An open letter to UK Members of Parliament at this time of Brexit Crisis!

Dear United Kingdom Members of Parliament,

This letter is a direct plea at a time of increasing national crisis in the U.K.

Brexit is exhausting our business and wrecking the country’s tremendous reputation as an economic powerhouse. The U.K.’s historic stable political climate has facilitated huge investments from companies like Siemens over the years, and we are at risk of losing that critical pillar of economic stability. I know this view is held by many of my colleagues leading businesses here too.

As time has worn on, and with the prime minister’s deal defeated yet again on Friday, this political frenzy has moved us dangerously close to permanent damage for the U.K.

From the outside, it’s very difficult to follow the political ins and outs and the only certainty that remains is that failure to agree a deal or an alternative way forward before 12 April will lead to a hugely damaging no-deal Brexit. Many of you already know this.

The U.K. Office for National Statistics on Friday confirmed investment is in its worst slump since the last recession, and we already know 80% of businesses say Brexit has damaged investment decisions. Worse, the damage this is doing to the country’s hard-won reputation as a serious and stable place to do business is now all too real.

The world is watching, and where the U.K. used to be beacon for stability, we are now becoming a laughing stock. I personally can no longer defend the action of our parliament when reporting to my managing board, making it hard to win support for finely balanced investment decisions that in the end have an impact on U.K. jobs, innovation and the competitiveness of our activities here.

Multiply this by the many such conversations going on in company boards up and down the country with their often overseas investors, and this will not play out well for our economy.

What makes this worse is that the majority of MPs, and many sensible members of the government, understand these arguments. They have no desire to see the U.K. crash out and they know that we need to maintain a close economic and political relationship with the EU through a ‘softer’ Brexit.

Without compromise and action though, we will leave with no deal.

This will certainly lead to short-term economic turmoil, but my big worry is that in the long-term it will create irreparable damage, particularly to manufacturing, and high-tech sectors. That will cripple our hopes of competing in the fourth industrial revolution.

Business was broadly supportive of the Withdrawal Agreement negotiated by Theresa May’s government, but it has been repeatedly and comprehensively rejected by parliament. The current approach has failed. It has been clear for weeks, that the only way that this will be resolved is through compromise between the government and parliament.

In this respect, the process of indicative votes which began last Wednesday and will continue on Monday, are a welcome opportunity to see if MPs can coalesce around a way forward. It was not entirely surprising that no clear favourite emerged at the first attempt, but on Monday Parliament must act decisively.

My own view, and following the first round of indicative votes, is that a majority could and should be found for a U.K.-EU customs union — the option that was closest to achieving a majority last week. It is an essential part of frictionless trade and saves businesses billions every year in pointless and unproductive customs declarations.

But this will mean that those MPs that favour a referendum or Norway-style deal, for example, will have to compromise. Ardent Brexiteers must also recognise that they do not have the votes in parliament to force a hard Brexit and must likewise agree concessions if they want to see any Brexit at all.

Parliament must now come together to find a majority view on the future relationship. The government must then respond positively and seek to amend the Political Declaration, and its policy for future negotiations.

It would be deeply irresponsible to simply let the clock run down and then present parliament with an eleventh hour choice of the government’s deal or no deal. If we get to that point the chances of a no-deal Brexit by accident would be dangerously high.

So, my message to MPs is simple. Enough is enough. We are all running out of patience. Make a decision and unite around a customs union compromise that delivers economic security and stability.

People’s livelihoods are at stake, and our reputation as a country for stable and sound business investments could be in tatters by the end of the week if you fail.

This is your last chance to come together to build a new consensus for Britain and then allow us to move on from Brexit, to the many other issues that need so desperately sorting in our country like our industrial strategy and skills agenda.

Please do not waste this critical week!

Yours Sincerely
Juergen Maier CBE, CEO of Siemens UK

First published in

The Responsibility Deficit

I had some time to reflect over the festive period on how we have dug ourselves into this Brexit mess and more importantly how we start to dig ourselves out of it.

Whilst our national debate has been about backstops, trading rules and other technicalities, I came to the conclusion that a much bigger concern is the responsibility crisis that has led to a breakdown in trust throughout our society.

Thinking back to the referendum campaign: are there any core claims left that have credibility? The money, the easy trade and separation deal with the EU, the global trade deals piling up on our doorstep. Were those making these promises convinced that these could be met? Or were they being irresponsible and misleading our nation? Of course, I know that the same can be said for the arguments from the other side too, but that doesn’t make it better. A debate fought on false promises and media hype has created a significant breakdown in trust. The result? People no longer know who to believe, mistrust experts with evidence and have lost confidence in our institutions.

I reflect on the behaviour of our elected representatives during the negotiations. When watching the House of Commons debate on the long awaited PM’s Brexit deal it was like watching an embarrassing chaotic circus. The jeering, the insults, the inappropriate jokes. And it went on, the ill-timed vote of no-confidence, the obstructions, and no better suggestions. It all adds up to an outrageous level of disrespect against those who are trying to make some progress, having spent years negotiating a deal in near impossible circumstances.

What we forget is that our European partners watch these events. They have invested massively in these negotiations too, and they view the lack of maturity and seriousness in this debate as wholly irresponsible. I have had many colleagues’ watching in from the EU ask me why our Parliament is not taking this seriously. Especially as it is about their prosperity and future, as well as ours.

And right now, we have promises of a managed no-deal, which doesn’t just sound stupid, it really is! And landing a new better deal at this late hour is an equally irresponsible claim.

And here is the real problem with all of this. Those politicians behaving in such irresponsible ways at a time of national crisis are the ones setting the rules for business and society to be more responsible. This simply will not work when those writing the rules are not being role models for responsible behaviour. It does the opposite and indeed this responsibility deficit has eroded trust across society and thrown us into crisis .

But, I haven’t yet given up hope, because, like all of us, our Parliament will also have been reflecting over the festive period. 

Every single MP must now think very carefully about what, at this point of crisis, is the most responsible action to take. And with that comes one very important principle for responsible deal making: not to vote a deal down unless you can genuinely come up with a better, realistic alternative, one you are 100% confident you can deliver.

I believe there are only two realistic and responsible options left. The PM’s deal or a ‘People’s Vote’. It is now over to Parliament to do whatever they think is right and responsible for our country and not for them personally, not for their ideological principles, or for the short term political gain of their party.

As it stands right now the only deal on the table that I believe can work for business – in time for March 29 – is the PM’s. It provides us with some much needed certainty and allows us to invest in our businesses responsibly and for the long term. This is my personal view based on what I believe is best for business, the economy and prosperity for all here in the UK and I make a very definite promise: that I have arrived at my view responsibly and after much deliberation.

So, as we commence 2019, I just have one wish, and that is for us all to reflect on our own actions and take our responsibility for society, for the environment and for the future of our next generation more seriously. If we do that, inject some calm reason into our national discourse, we will start to repair the damage that Brexit has caused, here and with our European partners. We can then focus on much more important long-term business issues, such as building a smarter, well-connected North, a stronger position in this fourth industrial revolution and a truly green economy. That is where our future prosperity really lies and whatever the outcome, the EU will not stand in our way!

All together now: the importance of an inclusive workplace

It’s National Inclusion Week, but making sure we collaborate with people from different backgrounds and with different experiences all year round is the key to truly embracing everyone. Here a view from a few of us at Siemens UK on how to keep making progress.

Wouldn’t life be much easier if no one disagreed with you? If you were never challenged, never held to account, and everything you said and every decision you made was immediately agreed with.

It’s something that Juergen Maier experienced early on in his career while he was working with fellow engineers in a factory in Congleton, UK. They were halcyon days with no fights, no dramas, and not even a hint of anyone challenging the status quo.

This feeling of cohesion went way beyond opinions. It stretched to the team’s physical appearance, meaning the workplace was a safe space for cookie-cutter colleagues to hear their words reverberate around an echo chamber and be reinforced by teammates with the same outlook.

“The factory was white, European, and male. I enjoyed it because I was surrounded by like-minded people,” Juergen admits. “Decision-making was quite easy as we all swam in the same direction and had the same kind of outlook.”

Thankfully, that uniformity didn’t last long. As the factory grew, its employees were quickly forced out of their comfort zone when dealing with customers and colleagues from further afield. “We started to struggle,” he admits. “This was in the early days of exporting to China and India and far-flung places, and it became obvious to me that there were cultures in the world that I really didn’t understand.”

Acknowledging this challenge, the factory was slow to change. “We thought we were doing the right things, but actually we were completely blindsided because we didn’t have any international people on our team,” he says.

Employees from other countries were slowly introduced to the team, finally creating a more inclusive working environment. As a result, the reassuring nod that came with every idea and every solution subsided. “It became tougher,” Juergen says. “I was frustrated because I thought, ‘Why are all these people disagreeing with me?’”

Conflict is important

Work might have become more complex, but Juergen learned a valuable lesson. “Decision-making sometimes takes longer, but you definitely get a more rounded and better output.” In fact, understanding the importance of inclusion changed his entire approach.

And it’s not just about employing people of different nationalities, it goes far deeper than that; it’s about creating a working environment that actually reflects the diverse tapestry of life. “I realized the true opportunity when it comes to inclusion,” he says, “is that people who disagree with you can have a different outlook to you. They are a gift.”

The lesson has stayed with him and now, 30 years later, inclusion is more than just a buzzword. “We’re not just pursuing inclusion for inclusion’s sake,” he says. “We want people to have the richest experiences from as many viewpoints, backgrounds, and experiences as possible.”

For Juergen, it’s about embracing and not simply respecting people. “I hate the word respect as, for me, that’s just a given. And anybody who doesn’t show respect has no place in our organization, it’s as simple as that.”

It’s okay to feel uncomfortable

National Inclusion Week reminds us that there is still more that we can do, and Juergen takes a refreshingly honest approach to acknowledge some of the struggles that we might encounter along the way. He believes it’s okay to admit that difference can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable — we are often afraid of offending someone, or not knowing the ‘right’ thing to say.

“In recognizing this we can really start to make an effort to embrace diversity,” he says. Since his time at the factory, he’s made sure to never shy away from people who express themselves differently to him, in whatever way. “I have found it a really enlightening, brilliant experience to learn from people who I just hadn’t engaged with as much as I should have done.”
Juergen has experience of challenging people to embrace the unknown when he came out as a gay man. A year or two later, some colleagues admitted they initially saw him differently but that he had ultimately ‘opened their eyes’ as they had not recognized their own previous misconceptions or unconscious homophobia.

“If people are not overtly prejudiced but are uncomfortable I completely understand it, because why shouldn’t they be uncomfortable at first?” he says. “They might not have a variety of people in their friendship groups,” he says, “so they haven’t had first-hand experience of all underrepresented groups, and might not even have the right words in their vocabulary.’’ He admitted finding it very uncomfortable when meeting with a group of neurodiverse people recently. “I totally recognize their difference and that we should embrace this much more to help us in areas like coding and data analytics, but I just didn’t feel comfortable in case I chose the wrong language.’’

Juergen believes these feelings present an opportunity to make positive changes and look beyond your clique. “You become a better person when you work in a diverse group,” he says. “You learn insights that you hadn’t thought about because people are coming at it from a different set of experiences.”

Inclusion is good for all of us

“Inclusion has always been important,” says Juergen, “but for centuries we have missed fantastic life, productivity, and ingenuity-enriching opportunities. The speed of organizational change has got to the fastest level I have ever seen and inclusion is a prerequisite of success in that. The winners will embrace it.”

National Inclusion Week is a great time to review our efforts to embrace difference and welcome everyone into our community of Future Makers, but of course, inclusion is an ongoing conversation that should be taking place all year round.

“We have improved massively, but we will never be perfect until we get more people from all walks of life coming to join and help us,” says Juergen. Various LGBTQ+, neurodiversity, and women’s groups are being formed throughout the company to foster an inclusive environment, both to support current Siemens employees and to encourage diverse people to join the company. Training is underway to banish unconscious bias, and interviews go ahead only when there is a range of applicants from different backgrounds. “It shouldn’t lead to positive discrimination,” he says, “but we want to make sure we have better diversity mixes in management and project teams.”

Change is underway, and you can be a stronger part of it. Whether you’re a current or future employee, you can help the company become a more inclusive environment. So join the conversation, think about the changes you can make in your approach to the workplace, and seek ways to make inclusion a given rather than an aim. As Juergen says: “The promise we’ll make to you is that we’ll make you feel welcome and always embrace everybody’s opinions and views.”

A technology World First at the Goodwood Festival of Speed!

This week, I will be at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I am incredibly excited and slightly anxious about our attempt to pull off a World First – the first fully autonomous hill climb using the latest digital technologies, 3d mapping and sensors in a 1965 Ford Mustang. Twice a day we will be getting the classic car up the race track, each time capturing data, learning and improving with every run. This is a totally unique moment in the history of racing and I can’t wait to be a passenger myself!

We at Siemens are delighted and proud once again to be a primary partner at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

It is a landmark event that showcases the incredible evolution of the UK automotive industry. It will allow the public to enjoy first-hand some of the timeless motoring classics that enthrall car enthusiasts, as well as highlighting the latest thinking around how innovative digital technologies are, today, helping to disrupt, reshape and transform the automotive sector.

With our contribution this year, we are blending the past and the future to create something fun, futuristic and inspiring. We are taking the best of classic automotive engineering and pimping it with the latest and best autonomous technology.

And we’re doing it to inspire people, especially young people, to see that engineering and digitalisation can make anything possible.

Through our Digital Technologies, we are helping revolutionise car design using virtual reality techniques.  We are developing new, radical composite materials to make F1 cars even more efficient.  And we are bringing together virtual and real worlds thanks to digital twinning.  Our hi-tech design and simulation software is challenging previous thinking and enabling new approaches to be taken within one of the UK’s most globally appreciated sectors.

And whilst all this is applicable to the automotive industry, the wider societal impact of digital technology and its power to transform society for the better is a much wider and more fundamental question.

I’ve always believed that we need to move beyond the common narrative that, for example, focuses too heavily on ‘robots stealing jobs’ and, instead, use our imagination, vision and technology prowess in a way that supplements and not replaces human intelligence.

We can meet old challenges in new ways, and that is embodied in the spirit of our attempt to get a classic Mustang up the infamous hill climb.

Digitalisation – the technology focus behind Industry 4.0 – has the ability to transform not only the way we design and produce cars, transport systems and enhance the overall mobility of populations, it can also improve other important areas of our lives, ranging from healthcare to education and beyond.

The next industrial revolution has the power to transform the UK into a highly productive and innovation-based economy; one where more skilled and better paid jobs are created, new business models born and economic prosperity supported.

Many of these technologies will be on display on the Siemens stand within the Future Lab at Goodwood so the public can see them first hand, as will see how racing is pushing the UK’s innovation edge further and further with every day.

I want everyone to see for themselves how a powerful combination of human ambition and visionary technologies can set us on a path to a healthier, wealthier and happier future for all. And it promises to be fun, exciting and a chance to see the future first hand. Please come say hello us all to Siemens at the exhibition in the Future Lab at the festival!

Facing Brexit Realities

We have hit a very important milestone – two years after the Brexit vote and I am sensing an increasing mood of unease and uncertainty among business about the lack of clarity on our future economic and trading arrangements with the EU after Brexit.

To be clear, whilst I am sad that the UK is leaving the EU, I do not think this decision can or should be reversed. Like other businesses, Siemens has tried to engage with those involved to find new trading arrangements that work and we are doing our internal preparation to prepare for the possible final outcomes. We have also worked with the government on its industrial strategy, to help develop post Brexit opportunities.

The shape of that final Brexit outcome however needs to be a practical one. One that allows us to trade with minimum friction. Just for Siemens this requires us to move thousands of parts across borders every day, and with that build and keep critical UK infrastructure working. At the whole economy scale the practicalities of this are enormous. As an example, if every truck passing Dover, would just take 2 minutes more to process, this would lead to a 17 mile tailback for every day that happens.

I used the opportunity today to argue that the time has come for more realism in the debate and for some honesty about the choices involved. In particular, I warned that business needs to see progress on the negotiations by October and that the Government must keep open the option of participation in a Customs Union with the EU in the absence of a better and workable solution by then.

The honesty needs to come from those who continue to argue that we can simply walk away without any consequences. This is deeply irresponsible. The UK’s economic, trading and legal system is inextricably intertwined with the EU. We see that every day at Siemens, with so much of our business operations, or those of our customers, undertaken seamlessly under the auspices of Single Market regulation and through participation in the Customs Union. You cannot just unpick this without consequences and two years (since the referendum) was never going to give enough time to prepare, even though promises were made to the contrary.

Of course 52% people voted to leave but we know that many of those were borderline in their decision. Many were neither hard Brexiteers or ardent Europhiles. And only last year we had an election which failed to give a definitive answer about the type of Brexit that people wanted. And whilst the outcome of the referendum was clear, it was not decisive or indication enough of the type of Brexit, hard, soft or whatever you want to call it. And I think with the increased knowledge we have now, the obvious and clear choice is to face Brexit realities and shoot for a sensible Brexit, not a hard one.

We know now that we have been sold a crock. None of this is as easy as promised. If you leave the single market, there will be non-tariff barriers to trade with our biggest market and, despite the Government’s very significant efforts for two years now to find alternative solutions, they are not in sight, and a Customs Union is still the most effective way of avoiding damaging customs costs and delays. In any case, the likelihood of a practical and agreed alternative being in place at the end of a transition period now appears very low and the UK should consider applying to remain in a Customs Union, until and unless an alternative solution can be agreed.

I understand some of the concerns about this in terms of making it harder to do FTAs with other countries (although as others have pointed out it doesn’t stop it completely). But all the evidence points to the benefits of those FTAs simply not outweighing the costs of leaving the Customs Union. And of course the promises of nations queuing up to do attractive trade deals with us, has been proven to be another broken promise. Moreover, there has never been anything stopping us trading much more with countries like the USA and China. Why does Germany trade 5 times more than we do with China, when they have exactly the same trading terms with them than us? The answer is simple, they have over decades innovated better, invested better and made more things to export.

So, that is where I recommend we place our focus. To help support Industry create a stronger global leadership position in this 4th Industrial Revolution, and through that innovate, create and make more things that we can trade with the world. And that is why I have placed my energy and focus into this, by leading the Industrial Strategy Made Smarter review, which you can read more about here. I am delighted that this work is receiving positive support from Business and Government alike and I think more effort and funding here combined with a sensible Brexit, gives us a tremendous opportunity to reek the economic benefits we so desperately need to pay for the every more thirsty public services.

It will be the prosperity created by business in this 4th Industrial revolution that will fund our NHS – not the famous £350m, which has turned out to be yet another broken Brexit promise.

I want to reiterate that I have no ambition of standing in the way of us leaving the EU, but it is time, two years on, to face the realities. A hard Brexit puts ideology over practicality and what is best for our country; just the thought of it is already harming the economy. Implementing it will harm it even more.

Now is the time for pragmatists, practical people, and, dare I say it, experts to sort this out and create a sensible Brexit. Otherwise our current circular debate will tear us apart internally and ruin our reputation as a pragmatic nation of innovators, traders and diplomats.

The Industrial Revolution that Scotland cannot afford to miss

Everyone knows that Scotland has a rich industrial history and everyone knows, too, the difficult times that Scottish industry faced in the final decades of the 20th century. But making, creating and innovating is part of the nation’s fabric and there are very many world class companies and sectors thriving up and down the country. It is because of this that I believe that Scotland has an opportunity to lead the digital transformation that is taking place in manufacturing and, indeed, other industries too.

Even though Scotland has inherent industrial strengths there is some catching up to do, just as there is in the rest of the UK. This is because Scotland missed out on the last industrial leap that took place in the 1970’s and 1980’s, defined by the rise of electronics and microprocessors. The decline of engineering and manufacturing sectors in the latter part of the 20th century came at a time when other countries were investing in their industrial bases, and heavily at that. Places like Singapore, Taiwan and Japan thrived whilst the UK as a whole typically underinvested and lost its way.

The social consequences of this were dire. Unemployment was far too high for far too long, and too many people and places were left behind.

There is however a new window of opportunity opening for Scotland’s industrial economy, and I will be saying more about this today at the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service’s ‘Making Smarter in Scotland’ Conference.
The new opportunity, the next industrial revolution, is all about digitalisation and how it can unlock the productivity of Scotland’s people and in doing so improve living standards for millions. It is a revolution that is already underway and will transform business and society across the globe.

And my message will be simple – we must invest in the latest and best tech to help Scotland grow its industrial base over the coming decades.

To do this we will need to apply the tools of the digital world – virtual reality, augmented reality or artificial intelligence into manufacturing and physical things, like robotics and production lines. It will need connectivity with the internet of things too, technology that helps machines talk to one another and collect data that can be used to massively improve productivity.

By focusing on digitalisation Siemens believes that not only can industry become more efficient but that the economy can create whole new industries in the supply chain dedicated to these new technologies. Imagine if we ‘cross pollinated’ Scotland’s industrial base with its digital start up sector, for example? You can see the new skills and technologies emerging already, the new economy already seeding.

Take the number of people working in Scotland’s video games sector, which has increased by nearly a quarter since 2016. It is the second fasting growing sector in the country. It’s worth £172m to the economy. There are also around 3,000 digital economy companies employing roughly 70,000 people in total. Imagine if we harnessed these digital assets what we could do for the already hefty industrial sector? Companies like Siemens are digital pioneers, and we can see the potential of Scotland to digitalise and grow its industrial base over the coming years, through this ‘cross pollination’.

Last year I chaired a major industrial review for the UK Government called ‘Made Smarter’. It looked at this very topic and how all four corners of Britain can benefit from this new industrial revolution that so many other nations’ globally are already embracing with open arms. The review found that, as a minimum, over 10 years digitalisation could boost UK manufacturing by £455bn, increasing sector growth up to 3% per year, creating a net gain of 175,000 jobs whilst reducing CO2 emissions by 4.5%.

I firmly believe Scotland must be part of this new revolution building on its already substantial assets such as the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland. The Made Smarter proposals say that there must be a focus on strong leadership to drive this revolution, and that business with government must encourage the adoption of digital tech across the supply chain, especially within SMEs. Critically industry must be faster at innovation and the creation of new industrial digital technologies.

There is good news here, according to the Scottish Development Agency, Scotland does more research per capita than anywhere else in the UK and is the most successful for spin-out companies. And this is important because the Made Smarter Review calls for a UK-wide national adoption programme, a joint plan between business and government to help industrial SME’s digitalise their businesses. Scotland already has the frameworks to deliver such a programme and a great track record of delivering tangible and commercial R&D. This will be driven by a Made Smarter Commission for all of the UK, and will be accompanied by a plan to up-skill new and existing employees in the latest digital technologies.

My call to business and government in Scotland is simple – don’t get left behind, get fully involved in Made Smarter and tailor it to the unique industrial attributes the economy has here.

If we get these things right, coupled with a determination from government and industry to invest and scale up, we can ensure that the next century will be one where Scotland leads the world in the latest innovations. It will also require and create the skills that are needed across all industries: digital skills, engineering skills, programming and coding skills, social sciences skills and lots of creative skills that Scotland already has a firm foundation in.

And that will be to the benefit of not just business but to employees too, as higher rates of productivity help raise living standards – making this new industrial revolution as much about people as it is about technology. The potential is to create many new highly paid jobs, better exports and it will reinforce Scotland’s reputation as a country of innovators, creators and makers.

By embracing this new digital revolution, Scotland has everything to gain for its economy and everything to gain for its people.

Embracing difference: Preparing for a non-binary future

Today is #IDAHOTB – International day against Homophobia, Transphopbia and Biphobia. In many ways we are extremely lucky in the UK with the progress we have made regarding #LGBT+ equality, and my thoughts on this day are very much with those living in countries less fortunate than myself and who are discriminated against and have no legal or community support at all.

Here in the UK, we however still need to make progress also and have to keep up with the times. There are sadly still too many horrible stories of Homophopbia, Transphobia and Biphobia and every occasion is one too many. I gave an interview, about my experience growing up as a gay man in a typical UK working environment and more importantly about the changes I think we need to embrace going forwards as employers and society. I hope my reflections help spark some thoughts and discussion:


Difference is something to be revered rather than feared. Many improvements have been made at Siemens in recent years to make the company a more welcoming place, but Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK, informed by his personal experience, explains why more must be done to reflect a changing society.

Ever pretended to be someone you’re not, just so you can fit in? Juergen Maier knows what it’s like; after all, he hid his sexuality from colleagues for over 15 years.

Fearful that outing himself as a gay man would impact his progression within Siemens, he decided for “right or wrong reasons” to stay silent. Without role models, without people “like him” working alongside him, he felt it was safer to play into people’s assumptions. He was climbing up the career ladder, but didn’t want to risk everytvhing he’d strived so hard to achieve. “At that time, I thought it was easier for me to pretend to be heterosexual as opposed to expressing who I really am,” he admits.

It came at a price. Not only did the burden of inauthenticity weigh heavily on his mind, but his work suffered. “I’d been wrestling this for a long time,” he says, “and that meant my performance, my focus, and my creativity was affected in a negative way.”

Not being truly authentic, and feeling pressured to conceal an aspect of his character that he should have felt comfortable — and proud — to reveal, was becoming too much. It was halfway through his career, when he was 15 years in, that he finally had the confidence to claim — and own — who he really was.

Everything changed when he broke the act. “There is no question that after coming out and being allowed to be who I am, I became a much stronger individual,” he says. “I was more creative, a more confident communicator, and a better team player.”

Juergen’s experience is, Siemens hopes, an example of a bygone era. It’s a result of a less open and inclusive culture; a period when difference was feared rather than celebrated for the better outcomes that confident and inclusive teams generate.

And he doesn’t want any current or future employees to have the same experience he had – not a single one.

And he needs help.

Starting the conversation: The future is non-binary

We could reel off a list of initiatives and campaigns to show how much more inclusive Siemens has become over the years, but the reality is, despite things having improved immensely, there is far more to be done. “We’re just catching up to being more inclusive towards the LGBTQ+ community,” he says. At the same time society is progressing at a faster pace, this is especially prevalent in Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) – to claim their difference and smash down stereotypes and traditional attitudes.

He applauds this group of young people who are expressing themselves in ways he felt he could not; with non-binary people in particular fighting back against the very concept of traditional male and female gender classification. “We don’t want people to have to conform to what might have been the norm some time ago,” he says, “and Siemens has a way to go before it truly represents the society it sits within.”

But he is honest. He absolutely does not have all the answers. In fact, he doesn’t even have the right language to sustain a conversation.

“We haven’t got a clue about the way in which Generation Z is presenting itself,” he says. “We have made progress but we don’t have the right language, culture or politics for this generation yet.”

He urges current and future employees to stand up and join the dialogue about how Siemens can adapt to more accurately reflect the needs and views of non-binary people. Young people are ripping up the rulebook, and it’s time for companies to take note

It won’t be easy. It won’t be solved in an instant, but that does not mean he’ll shy away from it. “This is going to be completely new ground and in very many ways uncomfortable, but we need to prepare ourselves for a different future generation.”

His personal experiences have taught him how vital it is to work in an atmosphere where you can be comfortable in your own skin. After all, if you can’t be your true self, you can’t be your best.

But it also reinforced how crucial diversity is for the success of a company. “Siemens’ customers represent society at large,” he says, “And therefore if we think in a non-inclusive way, we may be designing and creating the wrong innovations, services, and products.” Ultimately, diversity is the key to success at an individual and a company-wide level. Defying categorization and embracing difference – points of view, characters, and experiences – leads to the best ideas.

By admitting Siemens doesn’t currently have the right language right now, he hopes others will join the conversation and help the company to prepare for a more diverse, inclusive and equal future. But how? “Engage with us. Be yourself, and be confident that your difference is your strength rather than your weakness.”

So, over to you. What moves can and must be made in order to spark real and effective change? The conversation has started, Juergen welcomes you to join in.

The Northern Powerhouse – let’s make it work for everyone!

More than 200 years ago the North of England was the birthplace of the original Industrial Revolution.

The dramatic shift to adopt new manufacturing processes was spearheaded by the textiles industry in the North West, ship building in the North East, which reached every corner of the globe and steelmaking giving Sheffield a worldwide reputation.

The transformational effect a world-class industry can have on the north was demonstrated during that original Industrial Revolution, as industrial cities saw their population grow tenfold, attracted by the jobs of the future and new emerging specialist industries.

It was also this revolution that led Siemens to set up shop in the UK over 170 years ago. Especially because the north became a magnet for innovation – a global beacon of trade – which it must and can do again through the power of new digital technology.

In the last few weeks we have spoken and supported at a number of leading forums to champion the North’s future technology potential – including the launch of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Industrial ambition together with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). We also supported the importance of our brilliant women entrepreneurs in the North and better innovation through embracing more diversity at the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering)

And we are very proud to be supporting the Great Exhibition of the North which is taking place this summer.

At each of these my message is simple – the north can create and lead a new 21st century industrial revolution and in doing so can be at the forefront of brand new industries and brand new companies.

There is no reason why the next tech pioneer, the next Spotify or WhatsApp or industrial Artificial Intelligence leader cannot be created in Sheffield, Leeds, Sunderland, Newcastle or anywhere else in our great region.

At Siemens, we’re so confident about this. That’s why we recently opened our second UK digital university innovation lab at Newcastle University. It is tasked with accelerating regional digitalisation, boosting digital skills for graduates – promoting technology and knowledge exchange to meet the needs of an increasingly digitalised society.

Many have asked why I am so personally passionate about investing in the north – especially after our recent announcement that we hope to make a second major investment in East Yorkshire, with our proposed train factory in Goole. The reason is simple – we cannot afford to let this wave of change pass the region by, as we allowed in the 70’s and 80’s.

And no one will do this for us, not least Westminster or Whitehall. It is leaders in business, education and local politics in the North that must drive this.

I spent my youth growing up in Leeds, as it struggled to cope with the effects of ‘de-industrialisation’, followed by a crippling recession in the early 80’s. Too many people were left ill-equipped to deal with the change in industry. So much potential and talent was lost, and the opportunities for a new generation were not created. This failure to adapt and modernise cost the north dearly, and the reason why this new digital industrial revolution is so important is that we must be determined to do a much better job this time around.

I have also been privileged to lead a piece of work as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy looking at how we can win back our winning streak in this new Industrial Revolution. We have called this new movement ‘Made Smarter’ and you can read more about it here

The unique characteristics of the Northern Powerhouse mean that this region can and must lead this new ‘Made Smarter’ Industrial Revolution. A region of 15 million people, working together across traditional rivalries and boundaries in some of the most vibrant, productive and diverse cities, towns and communities in the UK.

So my call to action is for you to spread the word about how much potential our region has in this new digital industrial revolution, and carry this message beyond the business world and into our communities.

This is our chance, your chance to create your own Industrial Revolution – underpinned by digital technology, making things again, but much smarter and creating long lasting social value for the north of England.

New Siemens Rail factory plans hope to spark a new UK Rail Industrial Revolution!

Today marks a very important day for Siemens and one that I am hugely excited about. We are announcing our plans to build a new rail factory in the UK.

We have signed a long-term agreement for the lease of land in Goole, East Riding of Yorkshire, with a view to establishing a new state-of-the-art factory there to manufacture and commission trains.

Our plan is to start phased development of the 67-acre (equivalent to 40 football pitches) site later this year if investment conditions are met, and if we’re successful in winning major future orders.

This development, which could mean an investment of up to £200m, marks a major milestone in Siemens’ journey in the UK and will provide a huge boost to the Yorkshire economy, the North of England, and UK plc as a whole.

I am very hopeful that this investment would spark a new generation of Railway manufacturing in the region and as such become a superb example of Industrial Strategy in action; UK and local infrastructure investments, leading to local high tech industrialisation and the creation of thousands of well paid jobs and a boost to the local economy.

We have already shown to make such an Industrial Strategy work in the Humber region, where our investment to build blades for the off-shore wind sector is now creating many more opportunities and new jobs in local supply chains and helping create economic prosperity across the Humber region.

We have a long history of being a pioneer in the UK rail sector. We developed Eurostar’s new e320 train, currently the fastest high-speed train in service in the UK, and recently delivered the re-signalling of the Victoria Line, which since May 2017 has been delivering a train on the Line every 100 seconds at peak time. We are also in the process of rolling out 115 state-of-the-art Class 700 trains for Thameslink.

This new rail factory would help to expand our UK presence even further, take our UK headcount in just the transport  sector to over 5000 and cement our status as a leader in the UK rail industry and manufacturing sector as a whole.

Nothing would please me more than this factory becoming an anchor for a new industry that is helping deliver a new state of the art Northern Powerhouse Railway, as it is high time that we better connect our great cities of the north.

The Northern Powerhouse is a vital element of our economic future, and I hope that with this investment we can help provide a massive economic boost and help create a new world class Northern Powerhouse Rail Industrial Revolution!

Read more about this exciting development at

Why Britain must lead the fourth industrial revolution


Today we’re announcing the findings of the business led industrial digitalisation review, which has been branded as ‘Made Smarter UK’. Its aim, to set out the basis for how the UK can lead the fourth industrial revolution.

The work is the product of eight months work, led by a team of UK CEO’s from businesses large and small and it has been a privilege to lead the work. We have taken contributions from over 200 organisations including our world leading Universities, the CBI, Royal Academy of Engineering and our British R&D Catapult centres.

So why is this important, and why now? Firstly, we are at a critical juncture in politics and business. Brexit dominates the agenda and there are increasing uncertainties. The prospect of rising interest rates and inflation haunts consumers. Inward investment is becoming increasingly difficult. Short term challenges threaten to derail how the UK plans for the long term, and invests in the technologies that will help industry and specifically manufacturing thrive over the next two decades. As business leaders we have therefore focused on this very positive and tangible piece of work and not the short term uncertainties. We believe that we desperately need to have a long term economic vision for the country – regardless of Brexit, regardless of political instability and economic volatility.

Our review into digitalisation tries to address this need for a UK technology vision. We have concluded that the Government’s industrial strategy will need a red thread of digital running through its core. It will not be about reviving long gone industries but rather it will be about building the new ones, in AI, virtual reality, big data, machine learning, simulation platforms – the merging of creative digital tech and industrial tech. This will form a new vibrant and growing ‘creation sector’; creating digital tech, software, algorithms, digital media, games and many agile digital factories. Our proposals focus on how the UK can use these technologies and strengths to improve productivity, wages and the number of jobs in the economy. Industrial digitalisation could boost UK manufacturing by £455bn, increasing sector growth up to 3% per year; creating a net gain of 175,000 jobs whilst reducing CO2 emissions by 4.5% – and we think there could be a huge growth new jobs and businesses specialising in the new digital technologies of the future. Put simply, the opportunity is huge, and that is why countries across the globe are racing to invest in this new industrial revolution.

The UK however is being held back by a history of chronic underinvestment in innovation and skills, so we have identified a series strategic challenges government and industry must overcome.  The challenges include the need to increase the speed of adoption of industrial digital technologies, faster innovation of these same technologies, combined with stronger and more ambitious leadership to transform British industry.

For adoption we need a stronger national digital ecosystem. Government and industry should create a significantly more visible and effective ecosystem that will accelerate the innovation and diffusion of industrial digital technologies into manufacturing. We are proposing a National Adoption Programme piloted in the North West which as region has inherent technology strengths. Additionally we think we need to up-skilling one million workers to enable digital technologies to be deployed and successfully exploited through a Single Industrial Digitalisation Skills Strategy. To innovate the UK must re-focus the existing innovation landscape by increasing capacity and capability through 12 new ‘Digital Innovation Hubs’, eight large scale demonstrators and five digital research centres focused on developing new technologies part of a new National Innovation Programme. To strengthen leadership, business has called for the creation a national body, the Made Smarter UK (MSUK) Commission, comprising industry, Government, Academia, FE and leading Research and Innovation organisations, responsible for developing the UK as a leader in Industrial Digitalisation Technologies (IDT) and skills.

Industry is committed to working in partnership with Government to revive UK manufacturing, and firmly believes that only this combined package of measures, that go beyond business as usual and historical offerings, will achieve the level of ambition needed for the UK to be a world leader of the fourth industrial revolution. Britain made its way in the world by being at the forefront of the first industrial revolution in the 19th century. It capitalised on the second by leading in methods of mass production in the early 20th century. Somehow in the 1970’s we lost our way and missed out on the revolution of automation that countries like Germany embraced much better than we did. Now is the time to leap ahead and fully immerse the UK in digital – that way we won’t miss this fourth industrial revolution and be waiting with baited breath for a fifth. It’s down to today’s innovators and business leaders to get involved; to work in partnership with the public sector to ensure more longer-term thinking, and make sure all businesses invest and innovate to create a digitally led industrial Britain. My call to action to Government and the business community is to come together to embrace these proposals, as something positive we can get behind. Focusing on the long term challenge of embracing this new industrial revolution is vital if Britain is to succeed economically this century.

You can find the full review report here

Digital skills will secure a brighter future for next generation

Growing and strengthening the economy hasn’t really featured in the General Election debate. In part this may be because on the surface the economy seems be doing fine. But if you dig a little deeper it quickly reveals a serious problem.

The problem is jobs and living standards related. Put simply, the economy is at its core unbalanced. It doesn’t create anywhere near enough of the exciting, high tech, well paid jobs the next generation needs. As a country, we simply don’t innovate or create and make enough things that we can sell around the world. This has left most regions outside of the south east poorer and unable to generate opportunities and wealth.

And this place we find ourselves in is not an accident. It is the result of several decades promoting a national strategy of unbridled and a largely unrestrained markets. It served us well, when digging us out of the 1970’s industrial crisis, but eventually the associated short-term thinking and chronic under-investment in industry, skills and infrastructure has led to an equally unsatisfactory situation of not enough high-end, high tech industries and jobs.

I remember how this focus away from manufacturing and industry impacted my education when I attended to my local comprehensive in Leeds in the 70’s. I was actively discouraged from studying practical subjects – the likes of woodwork and  technical drawing, yet engineering was clearly my passion. I was part of an engineering generation that largely saw the automation driven third industrial revolution pass us by.

A nightmare situation for me would be to see this next generation not be encouraged and given the chance to work with the technology that will define this fourth digital industrial revolution we are currently living through.

There is however a way to change this and rebuild our jobs and skills base. That is to use this fourth industrial revolution to create new industries and with that many more new high tech and well paid jobs. Through that we can again become a nation of creators and makers that sell many more goods and services around the world, bringing significant wealth into our country.

To achieve this, we need to take a very different approach. One where industry working in partnership with Government creates long term support mechanisms and policies that encourage investment in these new industries.

A fundamental part of this is to look at the skills and training of our people through a different lens.

We need to create a vision and a sense of excitement about the possibilities that exist for young people in this new digital economy. And we need up-skill workforces up and down the country so that we embrace new technologies like artificial intelligence and collaborative robots (or ‘co-bots’ machines that assist and work alongside humans). Positively embracing new technology rather than being afraid of it will be vital if we are to unlock the wealth the next generation needs.

This is going to take a massive re-think and a radical shift in economic and education policy. It requires much more investment, much better coordination and a different way of measuring the outcome of schools, colleges and universities. The future is much more about the employability of students and teaching the practical and team orientated skills needed to work in this rapidly developing new economy.

When I talk to teachers, parents and young people there is a vast void in the information available about the exciting jobs available in this new industrial revolution. So it’s not surprising that the teaching
curriculum falls well short of what is required to prepare young people for this new world of opportunities. This is so badly needed because these new exciting tech jobs will help younger people secure a home, secure a pension and improved lifestyles.

It is because of these opportunities that I am delighted to be working with a team of business leaders on an Industrial Digitalisation Review (#IDR), that aims to help bring about a positive change in how we better master the opportunities arising from this industrial revolution. A key part of that work is radically influencing education, employment and skills policy. It’s something the next Government, whoever that will be, will need to grasp as quickly as possible after June 8th.

We’d love to hear your views, whether you are involved with education, business or policy making. What can we do to embrace this technology revolution we are witnessing, harnessing it so that it becomes a generator of future opportunities and better living standards for the next generation?

To find out more about the review and give us your views please visit:

A positive post-Brexit future for the UK

It was an honour, and good fun to participate on BBC Question Time recently.  I watch the programme regularly and we are living through a truly momentous period in our political and economic history, so I was keen to contribute to the national debate during this time.

On Brexit, I do not think there is any point looking back.  The decision has been made and right now, we have to do our best to make it work.

But after the recent rows between EU and British politicians, I think that everybody needs to calm down.

Arguing about who said what, to whom or bickering about whether the EU needs us more than we need them or vice versa, isn’t going to get us anywhere.  The truth is we both need each other after Brexit and we will both  be stronger if we can find a sensible way to trade and work together in the future. I would like to hear much more about the vision and ambition of Britain post Brexit; in which areas we will continue to collaborate with the EU and how we intend to make more of other global relationships, and I don’t mean soundbites, but long term strategic economic options.

On the other hand, I don’t think that the UK should just roll over to the EU on our future relationship – from my own experience in business I know that sometimes you do have to be ‘bloody difficult’ and hold your ground in negotiations, but you also need to think of the bigger picture, and that means understanding where the other side is coming from and making compromises. That in my experience is the more difficult and important part in any negotiation, than being ‘bloody difficult.’

The big issue facing our economy, is that it hasn’t supported a growth in living standards since the economic crash in 2008.  It is therefore no surprise that many people are struggling to cope and we do not have enough money to invest in public services.   Also the world of work has changed; a career for life is far less common these days and a new industrial revolution is taking place, which means that because of technology there simply will not be the need for some types of jobs in the future.

I believe that the only way that we will adapt to this and prosper as a country is if we take a new approach to our economy.  We need to invest much more in skills and infrastructure and we finally need that plan – an industrial strategy – to make Britain the best place in the world for creating and adopting new technologies and businesses, especially digital ones. This will begin to re-balance our economy towards more high value and knowledge rich new industries, like additive manufacturing , or artificial intelligence.

If we can get this right, then instead of worrying whether our jobs are going to be replaced by robots, we can make sure that our young people are training to be the designers, software developers or engineers that will drive these new industries. In other words that we have a clear strategy that makes sure through these new digital technologies we create more opportunities and jobs that we end up displacing through their introduction.

Brexit makes all this even more important, as I am very clear, and there is no point pretending differently, there will be some new costs to trading and business after Brexit, and that means even more so that only high technology and high innovation industries will be the ones that can thrive and create prosperity here. So, we need a cross party approach to supporting this much more strategic approach to industry and give our economy the best chance to prosper, create many more well paid jobs and export more to the world

I also attach a short video which builds on another one of my points on Question Time, that we need to stop seeing business as the bad guys.  There is a very important society aspect of business, and regarding the Brexit negotiations, it is certainly not all about money and trade deals – as important as they are. You can watch it here.

Industrial Digitalisation – A cure for the British Economy

I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to lead a Review on Industrial Digitalisation as part of the Government’s recently published Green Paper on Industrial Strategy. Today, we held our first launch meeting with top companies from across the country, including IBM, Rolls Royce, GKN, Cisco and Accenture, along with many other business leaders. Nick Hurd, Minister for Climate Change and Industrial Strategy joined us and we are hoping that this initiative will turn into a very strong partnership between Government and Business and create significant value for the UK economy.

You will probably  have heard about the new modern Industrial Strategy, launched by the Prime Minister recently, and in this blog, I wanted to talk about this and explain what we will be doing with our review – and why it is especially important for our economic future.

The first obvious question is what is Industrial Digitalisation? It has sometimes been described as Industry 4.0 or the 4th Industrial Revolution.  And you will hear jargon such as the Internet of Things, Connected Devices and Big Data.  But at its most basic, Industrial Digitalisation, and the purpose of this Review, is to work out how UK manufacturing can increase its use of digital technology and automation to become more productive and competitive.

Of course, there is nothing new in this – the essence of manufacturing has always been about using new technologies and finding new ways of working.  But this latest technological trend –connected, smart products that collect data and communicate it to users – is sure to create new business models, service offerings and very importantly, brand new industries.

But as always there is a global race to get ahead.  So the Industrial Digitalisation review is about identifying policy interventions and support mechanisms that will encourage advanced manufacturing and broader industry in the UK to invest more in digital technologies and drive faster innovation, and automation of industrial processes.

At the same time there is a wider economic and societal imperative for doing this. It isn’t just about numbers, processes and investment strategies.

If we get  this right, there is a massive prize – creating a key lever and a cure for the British economy. Creating opportunities for many new and highly skilled and well paid jobs, and giving more people in our economy the chance to feel less like they are being left behind. This is of course a message we have been hearing loudly from many of our communities, especially outside of the South East.

Get it wrong and we will de-industrialise more, losing out on high-value, well paid jobs and relying on imports even more than we currently do.  If this happens, it is sure to be harder for the UK to balance its books and living standards would inevitably drop.

A lot of what we do, will be about assessing what sectors would benefit most from this approach and the technologies where the UK has the opportunity to be world class in the future. We’re ambitious but we are realistic too – we can be at the forefront of the industrial digital age, but we think it is a long term job with no quick solutions to such a complex set of issues.

We will also learn from the approaches of some of our international competitors, such as the USA and Germany. We will report in the summer and the intention is that its recommendations could form the basis of Industrial Digital Sector Deal, and create a very strong partnership between business and government. 

Regular readers of this blog or those who have heard me speak will know that I am incredibly passionate and optimistic about the UK’s ability to benefit and become world leaders in this area.  I would really welcome your feedback and ideas in the comments section below.

A society that works for all


In this blog, I reflect back on 2016. I shot a selfie- video version, to help focus my thoughts, and you can listen to that here. It’s worth a watch, just for the breathtaking scenery, which for me, makes the perfect place for some considered thought. If you prefer the written version and a little bit more behind my thinking, then please read on.

2016 was certainly an incredibly eventful year to reflect on. It made me think back to
the last time that I felt the same tense political atmosphere and where the British people were so disenfranchised with the way the economy is working for them.

This quickly took my mind to the mid-nineteen eighties. I was a student at that time in Nottingham, a region that, like many other parts of the UK, where much of the working population had developed a deep resentment towards the political leadership. The headlines were dominated by the ugly scenes of the miners strike and Thatcherism. It was a horrible and in many ways a terrifying time. People were genuinely concerned about their livelihood and their future. At that point of my education, I was clear, that I would return to Germany or Austria after my studies, where economic prospects appeared brighter.

In many ways what we have witnessed in 2016 was similar. The Brexit debate unearthed a deeper level of dissatisfaction from the British working majority, than many had appreciated. It certainly had not been as visible as it was with the angry protests and strikes of the 1980’s. It was a more subtle and quiet protest.

And in 2016 things were of course also very different in other ways to 1985. Back then, the economy was struggling to recover from the recession of the early nineteen eighties and unemployment was at record high levels.

In 2016 the economy has actually been doing rather well, recovering positively from the recession of 2009 and unemployment levels are at a record low.

So, I have reflected on why it is, that the British people feel so disenfranchised.

The answer to that question is clearly not a simple one. The Brexit debate showed how complex and how divided the nation had become.

I don’t intend to go over the issues of the debate again, as that won’t help us. The British people have decided that we will Brexit.

But one thing about the polarized debate that I think most of us will agree on, is that we have, again, like in 1985, reached a point where there is a very high disregard and mistrust of political and business leadership.

And that has certainly made me reflect; how have I become one of those business leaders that is associated with not being trusted?

That is definitely not what I hoped for when I set out on my career path. When at comprehensive school in Leeds in the early 1980’s, I was told that anyone from any background (and mine definitely wasn’t privileged) can achieve, and create a success for themselves, if we work hard enough. That spurred me and that is what I set out to do, and by the end of my studies, I was determined to stay in the UK (instead of taking what looked like an easier option of returning to Germany) and try and help make a difference to a nation that needed every help from as many youngsters that were positively motivated as possible.

So,I’ve worked hard for 30 years and I do have a nice lifestyle, but somehow, I feel I can’t be proud of that. In today’s climate it is frowned upon by many as ‘elite and greedy’. Yet I have never seen my journey as motivated by greed. My drive has been the hope of being able to make a difference; helping create a better organization, for the people who work at Siemens, supporting the broader communities, including our local suppliers and society, where we have our factories and operations. Financial reward for myself and the organisation being a positive by-product of that. And I am clear in my mind, that only an organisation that acts responsibly towards society in its broadest sense, can be a successful one. And through that it will be profitable, which in turn is required to be responsible; to allow it to invest for the long term, in skills, innovation and to support its communities. So over the long term only a profitable organisation can be a responsible one.

And when I meet with other business and political leaders, there are very few, that I meet that don’t share the same values as mine in this regard. They, like me want to make a positive difference to their organizations, they care about their people and they care about society. Of course we don’t get it right all of the time and there are some bad apples among us too, and it is those stories that we read about in the media, and that distorts our view.

So, the first thing that I really wish for as we go into 2017 is that we see a little bit more balance and we see more reflection before making our judgements. Unfortunately, that is not easy in a world where emotional and sensationalized headlines tend to define opinions, instead of a more factual and balanced debate.

And that brings me to my second wish for 2017; a nation where everyone takes more responsibility. Business leaders, to focus on delivering value for society, creating local jobs and investing in the future. That is why I have decided to support the IPPR commission on economic justice which you can read more about here. Politicians should focus less on playing the person, that we see through the very often public and personal attacks, and to play the ball, which is to make the best possible economic success out of Brexit. Getting that ball in the net is now in the common interest of us all, including our European neighbours. And the media needs to reflect too, to help us have a much more balanced and thoughtful debate, as we all work out the best way to get that ball in the net.

And for all of us – the citizens of the UK, what I would love to see for 2017, is a debate that is much less polarized. More respect, towards each other, whether we’re born in Great Britain or whether we have come here from Europe like I did to add value and create a positive life for myself in what has now become my home. Or indeed to those that came here from anywhere else in the World. I don’t mind people disagreeing with my opinions or thoughts, but I don’t expect to be called a Nazi, or a European that has no place in British society. The last time I heard such language was back in the horrible 80’s in my comprehensive school, and there is no place for such ignorance and intolerance today, that has sadly been stirred up again by the Brexit debate.

I’m wishing for a much calmer and respectful discussion about what we all want; a better economy and a fairer society that works for all. Britain will always be a highly diverse nation and only tolerance of each other and everyone taking a responsible position towards society as a whole will help us create that.

​Post-Brexit Industrial Strategy in action

We are 5 months on from the Brexit vote and the debate keeps rumbling on regarding the options for leaving the EU. I suspect it will not just be months, but years before we really get to understand what our trading and economic relationship with the EU will be, but I am extremely hopeful that beyond the rhetoric, we really can get a good deal that works for the EU and the UK. Only a deal that works for both will be good for our UK economy.

Whilst all this goes on, I have been extremely encouraged by the way business has pulled together post-Brexit to champion initiatives that provide us the confidence to keep investing in this prolonged period of Brexit uncertainty. Sometimes it takes a ‘crisis’ to bring people together and drive with a stronger purpose towards a common goal and for the good of the country.

An area where this is happening, is in us pulling together and working in a much more aligned partnership with Government to create a much stronger Industrial Strategy.

The UK is at a critical point in our industrial history. We have a fantastic heritage at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, and now we have an equally exciting and dramatic opportunity to harness the next industrial revolution – the Digital Industrial revolution.  This will bring investment, innovation and skilled jobs back to the UK, powering the future economy. 

We saw the beginning of this exciting revolution happening in Hull today, as the Secretary of State for Business Greg Clark and myself officially opened the Siemens wind power blade factory there.

This is incredibly good news, already having created 700 new jobs and 96% of those recruited from within 30 miles of Hull.

The scale of what Siemens, and our partners ABP, have created is quite unbelievable and needs to be seen to be believed. The picture attached only gives a small flavour of the transformation. In under two years, this site has been transformed to become a modern high value manufacturing centre of excellence from a previous derelict, run-down port that expressed the sadness of the post industrial decline that we have seen so much of over recent decades. 

But, whilst this is exciting and positive, it must only be the beginning. We hope for the creation of many thousands more jobs within this industry over the next decade. We especially hope for the creation of the new digital industries that will be supporting offshore wind power: Drone technology, Robotics, Virtual Reality and even Artificial Intelligence. 

We actually have no option, because for us to continue to bring the cost down for off-shore wind energy and stay competitive we have to deploy such automation and digital technologies. The problem is that this will have an effect of reducing the amount of jobs required in the traditional manufacturing and servicing of wind turbine technology that we have only just created! That is the bad news. But as we can’t, and don’t, want to stop this from happening, we have to balance it.  We can do this by, at the same time, creating the jobs that will develop and supply the new digital technologies, the robots, the industrial drones, the software that will support the deployment of these technologies. The good news is that these will be the new, even higher value, jobs that will over time replace more traditional and repetitive production tasks.

Put simply, we have to create more of the digital enablement jobs that will replace the jobs this technology itself displaces. Unfortunately, making sure this happens won’t be easy. There is a global race to develop the technology that will power this new world of Industrial Digitalisation and we can only get more than our fair share of it, if we develop a clear strategy of how we will develop and grow this new industrial sector. This strategy should be based on: a much higher spend on R&D and innovation; creating stronger and better coordinated ecosystems for research collaboration between academics, large and small business; and, finally, a parallel strategy to develop the skills of the future.

In summary, this Industrial Digitalisation strategy is essential to creating the high tech, high value jobs that will power this new 4th Digital Industrial revolution and if we get it right, it will be the key to rebalancing the economy and raising living standards.  We need to move quickly, but that is for another day.  For now, I would  like to conclude by thanking all of our team at Hull and our Partners for their fantastic efforts in making all what has been achieved possible. 

Munduruku tribe and balanced debate

On Thursday last week our head office in the UK was the location for a colourful visit from members of the Munduruku tribe and Greenpeace protesters. The topic of protest, I recognise as an important debate and it is an active debate going on all over the world; How do countries build energy infrastructure to meet an ever higher demand of energy, at the same time making it affordable and with minimum adverse environmental and social impact. In this case the Munduruku tribe is very understandably concerned about the potential negative environmental impact hydroelectric dam projects in Brazil’s Amazon would have on their environment and community.

I was sorry not to be able to make the impromptu meeting with Chief Arnaldo Kabá Munduruku and Greenpeace, but receiving one days notice via an ‘open letter’ in the FT is an unusual way to request a meeting. Had I received a letter or an email I would have made a firm arrangement with them. Contrary to subsequent reports by Greenpeace, two of my senior leadership team were able to change their schedules and were on standby to welcome the visitors. The Chief was an eloquent ambassador for his people and the meeting was conducted on all sides in a very constructive, open and respectful manner.

Firstly, let me make clear that I personally and at Siemens, we very much share the same values of environmental protection and care for communities as Greenpeace and it was good that in their meeting with us they recognized and confirmed that. Sustainability is core to Siemens culture and we have been top of the Dow Jones sustainability index since its inception.

Secondly, let me also be clear that Siemens is not involved in any hydroelectric power projects in Brazil. In fact, our information is that the mega dam project in question was recently cancelled by the Brazilian Government.
For any major infrastructure project, it is always a complex balance between matching human needs for things like access to electricity, more travel and higher energy consumption with the need to protect unique habitat and prevent further pollution of our planet.

So, these difficult issues need objective debate supported by facts and scientific evidence of all the options available, enabling Governments to consult with their communities and choose the solution that matches the needs the best and causes the least harm. Unfortunately, I have never seen a major infrastructure project that matches all criteria and everyone’s wishes.

Regarding this Greenpeace organised visit I’m afraid, I have to question both the process and balance. What was the real intention of bringing this debate to Siemens in the UK? Of course we will have all identified with the potential risk and felt emotionally touched by the Munduruku tribe and their fear of being displaced. But do we now have a clear view of what the other options are? Would these create even more social displacement or negative environmental impact? Was there enough objective evidence from all sides?

We seem to be living in a new world of fast and social media that is mainly focused on sensational headlines and with complex and emotional issues like this debate we need it to be much more thoughtful, rational and fact based.

I’m personally very concerned by this trend and that we are allowing less space for experts views and balanced debate. Michael Gove’s now famous quote during his Brexit campaign of ‘Britain has had enough of experts’ a damning example of that.

I will certainly continue to listen to experts from all sides of any debate. On this particular one, I thank Greenpeace for providing me their view, but I will not be bullied into a position through headline grabbing campaigns at very short notice. If they’d like to meet me in the future – do just contact me in the normal way!

Science post Brexit

Most of us in business and academia are trying to be positive and find a way forward through this Brexit uncertainty – to best prosper outside of the EU. Today, I spoke at the European Open Science Forum (#ESOF16) on UK Science after #Brexit.

The importance of Science must be placed as a key priority in the Brexit negotiations and today, in my speech, I focused on four priorities to help us retain confidence.

(i) We must send a very strong signal and work hard to ensure we stay part of collaborative EU science programmes like Horizon 2020. With that we should stop any pause to UK participation in these programmes, which some evidence suggests is beginning to happen (although at Siemens I’m pleased that we have not seen this happening yet).

(ii) In the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement for us to see a strong prioritisation for Science and R&D. There should be a committment to cover more than the £850m / year science funding shortfall from the EU in whatever mechanism is agreed as our EU Science participation after Brexit.

(iii) To counter balance this period of Brexit uncertainty with the creation of a plan between Government and Business to drive up gross R&D from the current 1.7% of GDP to greater than 3.0% over the next decade. This should be a key part of the new Industrial Strategy, Prime Minister Theresa May has committed us to creating.

(iv) We must send a very strong signal that scientists and engineers working and living here are welcome to stay for as long as they wish in whatever immigration system might emerge post Brexit. This is of course not the intended end point, which must allow much broader free movement of people for work, but it’s an obvious starting point given the skills shortages in this space.

My final observation was that we must send a very strong message to those Brexiteers who still think there is a battle to be won. We are now all in this together and I’d like to now see much more coming together on how we want to retain and strengthen our science, innovation and engineering base post Brexit.

And the other point we need to unite on fast, is a strong campaign to root out racism and xenophobia so that those working here, who are currently fed up of the negative Brexit rhetoric and are eying up lovely engineering and science jobs elsewhere, change their mind and stay – like most of us in Britain want them to.

I was horrified to speak to Scientists at ESOF who have been targets of this type of verbal xenophopic abuse, that the Brexit campaign sadly amplified, and we all now have a responsibility to eradicate it.


On U-turns and the way forward after Brexit vote

Three weeks on from the Brexit referendum a few thoughts from myself to also help explain Siemens’ relatively high media appearance since the vote. At two points we were trending high on the BBC news website.

In a visit to the UK last week, our global CEO, Joe Kaeser, reiterated our commitment to doing business in the UK and his hope that we can grow our business here, regardless of the outcome of the vote.

Some people have expressed surprise about this, given how vocal we were during the EU referendum campaign.  But we were always clear that we were committed to the UK and while there will definitely be uncertainty ahead, my view is that there is no point looking back with regret.  Instead, I think the right and responsible thing to do is be positive and work doubly hard to make the best possible success of the new situation.

I liken it to the tough times of 2008/2009, where  businesses broke with the past and retained skilled employees to ensure they were better placed for the upturn when it came.  Significantly that period also saw a new partnership emerge between business and government, with the latter recognizing that it could, and should, use the policy levers at its disposal to improve the business environment for sectors where the UK has or could have a comparative advantage.

This new style of ‘Industrial Strategy’ again becomes massively important during this post Brexit period of uncertainty. I  therefore welcome last week’s announcement that BIS and DECC are to merge into a new government Department with an explicit remit to extend Industrial Strategy, under the leadership of Greg Clark MP. And this is one area where Siemens is keen to get involved and support the outcome.

In short, Brexit creates an even stronger imperative to get to grips with some of the issues that have been undermining the UK’s competitiveness and business environment for years. As part of this Industrial Strategy, I would like to see measures to boost productivity, as per some of the suggestions made by Sir Charlie Mayfield in his recent report on this subject. You can read more about this here

To support this, Investment in innovation and research is absolutely crucial as is creating a skills system that puts equal emphasis on high achievement in academic and vocational technical skills and through that drives a higher level of national ambition to be amongst the best in the world in our focus areas of the Industrial Strategy.

Finally, we have to end the chronic under investment and delays to infrastructure investment which have long bedeviled the UK.  It was welcome and significant that the Chancellor has recently indicated that the government may be willing to take advantage of the current low cost of borrowing to invest more in infrastructure.

So productivity, innovation and infrastructure are key.  It is my strong view that the length and depth of any Brexit fallout, will depend on how successful we are in tackling these three issues.

Dragging against these positive drivers will be the speed at which we can negotiate a new deal with the EU. At Siemens we hope a strong relationship will emerge, but we accept that it will take time. In my view, many remain far too optimistic about the speed at which this new relationship can be forged and indeed about the trading relationships with the rest of the world also. The negative and often inflammatory rhetoric against our neighbours during the campaign will take some time to heal and now requires massive diplomatic skill.

To summarise, we have to recognise and adjust to the new situation we find ourselves in, that there will be uncertainty probably for longer than many think, but we need to be optimistic that a good solution can be found, and whilst that is being worked on, we need much higher focus on driving productivity, innovation and infrastructure to help keep business confidence high. This isn’t a u-turn, it is responsible and common sense.


Calm after Brexit vote


I spent some of the weekend at London Pride, a tremendous celebration of diversity and inclusion.

It was an incredibly enjoyable occasion and time to reflect after an EU debate that at times bordered on xenophobia and hatred.

We clearly now need to come together as a nation and this festival gave me hope, that xenophobic arguments can be put behind us, as we now define a future for Britain outside of the EU. For me personally, that is a pre-condition of any sensible Brexit plan and I hope the new political leadership makes that clear from the start.

And where do we go from here in terms of business?

I hear calls for a second referendum or for legal challenges against Brexit. I understand the emotion behind this, but don’t believe it’s the right way to go. It was always a one time referendum and anyone who thought it was time for protesting should learn from that and those that felt they should have voiced their opinions more positively should learn also. That is one of the positive outcomes I hope for from this referendum, that more people, especially the young, who voted in favour of remain, get more involved in politics and make sure they hold political leaders to account on delivering their Brexit promises. Including those of a stronger economy, more money spent on public services and a fair and respectful immigration system.

This is however not the time to have another lengthy debate on whether we made the right decision or not. That just creates more uncertainty, and we now need to do the opposite. Create certainty, and a plan that gives us a perspective and confidence.

I always did say, that Britain will survive outside of the EU, so I think we now need to get on and make that survival plan as strong as possible. At Siemens we will throw our weight behind this as the UK very much remains an exciting market for us.

As the wider business community, I think we now have to focus on three key things.

1. To stay calm and be a stabilising movement to help calm markets and restore confidence.

2. To work with the political group that emerges as the lead negotiatiors with the EU, and support and put pressure on getting a clear economic plan asap. Waiting for 2 years or even 6 months will slow investment levels and would not deliver on a stronger economy.

3. As business, we need to listen to the feedback and reflect on our role in society. This was clearly also a vote from communities feeling dislocated and alienated by ‘Big Business’. We therefore need to strengthen our positive impact on society and create a stronger narrative for the future of our communities. At Siemens, we take our societal role seriously and are keen to strengthen that further.

In the end, we will see how well we did, and in a couple of years time we’ll reflect again, and hopefully we will have made good progress on what Brexit looks like. If we haven’t, then maybe the next generation will have to take it in a different direction, but for now lets stay calm and do our best to make a Brexit plan work.


What sort of Country does the UK want to be?


So, we have less than two weeks to go before polling day for the EU referendum. In many ways it’s been an annoying debate and I am sure, like me, most people had hoped for a calmer and more fact based discussion.

One positive thing, however, is that it has definitely got many more people interested in the topic and so our understanding as a nation of the good and the bad of the EU has risen.

I agree with many I speak to, when they say it has been difficult to trust the competing claims that have been thrown at us. In the absence of that, everyone voting will be using their own judgement on which source of information, opinion or ‘expert’ they trust most.

The big questions to reflect on include:

Can we spend much more money on the NHS if we Brexit, or will the loss of economic activity mean we end up investing less.

Will staying in the EU mean an even greater flow of migrants that are clogging up our public services, or are EU migrants an essential part of our successful and growing economy that allow us to invest more in public services and indeed to work in them.

And can we go it alone on Free Trade agreements, like we are told Switzerland, Albania and others have, or will us leaving the Single Market take us backwards and see reduced trade and economic activity.

I’m pretty sure the next few days won’t add any new killer arguments to the above, but I would like to challenge us to think more about one very fundamental question:

What sort of a country do we want to be?

One with self interest at heart, where our aim is to leave favourable trading arrangements with the EU and trade more independently with the world and try to become richer on our own.

Where we let others deal with the refugee crisis, because we are lucky that we are an island and somewhat more remote from the shores of Greece and Italy.

Where we go it on our own on matters of workers’ rights and equality as we don’t care about that further a field.

And where we close our borders to our neighbours, but expect us to continue to live, travel and work in their countries as before.

Now, even if you believe all or any of the above ‘self interest’ arguments are achievable, it certainly isn’t the Britain that made me adopt it as my home.  When I travel around the World, I am proud of the UK as the positive contributor to peace and prosperity within the EU we have always been.

I don’t want to live in a Britain  that is frowned at for having gone it alone and leaving others to sort difficult times on their own.

And even more fundamentally, I am convinced that such an isolationist approach does not work anyway. When I came to Britain in 1974 and the economy here was labelled the ‘sick man of Europe’, the solution was to open our markets and outlook more. It wasn’t to become more isolationist. Our closer integration of trade with the EU was then, and is today, a key reason for our strong economic success since the 1970’s, despite some of the challenges that always come with working in a larger union.

Moreover, collaborating in that larger union is the best way to resolve 21st century cross border issues; crime, refugees, environmental concerns, political instability and conflict. These require common regional solutions and if we leave the EU we will weaken the UK’s capacity to respond.

And we should remember that times will get better, also within the EU, and they will pay back the countries that helped most in working together to get through the tougher times. Sure, Britain can win some new friends, and try to trade more independently with countries like China. Our exports to China are however only 3% of our total, with 44% of our exports going to the EU. And speaking from personal experience trading with such economies, as interesting as they are, will not be the new honeymoon we had hoped for, and we would soon be missing the strong partnership we divorced should we Brexit.