A business promotion platform wants Germans to pitch their ideas and plans developed amid the current COVID-19 lockdown. DW spoke with Ute E. Weiland, who heads the Beyond Crisis internet platform.
DW: Mrs. Weiland, you're in charge of the Beyond Crisis internet platform, an initiative organized by the German government in a partnership with the leading German industry group, BDI. What is the idea behind this platform?
Ute E. Weiland: Beyond Crisis is looking for new business ideas that people come up with during the coronavirus crisis. The platform is run by the Deutschland — Ein Land der Ideen [Germany — a land of ideas] partnership, and we thought that we should be doing more than just report on the latest numbers of infections or the current death toll. Of course, this is really terrible, especially for those who are affected by the crisis.
But on the other hand, we believe there are new ideas and business opportunities emerging from such a crisis. As a matter of fact, I've seen quite a lot of such ideas in the past two weeks, which has prompted us to look for partners in business to support the people behind them, and who are willing to give people some hope.
Together with our partners we also want to revive businesses which are in a bind right now, and to contribute to social cohesion in this country.
For how long are you planning to keep the platform open to people's ideas, and what kind of results are you expecting?
We hope to see first results later this week. We've never intended to run the platform as an open competition, with a deadline, say, in for weeks and a jury assessing the entries and saying afterward which one is the best.
We've designed the platform as an open process in which we aspire to make all business ideas public as quickly as possible. Of course, we are checking all entries to see if they are serious enough.
Our ultimate aim is, however, to find partners and supporters for people and their ideas in order to make it easier for them to get their ideas off the ground. There's no final deadline for entries because there's no way of knowing when the crisis will be over.
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 on a daily basis how things are developing, which is why we also have to see how we will continue afterward.
Could you elaborate a bit on the competitive aspect of your initiative?
We are actually looking for different things. It can be a plan for a new business containing all the basic facts required to launch it.
For example, we've received a project idea involving inflatable isolation tents which are ready to use within minutes and can be produced in sizeable numbers should there be enough demand for them. Those who pitched the idea would be in a position to start producing such tents next week.
Land der Ideen Managing Director Ute. E. Weiland hopes her platform will bring together people with bright ideas and people with money
Apart from that, we are interested in social initiatives that help people cope with their daily lives. There is, for example, an internet platform called nebenan.de [nebenan means next door], which organizes neighborhood support and which has grown extremely popular in Germany.
We awarded the project four years ago, and it's become very important now for elderly people who are unable or unwilling to do their shopping all by themselves and want somebody to accompany them.
Small repairs and similar things are also organized among neighbors via this user-friendly platform.
Moreover, in times of home schooling, we are supporting projects devoted to education. I myself have a child who's about to take A-level exams fairly soon.
But we are constantly wondering how's that going to work, where can we access the necessary teaching materials, and what support can we expect from teachers?
There is, for instance, a German internet platform called schul.cloud, which got off to a very slow start when it was launched three years ago but for which demand is exploding right now as all children are forced to stay at home and have to use video tutorials and lessons.
The platform's unique strength is its data protection standards, and I hope that it'll continue to be used just as much when the crisis is over.
I'm I right in assuming that you primarily support projects that aim to serve the public at large?
Right, but of course I'm only satisfied if our platform supports not just two, three, four or 10 projects with a wider public outreach, but hopefully thousands of ideas over the next few weeks. We want to make these ideas more visible to a larger public.
Unfortunately, though, we cannot offer any financial support, too, because we don't have any funding for that.
Nevertheless, I believe that our networking efforts can bring people with projects in contact with strong financial players that 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 Federation of German Industries (BDI). The interview was conducted by DW business reporter Klaus Ullrich.