The chancellor’s view of the future takes on concrete forms this morning. At the Hanover Fair, Olaf Scholz put on futuristic-looking glasses. As a result, he sees a system that filters water in such a way that it can be used to produce hydrogen as a renewable energy source – along with a wealth of live data on the machine.

What the head of government is trying out during his tour of the most important industrial show is just one of many examples that are intended to combine more climate protection and digital networking “intelligently”. Thousands of innovations like these have been presented at the exhibition since Monday. They should also illustrate what Scholz means when he says that the economy sees the energy transition as an opportunity. “Many of the products shown here have what it takes to become real bestsellers around the world,” he believes.

One thing is certain: After three hard Corona years with a total failure and two significantly reduced appearances, the Hannover Messe desperately needs a kind of spring revival. Walking through the halls and conference rooms, the mood does indeed seem to be turning optimistic in many places. A large thematic bracket for the approximately 4000 exhibitors are new technologies for more energy efficiency, which should at least indirectly be relevant for end consumers.

A core aspect are again “digital twins”

Networked vacuum robots that could alleviate the lack of staff in building cleaning. Forklifts that are controlled by joystick like in the video game. Or the automated cultivation of algae that store CO2. The range of possibilities is diverse. A core aspect are again so-called digital twins: virtual doubles of products or warehouses that help to simulate processes. Sometimes the modernization also works mechanically – with exoskeletons. These support structures worn on the body relieve the joints during heavy physical work, for example in logistics.

Many cite the development of new data systems for consumption control as a further focus – keyword: “smart metering”, i.e. dynamic coordination of electricity demand and supply. “The washing machine doesn’t care whether it starts at 2 a.m. or 4 a.m. – the main thing is that the laundry is washed by 10 a.m. in the morning,” says Gunther Kegel from the electrical and digital association ZVEI. “In the future, such devices will be able to negotiate with the network provider and electricity supplier via intelligent control and nodes when the best time is.”

Vodafone is showing a process that is intended to make operating data from older industrial plants accessible, for example with the aim of more efficient clocking or easier maintenance. Microsoft informs about “significant advances in the use of artificial intelligence” to better network employees or supply chains. Among other things, Nokia is bringing up autonomous robots, which are also intended to increase occupational safety. Authorities such as the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing are also positioning themselves – in this case with a competence center for hydrogen.

The partner country of the fair this year is Indonesia

Scholz appreciates the cooperation with the largest economy in Southeast Asia, which is home to almost 280 million people. “Indonesia and Germany have the same values,” said the chancellor during his visit to the trade fair with President Joko Widodo. “This trade fair will help us expand our business relationships even further.”

The country of 17,000 islands wants to invest more in digital technologies. Widodo declares that Indonesia will transform itself into a green economy and calls for speeding up the conversion “for a better world”. Some people may have taken the words rather skeptically – activists from Amnesty International called for a vigil in Hanover on Sunday to respect the rights of the population in mining projects.

Over the years, today’s G20 member Indonesia has developed into an economic heavyweight. In addition to the mining of metals and the export of agricultural commodities, other sectors are booming. At the same time, the gap between rich and poor is widening.

In connection with the planning of the new capital Nusantara on Borneo – it should have ecological role model character – environmentalists warn of the destroyed habitats of endangered animals. There are also complaints about resettlement. Scholz wants to work to ensure that a free trade agreement between the EU and Indonesia will soon be ready for a decision. Supply chain rules are intended to ensure compliance with standards.

Lack of qualified personnel in Germany

In Germany, meanwhile, the lack of qualified personnel is causing the industry a headache. Scholz promotes technical apprenticeships: “Anyone who decides to choose an apprenticeship is doing everything right for their own future and for the future of our country.” The mechanical engineering association VDMA presents alarming results of a survey: There are staff shortages almost everywhere, half of the companies fear an aggravation. “We have to improve technical education in schools,” says the head of the association, Karl Haeusgen.

From the point of view of the industry, expensive energy and sometimes excessive bureaucracy are also factors that endanger the attractiveness of Germany as a business location. The Federation of German Industries estimates that exports, which are so important, will fall behind the growth in world trade in 2023. According to a study by the consulting firm Deloitte, some companies see the risk of de-industrialization. Haeusgen still considers such scenarios to be somewhat exaggerated. But: “Germany and Europe have to work harder in global competition.”