“Navigating in uncertain waters”

Speech by Dr. Philipp Nimmermann, Frankfurt Finance Summit, 18 June 2019

“Navigating in uncertain waters” was the title of this year’s Frankfurt Finance Summit. In his opening speech, Dr. Philipp Nimmermann, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing of the State of Hesse, addressed four challenges arising from this topic: Artificial Intelligence, Climate Change and Sustainability and Brexit. Read the opening speech of the Frankfurt Finance Summit 2019 below:


Dr. Philipp Nimmermann, State Secretary at the Ministry of Economics, Energy, Transport and Housing of the State of Hesse

“The title of today’s summit, „Navigating in uncertain waters“, leaves us plenty of room for discussions. Please allow me to concentrate on three topics: Artificial Intelligence, Climate Change and Sustainability, as well as BREXIT.

Let me start with my personal political guiding principle, which helps me navigate in uncertain waters. It is an adaptation of the ethical imperative, the Austrian born Cybernetician and Physicist, Heinz von Foerster, once formulated. It goes like this: “I shall try to act always so as to increase society’s total number of choices”. But how do we keep our options open or even increase our choices? By remaining open minded and flexible, by not putting all our eggs in one basket, and by thinking in non-linear rather than linear terms.

If uncertainty is high or even increasing, if the world appears to be getting more and more complex, it probably helps to leave beaten tracks and to broaden ones mind, by using a new type of intelligence one has not used before.

So let’s talk about artificial intelligence: In my opinion, artificial intelligence is both a source of uncertainty as well as a method to navigate through uncertain waters. Yes it is true, that we cannot precisely predict how deeply machine learning and self-improving algorithms will actually change the world as we know it. But I do not think that one has to fear this development, at least as long as we share a common consensus that all technology, old or new, should always serve the people. That’s why I actually prefer the term “Augmented Intelligence” over “Artificial Intelligence”.

Machine intelligence can help us better understand big data and complex systems, e.g. by structuring previously unstructured data. By allowing so called “unsupervised machine learning” to help us identify clusters or anomalies we have not identified or thought of before, we can definitely broaden our choices.

So what is the State of Hessen, in this case, the Ministry for Economic Affairs, doing in this respect?

We initiated the foundation of the so called TechQuarter more than two years ago, as a start-up hub, especially for fintechs. This is the corner stone of our startup ecosystem-strategy. The current coalition treaty has also put a special focus on artificial intelligence and technological innovation.

Additional to expanding the TechQuarter, we want to establish a TechCampus with around 20 Professorships. With this lighthouse project, we want to help transforming the already excellent research successes in Hessen into applied technologies and startups.

Together with the TechQuarter and other interested partners, we want to establish an AI- and Big- Data-Lab, where researchers, supervisory bodies and fintech-start-ups can use big-data from various sources to develop and verify machine-learning tools. I am convinced, that this data-lab will significantly strengthen the Frankfurt financial centre.

Let me come to another source of uncertainty: climate change and sustainable development. There might be different views on whether climate change is man-made, or, on which measures are the right ones to slow down this development.

There might even be the question, whether the state should play an active role. But to all the doubters out there: Do you really want to take the responsibility for not having acted in a timely manner? What is your plan B, in case you have been wrong?

As long as we do not discover a Planet B, we should keep our options open or even increase future choices for subsequent generations. Hence, we should do everything possible to keep this planet alive and to foster an environmentally and socially sustainable development throughout the world.

Again, what are we doing in this respect?

With the Ministry for Economic Affairs being responsible, both, for implementing the so-called “Energiewende” in the State of Hessen and for Frankfurt’s role as a leading financial centre, we took an active role in the formation of the Green and Sustainable Finance Cluster Germany.

This cluster is a very important element of our strategy to transform this region in a truly green and sustainable financial centre, by helping to develop a common taxonomy and by defining common standards.

And we have already seen some success:

On a European level, two members of the cluster were selected to be part of the Technical Expert Group on Sustainable Finance, which supports the EU Commission in the implementation of the Action Plan.

On a national level, as recently as two weeks ago, the inaugural meeting of the advisory council on sustainable finance to the German federal government took place, chaired by Karsten Löffler, who is one of our cluster‘s executive directors.

And a few weeks ago, the majority of the state secretaries of the Länder Ministries of Economic Affaires voted in favour of a resolution, introduced by Hessen, which asked the federal government to develop general guiding principles for a sustainable finance sector in Germany.

We are looking forward to further developments in this direction and perhaps Jörg Kukies can elaborate on that subject later on.

Last but not least, there is the BREXIT. Or is it? We are all eagerly awaiting who will lead the UK out of the European Union. But we are prepared: Right after the BREXIT vote, we started an intensive exchange with the financial institutions and the non-financial corporates in Hessen. We traveled abroad to promote Hessen as an excellent business location, supportet by local stake holders and federal representatives such as Jörg Kukies, Sabine Mauderer and Joachim Nagel. Thank you very much again, for your support. I do not think we can do much more on that front. Life after BREXIT is difficult to predict.

But to keep our options open, we should keep our communication channels open and start discussing with our old and new partners in the UK, on how we all can manage the new situation for our mutual benefit.

Before that, I would like to wish you all an inspiring summit and fruitful discussions, which will certainly help us all to navigate in these uncertain waters.”



Titel photo: © HMWEVW – Oliver Rüther.

Photo of Frankfurt Finance Summit: © dfv Euro Finance Group GmbH I Photographer: Axel Gross