DW: Mrs. Weiland, you are responsible for the Beyond Crisis internet platform, an initiative organized by the German government in partnership with the leading German industrial group, BDI. What is the idea behind this platform?
Ute E. Weiland: Beyond Crisis is looking for new business ideas that emerge from people during the coronavirus crisis. Platform run by Deutschland – Ein Land der Ideen [Germany — a land of ideas] partnership, and we think that we should do more than report the number of recent infections or the current death rate. Of course, this is truly terrible, especially for those affected by the crisis.
But on the other hand, we believe there are new ideas and business opportunities that have emerged from such crises. In fact, I’ve seen it quite a lot of ideas like that in the past two weeks, which has encouraged us to find partners in business to support the people behind them, and who are willing to give people hope.
Together with our partners, we also want to revive businesses that are currently bound, and to contribute to social cohesion in this country.
For how long do you plan to keep the platform open to people’s ideas, and what results do you expect?
We hope to see the first results later this week. We never intended to run the platform as an open competition, with deadlines, say, for weeks and the jury assessing entries and saying which was best afterwards.
We have designed the platform as an open process where we aspire to make all business ideas open as quickly as possible. Of course, we check all entries to see if they are serious enough.
But our main goal is to find partners and supporters for people and their ideas to make it easier for them to get their ideas. There is no final deadline for entries because there is no way to know when the crisis will end.
We started last Thursday [April 2, 2020] and will continue at least until the end of next week. In this crisis, you have to see every day how things develop, which is why we also have to see how we will proceed afterwards.
Can you elaborate a little about the competitive aspects of your initiative?
We are actually looking for different things. This can be a plan for a new business that contains all the basic facts needed to launch it.
For example, we have received a project idea involving an inflatable insulation tent that is ready to use in a few minutes and can be produced in large enough quantities if there is sufficient demand for the tent. Those who submit ideas will be in a position to start producing tents like that next week.
Managing Director of Land der Ideen Ute. E. Weiland hopes that the platform will unite people with bright ideas and people with money
Apart from that, we are interested in social initiatives which helps people overcome their daily lives. For example there is an internet platform called nebenan.de [[[[nebenan means next to], which organizes environmental support and which has grown very popular in Germany.
We gave this project four years ago, and now it is very important for elderly people who are unable or unwilling to shop alone and want someone to accompany them.
Minor repairs and similar things are also held among neighbors through this easy-to-use platform.
What’s more, at home schooling, we support projects specifically for education. I myself have a child who will take the A-level exam soon.
But we continue to wonder how it works, where we can access the teaching material needed, and what support can we expect from the teacher?
For example there is a German internet platform called schul.cloud, which started very slowly when it was launched three years ago but the demand is exploding now because all children are forced to stay at home and have to use video tutorials and lessons.
The unique strength of the platform is his data protection standards, and I hope it will continue to be used the same as when the crisis ended.
I am right in assuming that you mainly support projects that aim to serve the wider community?
True, but of course I am only satisfied if our platform supports not only two, three, four or 10 projects with wider public reach, but hopefully thousands of ideas over the next few weeks. We want to make these ideas more visible to the greater public.
Unfortunately, we cannot offer financial support either, because we don’t have the funds for that.
Nevertheless, I believe that our network efforts can bring people with projects in contact with strong financial players who may indeed be willing to help them financially.
Ute Elisabeth Weiland is the head of the Deutschland-Land der Ideen initiative, which was jointly launched in 2006 by the German government and the German Industrial Federation (BDI). The interview was conducted by business reporter DW Klaus Ullrich.