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Restart Your Future – Success Nurtured by Networks

bwcon helps small and medium-sized businesses manage organizational transformation

Developing new areas of business can be time-consuming and is a drain on personnel resources. Yet it plays an important role in fueling growth and securing the success of a company. It is particularly challenging for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This is where bwcon comes in, with its Restart Your Future program, by working alongside customers at business workshops and open seminars to identify different ways to enter new fields of business. The Steinbeis experts at bwcon believe there is a major opportunity for companies in Baden-Wuerttemberg to set up collaborative projects and make better use of investment programs offered by European bodies, the German government, and the state. 

According to a Haufe survey of 1,600 managers, at the height of the lockdown at the end of April, the majority of companies still felt optimistic. Why? Because in a very short time, they had made tremendous progress in digital technology and had introduced more flexible working practices. Being cut off and having to slow down had released undreamed-of levels of creativity. Starting with a blank piece of paper, teams found new ways to collaborate. In record time, business leaders shifted production capacities to short-supply products. Futurologist Matthias Horx has painted a picture of a future scenario, closely based on the valuable achievements that resulted from the pandemic. There is a new sense of solidarity, a growing acceptance of digital tools, plus an upturn in the climate protection movement. 

What comes after creativity – paralysis?

Only three months later, in July, many economic indicators – such as the truck driving index generated by the German toll road scheme – showed a significant spike in activity. Exports picked up again and the Chinese economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter, fueling hopes that there would be rapid recovery. But despite all the positive signals, economic growth in Germany is still fragile. Currently, many companies are still receiving subsidies for short-time working programs and benefiting from the temporary amendments to insolvency law, which were due to end in September. Experts are concerned that there will be a slew of insolvencies in the fourth quarter, irrespective of a second wave in COVID-19 infections. Compared to the summer of 2019, unemployment has risen 46%. A growing number of metalworking and electronics specialists have been struck down by unemployment – skilled workers that were previously highly sought-after.

Safeguarding the future through investment

Mechanical engineering has come under particular pressure – as has the automotive industry, which had already slipped into recession the previous year. The general recession fueled by the lockdown has only made bad things worse. A decline in orders has heightened the pressure on liquidity with a knock-on effect on investments in future technology. Yet this is precisely what the economy needs in order to turn things around again by itself. In his book How to Save Our Economy, ifo President Clemens Fuest warns of “coronavirus-sclerosis” if investments are withheld. Politicians are also attempting to provide European, national, and state incentives in the form of investment programs, with initiatives such as the European Green Deal and similar domestic programs, which lay a strong emphasis on sustainable changes in the economy against a backdrop of climate and environmental protection.

An important opportunity: networks

The necessary restructuring of industry in Baden-Wuerttemberg will require joint initiatives between companies. In recent years, businesses have become increasingly dependent on one another, the result of substantial fragmentation within individual stages of the value chain. Declining orders from OEMs have triggered a dangerous downward spiral, particularly in the automotive supply industry and among related mechanical engineering companies. The first to be affected by insolvency problems are small companies at the extremity of the value chain, who as a result have a low public profile. Powerful networks between companies also offer an opportunity, however. They allow firms to leverage innovation networks and unveil the opportunities presented by promising forms of technology such as hydrogen. But to do this, companies need to be creative and open to change. They also need professional networks. Industry associations, chambers of commerce, and business clubs have the potential to support their members in becoming more active by translating the interests of individual members into important alliances.

bwcon reboots the future

This is a goal also being pursued by bwcon, an enterprise belonging to the Steinbeis Network. Its Restart the Future program is aimed at supporting SMEs with the processes of business transformation. A one-day taster seminar held in the St. Georgen Technology Center on September 17, 2020 allowed participants to experience the efficiency and effectiveness of different innovation techniques in combination with business opportunities offered by the European Green Deal. The open workshop benefited from interaction between different companies, providing a useful starting point for innovation networks. The number of participants was limited to 20 due to hygiene and social-distancing regulations.


Ursula Schulz (author)
Network Manager (Digital Mountains Project)
bwcon GmbH (Stuttgart)