News In Context

DLD All Stars: Building A Different Future

DLD All Stars: Building A Different Future

Even if we are still in the middle of a pandemic we need to be thinking about projects for recovery, that are fit for the future and don’t just tackle the digital challenges, but also sustainable living. That was the message of Ursula Van der Leyen, President, European Commission, a speaker at the DLD All Stars/Hubert Burda Media conference Feb. 21-23. Van Der Leyen presented the New European Bauhaus project, which is seeking the help of everyone – including corporates- to unite culture and technology, innovation and design, to bring the European Green Deal – a set of policy initiatives that aims to make Europe climate neutral in 2050 – into everyday life. Under the theme of “What The World Needs Now…” the conference also looked at the future of healthcare and work, what’s next in tech, and how to literally redesign the world.

Here are some key takeaways from DLD All Stars:

The New European Bauhaus

During her DLD talk Van der Leyen explained the rationale for launching the The New European Bauhaus project, an environmental, economic and cultural project, aiming to combine design, sustainability, accessibility, affordability and investment in order to help deliver the European Green Deal. “We need projects which make us dream, capture our emotions and stimulate creativity,” she says. While the European Commission usually creates detailed proposal, this project is something that the Commission wants to create with people from different backgrounds and professions, including artists, designers, scientists, students, digital experts and businesses. Just as the Bauhaus movement shaped society in the 20th century, the Commission wants to create a movement to anchor the green and digital transition, linking “sustainability with style and tech with culture.” As one element of the design phase, next month, the Commission will launch, the first edition of the New European Bauhaus prize. This design phase will lead to the opening of calls for proposals in autumn this year to bring to life ideas in at least five places in EU Member States, through the use of EU funds at national and regional level.

Building Greener Autos

Oliver Zipse, Chairman of the Board of Management of BMW talked about the company’s green ambitions.  “Our ambition is to build the greenest electric vehicle in our industry,” said Zipse. “From the raw material, to the supply chain to production.” The company is already thinking beyond being carbon neutral to how it can contribute to the circular economy. “We  are re-evaluating where can we use bio materials so we can better recycle at the end of a car’s life,” he said. “Any impact  means time, especially in our industry. When we think about recycling a car, we have to think 20 years ahead.”  He said the move to electric vehicles – and a greener future – will require 50 million charging stations to be built in Europe, since at least half of the vehicles produced per year will be electric by 2030.

Why Stop At Buildings and Cars? Redesigning the World

Speaker Neri Oxman, a multi-disciplinary designer, who founded The Mediated Matter Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, talked about the field of Material Ecology, fusing technology and biology to deliver designs that align with principles of ecological sustainability. The challenge, she says, is to not just to redesign our world but also design its decay and reincarnation; to think about working in harmony with nature rather than trying to harness it. “Can we humans build and construct without doing damage?” she asked during her talk. “Can we listen to nature and co-design? I think the answer is yes.”

Oxman talked about an exhibition at  New York’s MoMA  museum which opened just as the pandemic hit – that showcased seven key projects from MIT’s  Mediated Matter Group which was organized with the help of Museum of Modern Art senior curator Paola Antonelli , another DLD All Stars speaker. Among the works that were on display is a 9.5-meter tall Silk Pavilion. Custom-made for the show, the design is uses a jig machine that rotates the structure so silkworms keep moving across the pavilion to lay silk more evenly. It is a hollow, stainless steel frame with knitting across it. On top of this, 17,000 silkworms have laid their silk to completely cover the structure inside and out. The point of the structure is to show how traditional production of the material can be made more sustainable in the future.

She also presented her Aguahoja structure, which was awarded the Dezeen Awards 2019 design project of the year for demonstrating how organic, biodegradable materials -such as shrimp shells and apple peels – could be combined to create objects on an architectural scale. “We need to talk about business models and policy changes as we attempt to transition from the labs to a real company,” she said. “What type of business model might we consider in a world in which nature is the client?”

The Future of Healthcare

Stefan Oschmann, the chief executive officer and chairman of the executive board of the Germany-based Merck Group, said he has hope that the pandemic will act as a catalyst for major change.  Regulatory bodies such as the FDA and European medicine agency, are doing real-time reviews of vaccines.  Cooperations between the Israeli government and Pfizer is allowing valuable data to be collected. “This is a watershed moment in science.” he said. “We understand we can tackle this only together. There is an unprecedented sense of purpose, I have this naïve hope that we will be able to preserve this spirit in future,” he said, helping science to combat other problems such as climate change.

Uğur Şahin, CEO and founder of the German-based research company Biontech, which announced the world’s first breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19 with a new vaccine that achieved more than 90% efficacy in a large clinical trial, expressed optimism during his DLD All Stars speech, about the world’s ability to curb the virus.  Şahin and his Biontech co-founder (and wife) Özlem Türeci, have invested more than a decade into a new approach to mRNA vaccines.While there is currently growing concern around the world about the virus’ increasingly spreading mutations, Şahin said he is not worried. This, he said, is the “usual path” that viruses take, and thanks to the COVID vaccines, “we should achieve herd immunity by the end of the summer.”

