#DigitalMindsKA - the people behind karlsruhe.digital: David Hermans

The karlsruhe.digital initiative unites Karlsruhe stakeholders from science, business, culture and administration with the aim of advancing Karlsruhe as a driver of digitalization – for competitiveness, quality of life and sovereignty. It pools expert knowledge, promotes networking and deals with topics holistically in order to actively shape the digital future of the city.
And there are people behind it. People who are committed, who are passionate and who invest their time, their ideas and their expertise. We want to present those people, the digital minds. Once a month, we ask the Digital Minds about their vision and motivation.
In the fifth edition of our edition, we visit David Hermanns, Managing Director of the Karlsruhe CyberForum.

It’s one of those early summer days when we make our way to the eastern part of Karlsruhe. The sun is shining, but it’s not too hot yet. A refreshing wind provides the necessary cooling as we walk along Haid-und-Neu-Straße. We pass the FZI Research Center for Information Technology and the Technology Factory, where we can already see the so-called Hoepfner Burg. The imposing brick building is home to the CyberForum. As the largest regional high-tech.entrepreneur.network. Europe, it connects over 1,300 members from the IT sector.

Before at the entrance we notice a group of young people talking animatedly entertain. Their energy and enthusiasm are infectious and testify to the innovative atmosphere that this place radiates. Dr. Friedrich Georg Hoepfner, who not only managed the private brewery, but was also years the CyberForum as a platform for start-ups, entrepreneurs and research institutions, was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit First Class, which honors him as a pioneer and initiator. of innovation policy in the country.

Pioneering spirit in old walls

Today, Hoepfner Burg is not only home to the CyberForum, but also to the CyberLab of the CyberForum. As an IT start-up olympic base, the IT accelerator of the state of Baden-Württemberg, it is one of the first points of contact for start-ups and founders in the state. Since this year, the CyberForum has completed another start-up center together with the city of Karlsruhe, the so-called CyberLab SmartProductionPark. This is aimed at start-ups with a focus on smart production. The CyberForum thus offers founders a total of over 5,400 square meters – in the middle of Oststadt, close to KIT, the FZI, Fraunhofer IOSB and the Technologiefabrik. When we finally enter the castle, the special atmosphere is immediately palpable. Within the historic walls of the castle, which is over 120 years old, we find modern and bright offices. To get to the CyberForum, we go to the third floor – and since we still have some time, we decide against the elevator and prefer to walk through the impressive, light-flooded stairwell.

We can already see David Hermanns through the glass front of his office as we register at reception. He immediately beckons us over. Coffee and water are already on the table, so after a quick chat we can get straight into our interview. “Let’s start off easy,” we think to ourselves and ask him what comes to mind first when he hears the word “Karlsruhe”. His answer reveals a man who is deeply connected to the city, both privately and professionally.

David Hermanns in his office, which we can already see through the glass front at reception. Photo: Netzoptimisten
David Hermanns in his office, which we can already see through the glass front at reception. Photo: Netzoptimisten

Lucky shamrock and Digital location

“As a passionate soccer fan, I naturally think of KSC first. At the same time, I also see Karlsruhe as the center of a lucky cloverleaf of different cultural regions,” Hermanns explains to us and we notice a sparkle in his eyes. “We have the Kraichgau region, the gateway to the Black Forest, the Southern Palatinate and Northern Alsace – all within a radius of 20 kilometers. This diversity is unbeatable in Germany and ensures an incredibly high quality of life,” he enthuses. But there is also a political dimension to Hermann’s relationship with Karlsruhe: “For me, the city is also the cradle of democracy,” he adds. “We have the first constitution here and a culture that has always been very liberal and tried to rethink society.”

When we hear the word constitution, we immediately think of a point in Hermann’s CV that we stumbled across while preparing for our meeting. Before becoming Managing Director of CyberForum in 2007, he studied law and worked as a lawyer for five years. When we ask him about his switch from law to IT, he leans back and smiles: “I actually ended up in a law firm that looked after many IT companies, including one of the largest in Karlsruhe. My boss at the time even wrote the first statutes for DENIC ( German German N sthork I nformation C enter) and we were already supporting start-ups back then.”

From the legal profession to Start-up world

“To take CyberForum to the next level, we needed a management team,” recalls Hermanns. With the then CEO Elmar Buschlinger, a vision for the CyberForum and the experience from his previous job, he decided to quit his job as a lawyer and devote himself entirely to the CyberForum. “We have developed an ambitious plan to take Karlsruhe and the region to a whole new level as a leading-edge cluster in the field of digitalization,” he continues. “And to this day, the ceilings have never been too low for us, we have simply constantly expanded and increased them.” So it’s no wonder that Hermanns is involved in the karlsruhe.digital initiative with the CyberForum as a co-initiator.

