TDI 2023

Day of Industry: It’s time for a Zukunftswende

At the end of June 2023, the highly anticipated industry conference “Day of Industry” (TDI), BDI’s most important event of the year, took place at Verti Music Hall in Berlin. Multiple crises are putting politics, the economy and society to the test. The turning point shakes up many things we thought were certain. However, it also gives us a chance to adapt to a changing world. Now is the time to move away from crisis mode. It is time to rethink. It is time for action. It's time to move from the German "Zeitenwende" to a #Zukunftswende.

The annual TDI, organized by the Federation of German Industries (BDI), centered around questions addressing present challenges and the path to transformation. In the face of current challenges, how can Germany and Europe effectively both confront and navigate the process of the green and digital transformation? What measures should be taken by politics and the economy to ensure global resilience and strategic sovereignty? Is the European approach to sustainable prosperity competitive in the global arena? How can Europe successfully leverage climate change as a basis for business opportunities?

With the aim to foster open dialogue, exchange opinions, and collectively seek effective solutions, BDI has opted for a hybrid format for this year's conference. Building upon the success of the previous years, this approach can promote constructive engagement between business, politics and society even amidst the various challenges we currently face.

Impressions #TDI23

The TDI has brought together the heart of the industry, with more than 80 speakers across 28 panels, multiple key notes, web talks, and eight interactive side events. Whether present at the Verti Music Hall or participating through the Livestream, over 1.700 guests actively engaged in this year's industry conference. Among the TDI 2023 highlights were speeches by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck, and Federal Minister of Finance Christian Lindner. Besides the business insights of more than 25 CEOs of German and global companies, a key focus this year was the international perspective shared by the NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the founder of the Alliance of Democracies Foundation Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as well as the French Minister of State for Europe Laurence Boone.

Chancellor Scholz: The shortage of skilled workers is the greatest break on growth in Germany

At this year’s TDI it became clear that both chancellor Olaf Scholz and BDI president Siegfried Russwurm are concerned with the shortage of skilled labor for Germany’s future economic strength. “Germany as a business location is not doing well. Recession, investment cutbacks, retrenchment are now permanent topics of discussion,” the BDI president rightfully said in his speech. The German chancellor added that, “the shortage of skilled workers is probably the greatest break of growth in Germany.” He explained that even though there have been actions taken to provide more skilled labor, it has not been enough. However, he continued, by exclusively stating that legislative proceedings have been set into motion on a more modern immigration law, with respect to more skilled workers. In fact, “the legislative majority met, and the bill will now be passed quickly.”

Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Olaf Scholz MdB © Jana Legler

China’s development “from a baby shark to a killer whale”

Olaf Scholz did not let on a lot about the China-German government consultations to be held the following day. All the more, BDI-President Russwurm made sure that the German chancellor knew exactly what the German industry was hoping they would address: “The complexity of systemic rivalry, competition and partnership is something that Germany needs to address in these government consultations. Stability through de-risking and a balance between all three dimensions has to be the heart of the German policy vis-à-vis China.”, he said in his speech.

To summarize the imminent challenges between Brussels and Peking, Theresa Fallon, founder and director of the Centre for Russia Europe Asia Studies (CREAS) used the expression, “we’ve been feeding a baby shark, and now it’s a killer whale and we thought it was gonna turn into a dolphin”. Fallon continued by stating that, “China’s ability to get what they want out of Europe using economic coercion, is a deeply disturbing issue.”

Rethinking security and responsibility in times of global crisis

The Ukrainian-Russian war was still a prominent discussion topic at this year’s Day of Industry. Special guest Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General, stated that, “we must continue to support Ukraine”. One of his main messages during his speech on Monday was that “we need to invest more as Europeans,” in our defense budget. The dependance of European countries on the U.S. when it comes to defense should not be the case and needs to be developed.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary General © Jana Legler

Quickly catching up with the digital backlog

A guiding theme for both conference days was digitalization. Germany acts like a developing country in terms of speed and state of digitization. This must change if we want to remain a competitive global player in the future, the speakers agreed. The French Minster of Europe, Laurence Boone, correctly stated: “The world has changed, and we need to adapt.” Timotheus Höttges, CEO of Telekom Germany, shared Boone’s view and urged during their panel together, that policy makers and society change their previous restrained digital course: “If we are not fundamentally changing how we are dealing with digitalization, we become only consumers and users of this digital system.”, Höttges made clear.

Jan Christian Vestre, Minister of Trade and Industry, Norway, Anne-Laure de Chammard, Group Executive Vice President and Member of the Executive Board, Siemens Energy, Nils Aldag, CEO, Sunfire, Toralf Haag, CEO, Voith © Christian Kruppa

Optimism for the German economy still prevails

The Norwegian minister of trade and industry, Jan Christian Vestre, challenged the audience with his more optimistic view on the future of Germany. In his speech and followed panel he stated that the German industry “is moving faster than ever before and as the biggest, most influential, most energetic, most important economy in Europe”. He motivated the German industry with the phrase, “together we can and will reach our goal, we can do it, but we have to want it.” In response, Anne-Laure de Chammard, Group Executive Vice President of Siemens Energy, agreed, yet demanded “to go the step further and make it concrete, implementable, less bureaucratic, more direct so that we can move faster.” The approval times of new projects allow less optimism, according to Toralf Haag, the CEO of Voith Group. As many panelists said before, he was also sure that the only way out of the current stagnation is to significantly pick up speed. Otherwise, Haag was convinced, “companies will end up leaving Germany as a business location and move to other countries.”

Dr. Robert Habeck MdB, Vice Chancellor and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action © Jana Legler

Transformation is key for a successful business location

The second day came to an end with the Minister of Economics and Technology, Robert Habeck, reassuring the audience that “for both, new and established countries, Germany is an attractive location for new technologies.” He continued by suggesting, “we need to distinguish how attractive the location is for energy intensive companies.” Habeck clearly stated that we should “support these companies now, because for reasons of strategy we want to maintain them here, so they conduct the transformation here.”

The next Day of Industry will take place on June 24 and 25, 2024 in Berlin’s Gasometer on the EUREF campus.