23andMe Founder Anne Wojcicki made a plea for the healthcare sector to make better use of genetic information to develop personalized medicine. COVID has opened new opportunities for virtual primary care which is great. But our healthcare system has still not adopted genetic information even though there has been fundamental research for over 20 years,” said Wojcicki. “With ’23andMe’, we are trying to enable people to better understand their genetic information for a more personalised treatment.” The biotech company, which is named for the 23 pairs of human chromosomes, specialized in genetic tests that provide information about origins, appearance and diseases. The company now has more than 10 million customers.

AI In The Post-Work World

Former Google China head Kai-Fu Lee, a venture capitalist and author of the New York times best seller “AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley and The New World” spoke about AI and the future of work. He talked about what kind of jobs will be displaced by artificial intelligence. It is not just the jobs of factory workers that are in danger. White collar jobs will also be automated. He gave the example of human resources. AI can already collect and review resumes, contact candidates by email, set up interviews, help facilitate decision-making and even help with salary negotiations. When thinking about the jobs of the future it is important to think about what AI can’t do: An AI can’t create or conceptualize, plan strategically or feel empathy and it can’t complete physical work that requires a high degree of dexterity, he says. Vocational schools need to reorient their programs for jobs require the skills that will not easily be replaced  by automation

2021 Predictions

Scott Galloway, an adjunct professor of marketing at the New York University Stern School of Business, and a public speaker, author, podcast host, and entrepreneur, gave much anticipated predictions for the year ahead. Among them: Amazon will seize $100 billion from healthcare firms. The company already has a huge digital footprint, and is tracking information about fitness, food, income, relationship status and zip codes, and needs to add a quarter of a trillion dollars to its bottom line in the next five years, so health and wellness is a logical next step, he said. He also predicted that Apple is likely to buy Peleton for tens of billions of dollars because getting more time in front of the wealthy people who use the expensive Internet-connected stationary bikes will be worth it.

What’s Next In Tech

Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com, talked about the future of the Cloud, machine-to-machine communications, cybersecurity, quantum computing and tech for good in a fireside chat with  The Innovator’s Editor-in-Chief Jennifer L. Schenker (See The Innovator’s interview of the week for an edited transcript)

A More Competitive Europe: The Finest Bay Project

Peter Vesterbacka, founder of Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, talked about his current project: building a €15 billion underwater tunnel connecting Tallinn, Estonia with Helsinki, Finland in order to create what will be known as the Finest Bay area. The idea is to build a rail link and convince foreign universities to set up satellite operations in order to attract talent to the region.  Both Estonia and Finland are already punching above their weight when it comes to developing unicorns – startups with valuations of $1 billion or more.

These speaker’s complete talks and the conference’s other sessions can be found on DLD’s YouTube channel

In other news this week:

MOBILITY

Chinese Ride-Sharing Service Didi Plans Entry Into Europe

Chinese ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing plans to make its debut in Western Europe, according to press reports, as the company seeks new growth markets ahead of a long-awaited initial public offering.Beijing-based Didi is considering rolling out ride-sharing services in markets that could include the UK, France and Germany by the first half of this year, according to two people briefed on the plan. The company has already set up a team dedicated to the European market and is hiring locally, another person said.

Lucid Motors Takes On Tesla As EV Competition Heats Up

Lucid Motors, backed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, wants to emulate not only Tesla’s battery-stretching performance in its cars, but also the stock market acceleration that has seen it catapulted to become one of the world’s most valuable companies. This week, the business filed for a $24 billion listing through a special purpose acquisition company.

Apple Supplier Foxconn Teams With Fisker To Make Electric Vehicles

Electric-car maker Fisker said it will work with Apple supplier Foxconn to produce more than 250,000 vehicles a year beginning in late 2023, sending its shares up 18%. The deal, codenamed “Project PEAR” (Personal Electric Automotive Revolution), is looking at markets globally, including North America, Europe, China and India, Fisker said. Foxconn, Apple’s main iPhone maker, has ramped up its interest in electric vehicles (EVs) over the past year or so, announcing deals with Chinese electric-car maker Byton and automakers Zhejiang Geely Holding Group and Stellantis NV’s Fiat Chrysler unit.

FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

Next Gen, a Singapore-headquartered food tech company,has raised $10 million in seed funding. The round was led by Temasek, K3 Ventures, the New Ventures arm of the Singapore Economic Development Board, and NX Food. Funding follows an earlier $2 million investment from Next Gen’s founder.The company will use the funds to launch Next Gen’s plant-based products brand, TiNDLE, to consumers in Singapore in March 2021 Other Asian cities will follow. TiNDLE chicken is made with soy protein, wheat gluten, wheat starch, as well as sunflower and coconut oils. On its website, the company says each each serving contains 17 grams of protein. The first application of the product will be TiNDLE Thy, a plant-based take on chicken thighs the company says can be used in a variety of dishes and cuisine types.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.