His View of a flyer on the subject of recruiting skilled workers. “You only have to look at the View statistics. Germany has the highest dependency on STEM professions in Europe. At the same time We have a large gap in precisely this area, on the one hand because of the demographic change, but also because of the lack of willingness to deal with this change. to deal with this topic,” he blurts out.

The lawyer's heart has been beating for the start-up sector for more than 25 years now. Photo: Netzoptimisten
The lawyer’s heart has been beating for the start-up sector for more than 25 years now. Just in time for its 10th birthday in 2007, CyberForum gained its first official managing director, David Hermanns. Photo: Netzoptimisten

Recruiting skilled workers starts with STEM promotion

It was therefore clear very early on that everything had to be done to get young people in particular interested in STEM professions. For example, the CyberForum has helped to launch initiatives such as technika – Karlsruher Technik Initiative. Here, from elementary school to all secondary schools, over 2000 children and young people are playfully accompanied with STEM topics in working groups every week. Since its foundation, CyberForum has also developed a training initiative, a pool of skilled workers, an academy for further training and a support program aimed specifically at people without a vocational qualification. “Together with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce, we have developed recognition profiles and are using them to bring university dropouts into the primary labor market, for example,” Hermanns explains.

A glance at the clock tells us that the conversation is coming to an end. Hermanns nevertheless offers us a short tour of the CyberForum premises, which we are of course very happy to accept, as walking is a great way to chat. “The fact that networking and collaboration work so well in Karlsruhe is of course also due to the size of the city. We have short distances here and people trust each other thanks to our long-standing, good relationships. This means that new projects and activities can be launched virtually on demand. From business and science to administration and culture, everyone works hand in hand. This makes Karlsruhe a city that is able to promote effective and productive collaboration – our so-called “Karlsruhe principle of short distances” – which has ultimately earned it the reputation of being a Germany-wide IT location,” he explains as we walk through the modern open space offices and let our gaze wander over the Karlsruhe skyline.

This is why the karlsruhe.digital initiative is so important, as the various stakeholders can work strategically together with science, business and the city on the future of Karlsruhe as a digital location. “Because if we join forces, we can compete very well in the national and international competition between locations. For me, Karlsruhe is a city of the future, equipped with all the ingredients to positively shape our future for the people. This has driven us as CyberForum for 26 years to contribute our entrepreneurial and digital expertise and help shape the future,” Hermanns continues enthusiastically.

Family breakfast gives you energy

We realize that we have heard a lot about the CyberForum today and learned a lot about the digital location. Finally, however, we are interested in Hermanns as a private individual. “My day starts with getting up early and having breakfast with my family. That’s important to me, because it gives me the energy and the positive mindset I need for the rest of the day,” he answers us in his usual open manner.

His After all, his working day is a tight schedule and often filled with evening events. “As a rule, I spend two days a week in the office, and the others I am on my way. Sometimes I also work from home. Nevertheless, there are always important dates and meetings in between, to which I have to react flexibly.” He smiles: “If you like, my calendar is just as agile as the IT industry.”

Despite this, Hermanns still manages to be involved beyond his professional activities – on the executive committee of the Bundesverband IT-Mittelstand e.V. (BITMi), on the Fairantwortung supervisory board, on the board of the KI-Allianz Baden-Württemberg cooperative, as a member of the board of trustees of the Hoepfner Foundation and for many years on the Karlsruhe municipal council. “I believe that you have to get involved in order to bring about change. Everyone can and should contribute to shaping society and democracy.” And when he does want to switch off, he meets up with friends, watches soccer or simply goes straight to the stadium with his sons.

Courageous and open to the future

Before we say goodbye, we have one last question in our luggage – and look to the future: “What will Karlsruhe look like in 30 years?” Hermann’s answer comes without hesitation: “Karlsruhe will be Germany’s city of the future.” His words testify to optimism and an unshakeable belief in the city’s ability to continue to assert itself as a pioneer of innovation. “This will be the cradle of autonomous driving. Perhaps we will also fly Volocopters to Stuttgart. We will have the best citizen participation platform and so-called smart city solutions and ban private transport from the city center. We will get around with rentable, autonomous vehicles adapted to the individual – or simply enjoy our beautiful city center of the future on foot or by bike. Our quality of life index will be the highest compared to other German cities.”

It describes an open city that boldly faces the challenges of the future and whose citizens have the digital skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing world. “People with digital skills will be the gold of the future,” emphasizes Hermanns. “And Karlsruhe will train them to be prepared for the future.” With these thoughts, we leave the office as the setting sun bathes the sky over Karlsruhe in a warm orange. It is the perfect metaphor for the day that is ending and the future that is just appearing on the horizon.