Reading time: approx. 8 minutes
Text: Juliane Gringer
Photos: Stefan Bungert, Digital Hub Logistics Hamburg, NautilusLog
The Digital Hub Logistics in Hamburg has been connecting established companies with start-ups and players from the fields of research and education for two years now. The former warehouse in the city’s Speicherstadt warehouse district is a place where new ideas and business models for the future of logistics are taking shape.
Instead of a suit, Berg wears a dark-blue sweatshirt depicting the nautical coordinates of Hamburg’s Speicherstadt under a ship’s knot: the end of the rope turns into a fibreglass cable – the location’s history and roots meeting its digital future. According to Berg, connection is one of the key drivers of success on the path towards this future. ‘Successful players in logistics often believe completely in what they’re doing, because they’ve had success with it for decades,’ explains Berg. ‘But increasingly rapid innovation cycles and the disruptive power of digital solutions mean that in the next ten years, they won’t have the market to themselves any more, or succeed exactly in the same way with their current processes and business models as they have done previously. That’s why it’s important to say: now, we’re doing things differently. For instance, by joining forces with a start-up or another business – or even with a competitor, if competition law allows – to develop something new.’
Twelve hubs in Germany
The hub is part of the national Digital Hub Initiative, connecting businesses with new innovation partners from the world of scientific research and the start-up scene in 12 centres of excellence in Germany. Dortmund and Hamburg focus on the subject of logistics. And they’re making a success of it: in Hamburg, there are already over 60 newcomer businesses and just under 30 partners involved in the hub. According to Berg, anyone who wants to take part must be active ‘at some stage of the logistics value chain’, or simply bring an appropriate idea to the table. They pay rent for the workstation on a monthly basis. This means that companies and start-ups usually send employees or whole teams to work there temporarily. Events such as innovation workshops, meetings and project talks can also be held at the hub.
A desk for the Minister
As well as contact with authorities, the hub’s network facilitates invitations to conferences and the opportunity to accompany delegations and discover hubs in Asia and America. Klemke’s favourite aspect of the hub is that it all runs extremely professionally, but with a refreshingly relaxed atmosphere that promotes the creativity of all co-workers in the hub: ‘there’s no formality here and hierarchies are practically dissolved – that’s very nice. This is a place where the old and new worlds of logistics come together and inspire each other.’
An exciting place to be
Within the hub, NautilusLog has already connected and collaborated with Lufthansa Industry Solutions (LHIND). The IT consulting company, a full subsidiary of Lufthansa, works internally within the group while also handling external projects in the automotive and logistics sectors. LHIND is one of the hub’s business partners supporting its work. ‘For us, the hub is an exciting place to be, as one of our goals is scouting start-ups to connect with them. And we just want to see and be part of what’s happening in this scene,’ explains Dr Moritz Schellenberger, head of Innovation Management. ‘We could have gone to other co-working spaces, but we liked this one as we’re particularly interested in logistics and mobility.’
He and his team haven’t just been able to make lots of great contacts so far. It’s also the place itself that keeps them coming back: ‘We now also put on a lot of internal events in the hub, such as design thinking workshops, as the atmosphere is very special.’ After all, when you’re invited to an official meeting at a big company, it isn’t always particularly relaxed. The hub breaks that right open. And at the end of the day, it’s scientifically proven that the environment you work in has a direct impact on your creativity,’ says Schellenberger.
The freedom to be flexible
According to Berg, for the concept to succeed, everyone involved needs to dare to immerse themselves in the new working environment and the ideas being uncovered at the hub. He then shares businesses’ joy in their successes: ‘When a new business comes in and develops prototypes with a start-up within the first two months, it’s just fantastic to watch that happen.’