“It is very exciting to follow the new technological developments”
Interview with Oliver Seiler, Head of the Department "Mechanical and Electronic Technologies" of Germany Trade & Invest
You are head of the "Mechanical & Electronic Technologies" department of GTAI, which covers many different industrial segments. How and why were these segments selected and which are they?
Basically, our department covers the key sectors of the manufacturing industry in Germany, which form the backbone of the German economy and also play an important role in the statistics on foreign direct investments worldwide and in Germany. We have clustered these industries in the areas of Transportation Technologies (Automotive, Aerospace, Railway Technology), Machinery & Equipment, Electronics & Microtechnology, and Materials Processing & Technologies. These are then subdivided into specific industrial segments for the investor acquisition, which we review annually as part of our acquisition strategy and marketing planning.
For which areas of these segments are investors most interested?
Battery manufacturing for electro mobility and technologies for automated and connected driving are currently very attractive for foreign companies in the area of Transportation Technologies. Here the proximity to the German automotive manufacturers is a location advantage. In the area of Machinery & Equipment we also see strong interest in robotics and automation as a result of the ongoing development of Industrie 4.0. Other growth segments include additive manufacturing (3D printing), optical technologies (such as laser and LED technology) and industrial lightweight construction. In these areas, the technological competence and the diverse application markets in Germany are very attractive for foreign players.
Which areas do you personally find particularly exciting?
For me, it is very exciting to follow the new technological developments for autonomous driving, as well as innovations in the field of production technology, e.g. Industrie 4.0, robotics or 3D printing, “live” in the context of business expansion projects. These developments challenge traditional and established industrial structures, but the large number of new business models and players in the markets also offers great potential for the investment location Germany and our work.
Which are your target markets and how did you choose them?
Our target markets for investor acquisitions are selected as part of our annual segment strategy. The way industrial sectors in Germany and the other markets develop, what sort of companies are active there, and how it is possible to reach decision-makers from relevant companies on leading platforms (such as international trade fairs and conferences), all play a role in this decision process. Important target markets for most of our industries in focus are the USA, China, Japan, Korea and Western Europe (mainly the UK and France).
If you want to explain to a new customer the possibilities in Germany, what are the first questions they ask? Are the customers well informed about Germany? Are there prejudices that you can then invalidate?
Foreign entrepreneurs are usually well-informed about market opportunities in their industry, but they are also often very sensitive about the costs of business development in Germany. In addition, there are uncertainties regarding approval procedures and bureaucratic efforts, especially regarding the planned establishment of a production facility in Germany. Many of these fears we can eliminate by providing specific information and concrete practical examples and references.
What arguments for location Germany convince your customers?
A central argument for Germany as a location is the highly developed value chain in industrial production. Companies find a wide range of potential customers, suppliers and partners in Germany. The availability of highly-qualified specialists, who are well-known for their high productivity and loyalty, as well as the close and established cooperation between industry and research, are also clear advantages for the location. When it comes to retention with regard to cost structures and project implementation, we can advise and support foreign entrepreneurs professionally through specific information and close cooperation with our regional partners.
How long does an investment process last from the first contact to the opening of the plant or office?
Depending on how advanced the company's settlement plans are, the duration of our accompaniment can be very different. In some cases, the business starts just a few months after the first contact with GTAI; in other projects the settlement decision is taken only after 5-6 years. Usually, we work with companies for about one year until the decision is made. For larger greenfield investments, a further 1-2 years must be taken into account for the implementation of the project.
Are there industrial segments that you handle together with other GTAI teams?
In the industry area of Industrie 4.0, we work closely with our Service Industries Division to be able to advise companies on both the hardware and the software perspective competently. In the area of battery manufacturing, we are cooperating with experts from our Energy, Environment and Resources Division. In this segment, Germany is the only country in the world to offer two large and rapidly growing application markets for battery companies: electro mobility and stationary storage of renewable energies.
Please mention some particularly important or interesting investment projects your team has brought to Germany in recent years!
One highlight was certainly the decision of Huawei, a large Chinese company in the area of network technology, to set up a production site for electronic components with 250 planned new jobs in the Munich area. But we also successfully supported exciting projects from smaller companies. Formlabs, a spin-off from MIT, develops 3D printing equipment and is building its European headquarters in Berlin with up to 30 employees. The US company Omni-ID produces RFID technology, which is used in industrial production processes and has established its European sales center with up to 25 new jobs in the Stuttgart area. This company chose the location Germany primarily because of the progress Germany has made in the area of Industrie 4.0.
What characteristics do you particularly value in your employees? Are there certain qualities which are particularly important and beneficial for investor acquisition?
Central aspects are an interest in the structures and technological developments of our industrial segments. But intercultural experience and competences are also important to be able to build up an international network. Last but not least, strengths in the acquisition of customers and a strong advisory mentality are important qualities in order to attract and support investors successfully. From my point of view, these are very diverse and demanding requirements, and I am very proud to have great colleagues in the team who are able to cope with them so outstandingly.
Tell us about your professional career! Where did you work before and how is your current role different?
Prior to joining GTAI, I was working with an international business consultancy for approximately 5 years. During this time, I participated in the transformation of business processes and the introduction of new IT systems in various industrial conglomerates. These were exciting experiences thanks to close collaboration with the customers. However, my tasks at GTAI have become more diverse in that I have dealt more intensively with the analysis of industrial segments, while the range of advisory services for the business set-up of our international customers in Germany has become broader and more comprehensive. The focus on new technologies for investor acquisition and the assumption of personnel responsibility at GTAI are also new and interesting aspects for me.
What do you like most about your work?
I find it very exciting to be able to work with highly innovative companies and entrepreneurs, and to be confronted with very diverse topics and new technological developments. The fact that we are able to provide concrete added value for companies with our work as well as to contribute to the creation of new jobs in Germany is also very enriching. Not least, it makes me very happy to build up and lead a team.