Aerospace and media: two strong Bavarian sectors in exchange with the USA
From 31st May to 6th June, a delegation of Bavarian businesspeople and scientists from the fields of aerospace and media visited the US states of Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama, led by Vice Minister Franz Josef Pschierer. Dr. Klaus-Peter Potthast, head of the Media and Internet department at the Bavarian State Ministry of Economic Affairs and Media, Energy and Technology, also went on the trip and has shared some of his observations with us.
The first stop on our visit to the USA was Atlanta. On the very day we arrived, a few members of the delegation led by the President of the BLM (the Bavarian regulatory authority for commercial broadcasting), Siegfried Schneider, attended to contacts at the US TV station CNN, which hosts the CNN Award in Munich.
On the Monday we paid a visit to aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin. If the Bavarian members of the delegation were still sceptical about the importance of Lockheed Martin's projects, the lengthy security checks convinced us otherwise. The place where the C130 model, and soon perhaps a new stealth aircraft, is being built today is where the Starfighter – which was used by the German Federal Armed Forces, too – was developed decades ago. Vice Minister Franz Josef Pschierer reminisced about his time in the air force as well as the ambivalent relationship to this type of aircraft. A symposium with aerospace experts from both countries was also held that morning. In the evening there were smiles all round, not least thanks to the proverbial Southern hospitality that was bestowed on us at a reception hosted by power regions (including Quebec, Upper Austria and Bavaria) in Atlanta.
Media landscape Germany – media landscape USA
The second focus of this journey – media – began with a visit to Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB). Teya Ryan, President of GPB, looked at us in disbelief when she heard that the public broadcasters in Germany, ARD and ZDF, enjoy EUR 7.5 billion in funding. The difference from the American system could not be more obvious. An annual total of USD 425 million is available to all public broadcasting institutions in the 50 states of America. This amount is used to fund a range of TV and radio programmes. Around a third of the costs have to be covered by donations. Another contribution is made through the "monetarisation" of the building. For example, an Irish drama group is currently using one of the studios here. The great age of public broadcasters were the years in which only three large networks existed. Today, GPB reaches about 2 million viewers per week. But Teya Ryan believes that it can make a comeback, since the special-interest channels many viewers have drifted to have ever-shrinking budgets, making them less attractive. The German guests watch, listen and marvel: I will tell representatives of Bavarian Broadcasting about this when I get a chance. Perhaps it will improve gratitude and creativity.
Turning old into new: old machines are made airworthy again
The tight schedule left us no time to catch our breath. It was straight back to aerospace. Just like at Lockheed Martin, the experts at the Mercer Engineering Center also tend to C130 aircraft. However, no new aircraft are being built in Warner Robins, a town halfway between Atlanta and Savannah. Instead, old machines are updated with the latest technology and made airworthy again. The brief instructions and precise explanations of the second speaker were in stark contrast to his colleague's friendly and bright manner of speaking and exposed him as a former air force officer. Without the close connection to the military – Robins Air Force Base is not far away – there would certainly be no Mercer Engineering Research Center, a spin-off of the private Mercer School of Engineering. American companies are clearly not anxious about having the air force as a customer. The core business of restoring air force machines seems to pay off for the Engineering Center. A friendly reception, colourful and delicious cupcakes – what else? The scientists of our delegation remained relaxed: "They help the Air Force to save money."
The private jet with the largest range
During the presentations by the President and the Vice President of the aircraft manufacturer Gulfstream, we realised how proud they are of their new project – the G650ER private jet – which will be delivered as of 2015 and boasts an unparalleled range of almost 14,000 km. During our conversations, it also became clear that the Bavarian aerospace sector can more than hold its own here. A few business transactions seem to be in the making already in the headquarters in Savannah, so everyone was relaxed.
New aircraft for domestic transport
The visit to the Airbus plant in Mobile, Alabama, was another highlight of our trip. Starting in 2015, the final assembly of aircraft in the A320 family will take place here. The assembly hall is still under construction, but we are informed that it is on schedule. The aim is for this commitment in Mobile to allow the company to serve the American market directly. Airbus' dreams of growth were sparked by the large demand for renewal among American airlines in domestic transport. Machines with only one gear, such as the Airbus 321, are in particular demand.
Savannah College of Art and Design
As a friend of the creative industries, I also visited "Savannah College of Art and Design" (SCAD). "We are simply unique," a SCAD representative told me. The college was founded in 1978. University institutions covering every area of art and creativity are scattered all across the city: everywhere from modern factory halls to historic buildings. Even drama and sport are taught here. I pay a visit to the games developers, the design department and some graphic designers. Although I do not meet any students – they have the day off – I see impressive final assignments. Bill Lee, head of SCAD, has been here less than a year, but already loves it. "The possibilities here are great. There are no more than one or two comparable universities." From what I saw, it is difficult to disagree.
What can we learn from this trip?
Above all, that business and science in Bavaria need to move even closer together. The Bavarian businesspeople and scientists who participated in the trip agree on this. The visit to HERTY, a research and development centre at Georgia Southern University, made clear to us how Americans succeed in transforming scientific findings into marketable products and applications more effectively. Perhaps Bavaria's funding strategies also need to be reconsidered.
Behind the huge success of this trip was Craig Lesser. In Atlanta and Savannah, we heard nothing but praise for the former Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. The lawyer and now consultant is a good friend of Bavaria and experienced in opening doors. He will be in Bavaria again in the autumn. The partner regions of Georgia and Bavaria have once more moved a little closer together.