March 19, 2018

A Millennium of Innovation

By H.E. Mr. Michael Kretschmer, Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony, Germany.

Germany is the economic powerhouse of Europe and one of its engines is Saxony. Situated between Berlin and Prague, Frankfurt and Cracow, the Free State of Saxony looks back upon more than ten centuries of a rich and diverse history. It is a history of pioneering spirits, daring entrepreneurship and great achievement. Once a country full of woods and wilderness, Saxony at the beginning of the 21st century is an innovation leader among European regions.

Having been elected to the office of Saxon Prime Minister in December last, it makes me proud to bear responsibility for a country whose track record spans more than a millennium. We are fond of our tradition of innovation, which brought the world inventions like the European porcelain and groundwood paper.

And we continue in that tradition. Our growth is driven by a constant stream of innovations, created in Saxony’s universities, advanced research institutions and smart companies. Saxony has established lines of research in advanced technologies ranging from energy technologies like fuel cells and biofuels, new materials like carbon concrete or high-performance ceramics, to smart textiles, cancer treatments or medical appliances. The Saxon government helps them on their way to the markets with grants and investor pitches.

With industries across the board going digital, Silicon Saxony, Europe’s biggest cluster in semiconductor R&D and manufacturing, is a vital asset. The Smart Systems Hub in Dresden, our capital city, undertakes a massive public-private R&D effort to merge hardware, software and connectivity solutions into Industry 4.0 applications for advanced manufacturing.

After more than a century of car manufacturing in Saxony, cars with internal combustion engine get company from e-cars. BMW started assembly of its pioneering i3 battery-electric vehicle at its Leipzig plant in 2013. Volkswagen assembles the e-Golf in Dresden and is currently upgrading its Zwickau plant for the exclusive assembly of electric vehicles, starting in 2020.

Technological progress needs inspiration – and our unique cultural landscape provides it. Gems like the Staatskapelle and the European Center of Contemporary Art in Dresden, the Gewandhaus orchestra and Wave Gothic Festival in Leipzig, or the industrial heritage and modern arts collection in Chemnitz cater to creative minds.

Successful growth is to a great extent depending on external demand. Nearly 40 percent of industry sales go to customers from abroad. Our number one trade partner is, unsurprisingly, China. But would you have guessed that trade with the Visegrád group of states, namely Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, totals as much as trade with France and the UK combined?

Having been part of the Eastern bloc during the Cold War, we share a common history and transformation experience. And we share a vision of our future, namely, becoming one of the most prosperous and innovative regions in the EU. Saxony fosters strong relations with its partners in Central and Eastern Europe, especially with our direct neighbors Poland and Czech Republic. We co-operate on a broad range of issues, from local government and law enforcement via cross-border road and rail infrastructure to environmental protection, R&D efforts or joint NGO activities.

Saxony actively manages relations with about 30 regions and countries of the world, among them the United States, China, Russia, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Austria, Belgium and Italy. The centerpiece of our foreign relations is economic co-operation. Take, for example, our aerospace industry. The Russian-Ukrainian joint venture VolgaDnepr operates its heavy duty Antonov freighter planes from Europe’s most sophisticated airfreight hub at Leipzig. ST Aerospace from Singapore has a major stake in our leading aerospace enterprise, the Airbus subsidiary Elbe Flugzeugwerke Dresden. And the specialist in lightweight construction, Cotesa at Mittweida, has recently forged a co-operation with Boeing.

This said, it is clear that the Saxon government supports open markets, free trade and FDI just as much as we support innovation and technology. It’s just traditional – for more than a millennium now. And it’s an invitation to explore the boundless possibilities in Saxony.


Michael Kretschmer – Picture by Pawel Sosnowski, Sächsische Staatskanzlei

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