoothly. Through this we are able to offer new prospects to people affected by job loss as well as growth opportunities to small and medium-sized enterprises in the region. On the other hand, we have shaped the transformation of the economic structure by actively promoting entrepreneurship and business start-ups.

We take the concerns of citizens about digital change and global competition seriously and always aim to strike a balance between all interests. A good example of this is the Smarter Together project:

New solutions for the city of tomorrow have to always be developed with the needs of citizens in mind. It is therefore very important to involve them in the development process and give citizens the opportunity to have their say.

The city of Munich already has a long history of citizen engagement be it in the involvement of citizens in the further development of our urban development concept ‘Perspektive München’ or in the implementation of concrete projects such as the Smart City project Smarter Together.

In the EU funded project Smarter Together, citizen engagement plays a very big part. Smarter Together is a project that tests different smart city solutions in the areas of mobility, energy and technology in the Munich project area. For this purpose, it is important to gain the support and trust of the neighbourhood residents.

One main objective of the Smarter Together project was to mobilise citizens and stakeholders in the civic engagement process. It aimed to inform residents and stakeholders about the Smarter Together process, to raise awareness and to transfer basic knowledge about the planned smart solutions. This included using existing media channels to spread information about the project within the district and to the wider public. During Smarter Together we also developed an intensive form of public participation, giving residents who took part the chance to channel their ideas and concerns into the concept and design of planned infrastructure measures. Co-design workshops took place in cooperation with experts from the project’s industry and research partners.

In the development phase of the project we hosted 25 co-design workshops for smart city solutions for residents of the project area. We offered 6 technology workshops with approx. 140 participants as well as 5 mobility workshops with approx. 100 participants. Altogether we had more than 4,000 interested visitors to the Urban Living Lab that either came to get information on current developments or participated in a workshop

3. Public private partnerships can foster new ideas for sustainable and innovative ecosystems How is your city enhancing public and private cooperation to foster a sustainable and creative city?

At present the city is building the Munich Urban Colab (MUC), the founder and innovation centre of the future, together with UnternehmerTUM GmbH. This project has been a model, also for other cities.

UnternehmerTUM (UTUM) offers founders an all-round service from the initial idea to the IPO. A team of experienced entrepreneurs, scientists, managers and investors supports start-ups in the development of their products and services. More than 200 employees actively support the development of the company, market entry and financing – also with venture capital.

The city of Munich is breaking new ground in the development of the creative quarter on the site of the former Luitpoldkaserne barracks and the adjoining area by creating an new urban city quarter in which living and working are combined with art, culture and knowledge. Existing uses are carefully further developed. The main ideas of the 2012 award-winning competition draft were further developed into a framework plan, which was the basis for the ongoing development plan procedure and the competition for the realisation of the business incubator. The Munich Urban Colab, in the immediate vicinity of the Jutier- und Tonnenhalle complex, will be the first new building to be built in the district.

The MUC, which is currently being built according to the design by Steidle Architects and focuses on Smart City Solutions, covers more than 11,000 square metres. The core piece is the prototype workshop MakerSpace, where companies, start-ups and creative people can produce prototypes and small series in 1,500 square meters with state-of-the-art machines such as large 3D printers. In addition to office and seminar rooms and the MakerSpace, the Munich Urban Colab will also feature an event area for events and exhibitions. A café and two conservatories are to provide a balance between work and play and allow the players to network with each other.

The professional industry focus of the MUC’s start-up support will be on the challenges of sustainable urbanity in metropolitan areas. Under the term ‘Smart Cities’, these solutions for urban densely populated areas are bundled. The EU’s acceptance of the Munich Smart Cities application and the innovation competition in the Smart Cities field have created additional links. The accelerator TechFounders and the other UTUM programmes can be an essential source for new start-up teams, as can comparable programmes from other universities/colleges that run in partnership with established companies and institutions. The Start-up Centre is open to all interested parties regardless of their academic background. In addition, the qualification and networking of entrepreneurs is a central task of start-up consulting.

4. As a creative and innovative hub city, Munich has been involved in multiple projects at the European level. In your opinion, what are the most important benefits of participating in European projects?

The European Union encourages the testing of new innovative approaches and technologies. This gives Munich the opportunity to provide the local economy and the local universities and research institutions with an application platform. For example, we are currently testing intelligent lighting masts and driving systems. The EU also promotes social innovation to strengthen social cohesion.

The projects are a win-win situation for Munich and Europe. By working with other cities, we can share our application experience and help the EU to remain competitive with the USA and China in terms of technology. In addition, EU projects help local authorities on the continent to prepare for global change.

5. At the EDF Forum, we will be discussing the challenges cities face regarding platform economy firms in the context of challenges and opportunities at the local level. We know that Munich is very active in this context. Could you elaborate on that?

The platform economy creates a tendency for commerce to increasingly move towards and favour digital platform business models. Digitalisation will increasingly affect all areas of life. As a technology metropolis, we actively support change and promote innovative start-ups and the implementation of innovative business models. The companies Call a bike and Flixmobility were founded in Munich and started their business there. With the city’s digitization strategy, we support Munich companies in establishing digital business processes and facing the digital age.

At the same time, change also has an impact on the city’s social fabric. This is where we need to intervene and regulate the market accordingly. One example is Airbnb, where on the one hand the rental offer enriches positively, but on the other hand it can also facilitate tax evasion and contribute to a shortage of housing. Here it is important to set the framework conditions in such a way that fair competition is maintained, and social polarisation is not additionally promoted.

6. What do you think is the added value of being part a network of big cities? How do you think cooperating with other cities can help bring forward an innovative, sustainable and European vision on innovation and city creativity?

EUROCITIES as a European network of 180 of the largest cities on the continent offers Munich the opportunity to actively participate in European politics. Without EUROCITIES, there would be no political initiatives like the Urban Agenda. Through EUROCITIES, the cities of the continent can actively and effectively present their experiences to the European Commission and the European Parliament and set local accents in the European legislative process. With the increasing shift of national policy to the European level, EUROCITIES is just as important as the German Association of Cities and Towns in Germany.

In order to fulfil their role in Europe, cities need early involvement in the work of the European institutions and information on proposed EU legislation. Here too, EUROCITIES has become indispensable. And finally: the network enables its members to exchange experiences and promotes the transfer of knowledge among themselves. This is important for the dissemination of the results of innovative projects as well as for the development of a coordinated municipal approach towards multinational corporations such as Google or Airbnb.


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer