Joint conference of the Chemnitz University of Technology and the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy
Participants in the conference «Milestones and prospects of the knowledge-based economy» addressed the question and relevance of knowledge for the economy of the 21st century on the 14th and 15th of September 2017 at Chemnitz University of Technology. Together with the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW in Leipzig, TU Chemnitz invited experts from economic, social, historical and cultural sciences to consider the past, present and future of the knowledge economy from different perspectives and to take part in an interdisciplinary discussion.
«The prospects that economic and engineering sciences have developed on research issues is not enough to respond to a complex question like knowledge economy. Individuals and their ideas are able to thrive better in interdisciplinary teams. With our prospect of applied research and our participation in the conference, we are creating the innovation space that enables researchers to make interdisciplinary contributions», explained Professor Dr. Thorsten Posselt, Director of Fraunhofer IMW in the run up to the conference.
Dr. Yaman Kouli, research associate at the Professorship of Economic and Social History at Chemnitz University of Technology, moderated the interdisciplinary dialogue and put questions and results into a historical framework and context. He emphasised the social responsibility of the specialist disciplines before the conference. «Although the knowledge-based economy and industry change is one of the key issues of discussion today, social science and economics historians are not really involved in the public debate. Their involvement is essential in order to understand whether recent trends, such as digitalization, are profound revolutions or just a continuation of old developments».
In the introduction, Dr. Kouli described the approaches of different disciplines to describe knowledge-based production. This included, among other things, the sociological concepts of knowledge society as well as the indicators innovation (innovation sociology, economics) and human capital (economics, economic history or cliometrics). The qualified historian criticized the lack of interaction between disciplines, which explains why contradictions cannot be revealed.
Dr. Thomas Schuetz from the University of Stuttgart and Dr. Philipp Klimant, TU Chemnitz, challenged the panel over the «Problematic areas in the knowledge-based economy». Dr. Schuetz explained the development of reverse osmosis filtration technology from advanced to everyday technology – a development that was also greatly facilitated by a large supply of skilled labour. Engineer Dr. Philipp Klimant dealt with the transformation of developing industrial production, which poses considerable challenges to the manufacturing industry. This aspect now also affects small and medium-sized enterprises however it can still generate a positive return on investment.
Dr. Riad Bourayou, research manager at Fraunhofer IMW, discussed the problems on the topic of «Work» by outlining the range of work at the Fraunhofer Society’s socio-economic institute. (Photo: Fraunhofer IMW)
The ensuing presentations were on the topic «Work in the knowledge-based economy». In his presentation, Dr. Martin Krzywdzinski addressed the question of what the digital transformation means for future workforce structures. In view of the increasing digitization of production processes, predictions regarding deskilling and upskilling contrast with each other. Sociologist Krzywdzinski noted that the present predictions are methodically insufficient and therefore a plausible assessment is not currently fair. Dr. Riad Bourayou, research manager at Fraunhofer IMW, discussed the problems on the topic of «work» by outlining the range of work at the Fraunhofer Society’s socio-economic institute. This included, among other things, the conceptual design of business models and the creation of future scenarios, for example, against the background of digital transformation. Professor Dr. Markus Hertwig predicted the effects of digitization of the economy for future types of work. Change is likely to bring about potential for conflict, at least for certain subgroups, such as homeworkers.
The third and final panel questioned the prospects of the knowledge-based economy. Stephanie Tietz, Julia Bressler, Dr. Katja Werner and Professor Dr. Peter Pawlowsky described a specific example of how digital transformation of business models may proceed. It turned out that the investment costs are also remarkable in practice. At the same time, the acceleration of digitization is personal, so its success depends, among other things, on how strongly individuals contribute to its implementation.
The perceived relevance of knowledge as a resource for industry and the economy was contrasted with specific project work at universities and non-university research institutions, such as the Fraunhofer Society and the Leipzig-based Fraunhofer IMW, which is orientated towards the knowledge economy. Conversely, in a contribution from Professor Dr. Thorsten Posselt, institute director and holder of the Chair for Innovation Management and Innovation Economics at the University of Leipzig, the specific economic significance of knowledge economy for the area of economics and innovation, especially with regard to the new German federal states, became clear.
Dr. Sabine Hofmann dealt with Israel as a specific example. In this way, she showed that the state played a key role in creating innovation. Furthermore, increased cooperation was sought with international players. Admittedly, this development did not run smoothly, as demonstrated by the social protests during 2011-2014 within Israeli society.
In summary, digital transformation was plausibly placed in a developmental context with the knowledge-based economy during the conference. Many issues could be fully discussed. Through the contributions, the multifaceted and broad ranged nature of problems associated with the digital transformation of the economy – undoubtedly a megatrend – could be identified, albeit with numerous open questions. For example, differences between states and economic cultures could benefit from further investigation. All results will be processed in 2018 in the form of conference proceedings and jointly published by TU Chemnitz and Fraunhofer IMW in Leipzig.