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#techourfuture – Interactivity Council Makes Technology Easier to Understand

Twelve experts with one goal: to make future technology relevant for the whole of society

In November 2018, the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute launched its #techourfuture initiative with the aim of giving fellow citizens a chance to find out everything they need to know about future technologies, but also to exchange ideas in order to better understand and discuss technology. Importantly, “fellow citizens” means everyone from schoolchildren to retirees, from the tech-savvy to those less familiar with technology. A good two and a half years later, the #techourfuture team is being helped to keep up the momentum of the project by a newly founded Interactivity Council, the aim of which is to pool different opinions from various sections of society.

So how did it all begin? The #techourfuture initiative was launched in November 2018 after a need was perceived to highlight how the future of technology affects everyone in society. The program is being funded by the Baden-Wuerttemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, Labor, and Housing. The first step for the team was to work out what future technology actually is. Most emerging technology is not just based on an individual form of technology, but results from different technologies merging into one. For example, with autonomous aircraft that may be a combination of lightweight materials, AI control mechanisms, and energy-efficient technology. The word Technologie* in the German title of the initiative is about combining any number of technologies to come up with new applications – resulting in different societal and business models.

The defined goal for the pilot project initiated by the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute is to develop a “forum of trust” in addition to a suitable intermediary vehicle for all members of our society to find out more about future technologies – in a neutral setting revolving around everyday situations – in order to understand, experience, and discuss technology. As the initial project draws to a close, the #techourfuture team is looking back at the successful series of events, which focused on three carefully chosen tech topics: the future of autonomous flying, the future of healthcare, and the future of nutrition, each organized in a different format using a variety of communication channels. The team is also turning its attention to the horizon: What can we do to keep raising tech awareness among the general population, improve technological literacy, reach out to more people in all segments of society, and simultaneously preserve the Forum of Trust?

The #techourfuture Interactivity Council: mission

To improve understanding of the role of science and the Technology* initiative in shaping our future – and perhaps even galvanize enthusiasm in all areas of the population – the #techourfuture cause will be continued, supported by the Interactivity Council founded in early April. As an advisory body, at the first virtual meeting its members signed on to the following for the next two years: The experts want to tap into their personal areas of experience when it comes to technology in society, not only to support future technology concepts initiated by the #techourfuture program, but also to uphold further ideas for the forum of trust and promote networking.

To summarize its goal, the council has written a mission statement:

“New technologies make a contribution to solving current challenges and will play a pivotal role in shaping our future. To actively shape this future as well and take a stance, society needs transparent information in the form of knowledge and experience regarding technological developments, how technology works, possible applications, opportunities, and risks. We are committed to establishing an objective and neutral process of dialog within society in order to promote technological solutions that closely reflect the reality of people’s lives and contribute to solving the challenges faced by society. Accordingly, we support the #techourfuture team at the Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute in its purpose of making technology tangible and understandable to people from all sections of society through multidisciplinary endeavor.”

The first signposts are in place

“We’re delighted that we were able to attract such well-known and renowned experts to participate in the #techourfuture Interactivity Council, not only from the overall region but also from the Steinbeis Network. The first meet-up underscored the importance of our endeavor, from a variety of angles, and at the same time it fueled a number of ideas for further topics and different ways to reach out to people from all parts of society. We look forward to continuing our work together and firming up on those topics and ideas in the coming meetings,” said Professor Norbert Höptner, Chairperson of the Interactivity Council and head of the #techourfuture project, after the first virtual meeting of the Interactivity Council on April 9, 2021.

In addition to providing support and pointing the way forward for #techourfuture activities, the council members are also responsible for convening so-called Topic Consultation Councils (TCCs). As part of a high-profile final event, the first TCC has been set up to provide critical and constructive feedback not only on the progress of the project to date but also on a round of research carried out during the event. Two members of the Interactivity Council have agreed to attend meetings of the Topic Consultation Council evaluating the macro testbed funding project. They will join eight other experts involved in the #techourfuture initiative to review, among other things, whether the goals defined in the funding application were actually achieved and whether lessons can be learned for moving forward with the #techourfuture initiative. Their findings will flow into a closing report on the Technologie*Begreifen (“Grasp Technology”) macro testbed, which will be drafted by the #techourfuture team after the project officially closes on June 30, 2021.

Attention will then turn to the key topics covered by further areas of collaboration. This will also determine how #techourfuture should seek dialog among members of the general population in the future and which tech topics to look at.

Members of the Interactive Council

Ralf Albrecht Prelate, Evangelical Prelature, Heilbronn
Prof. Dr. Michael AuerChairman of the Steinbeis Foundation Board
Dr. Andrea GrimmSupervisory Board Member, IBM Germany, and Member of the Senate, Heimholtz Association
der Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft
Dr. Marlene GottwaldFerdinand Steinbeis Institute, #techourfuture Project Management, Deputy Chairperson
Prof. Dr.-Ing. Dr. h.c. Norbert HöptnerFerdinand Steinbeis Institute, #techourfuture Project Management, Chairperson
Prof. Dr. rer. pol. Heiner LasiFerdinand Steinbeis Institute, Academic Director
Prof. Dr. Dr. Sabine MeckSteinbeis Entrepreneur at the Steinbeis Transfer Institute for Personality Research and Ethics at Steinbeis University
Margret MergenMayor of Baden-Baden
Dr. Stefan SenitzKarlsruhe Chamber of Industry and Commerce (lead management for technology in Baden-Wuerttemberg)
Manfred SpaltenbergerOwner of three companies: MS-Consulting, TT-SIUS Technology Transfer, und Innovum-Innofilt
Prof. Dr. med. Barbara WilhelmSteinbeis Entrepreneur at eyetria, the Steinbeis Transfer Center at the Department for Ophthalmology
(Study Center at Tübingen Eye Hospital)
Senator E.h. Wolfgang WolfManaging Board Member, UBW (the Baden-Wuerttemberg association of business leaders)


Dr. Marlene Gottwald (author)
Senior Research Fellow
Ferdinand Steinbeis Institute (Stuttgart)