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85% believe in a successful industry in Germany: Results of our foresight study on future industry and work in Germany

In the picture: The participants of the Future Lab in the Look21 of the host Südwestmetall.

We are in the midst of a transformation. It’s not just the latest election results that show this: Established and new players are fighting for the favor of society – the assumption that traditional parties will continue to enter government in the future can no longer be taken for granted. We are in a phase of negotiating new values, in which there is a dissonance between renewal and persistence and the most diverse opinions and ideologies coexist. What applies to politics and society also applies to the economy. While deindustrialization dominates media discourse, Themis Foresight takes an open look at the future of the industry: nothing has been decided. As turbulent as these times may seem, they show above all that we are still in the midst of a reorientation. A Themis Foresight survey of over 90 business leaders, analysts and industry representatives shows that only around one sixth of respondents believe that deindustrialization will actually occur.

On June 18, our latest Future Lab took place in Stuttgart with the kind support of our partner company Südwestmetall. This event gave us the opportunity to present the results of our “Future of Industrial Work” study. These are based on 30 in-depth interviews and a comprehensive survey, which provide valuable insights into the future development of industrial work.

Study results: An overview

Carina Stöttner presented the key findings of the survey, which was conducted among more than 90 business leaders, analysts and industry representatives. It became clear that only around one sixth of those surveyed believe that deindustrialization is actually taking place. More than a third of respondents are convinced that Germany will have a significantly more diversified industry in the future and will act as a technological pioneer with deep tech solutions. Just under a third believe that industrial companies will continue to relocate their production abroad, but will implement innovations at home. One fifth are convinced that we will even have more industrial production in Germany in the future.

The most anticipated industrial developments include highly specialized and climate-neutral products, the circular economy, urban mining concepts and optimized current products and processes. Respondents do not see Germany as a producer of commodities; over 40% ranked this option last.

First frameworks for scenarios

With 29 committed participants, we had lively discussions that led to valuable insights. Based on the survey results and the in-depth interviews, initial frameworks for possible future scenarios for industrial work were discussed:

1. deep-tech industry: An innovative global industry that creates new industrial fields and enters into strong partnerships. These include new manufacturing processes, strong biotechnology, advanced computing possibilities and developments in robotics.

2 Made in Germany / Europe: Greater regionalization with reshoring and nearshoring of industrial production in Europe. Both protectionist approaches and open-minded options were discussed, with all their advantages and disadvantages.

3. designed in Germany, made in X: A relocation of production to other countries, which creates new capacities for innovation and lead plants in Germany and creates space for technological supremacy.

Future qualification requirements

Each of the scenarios entails different qualifications and specialist requirements. Most respondents believe that we will primarily need highly qualified specialists. They are closely followed by technically sound new collar workers and dual-trained specialists. Only a fraction believe that all skill levels – including low-skilled workers – will still have a place in the future of industrial work. Education, training and further education are therefore the key to future industrial success and social peace.

Social impact and challenges

The discussions in the Future Lab showed that all scenarios offer scope for both social stability and division. However, it was assumed that social problems could be solved better with greater prosperity.

A high degree of automation could lead to low-skilled workers in particular losing their jobs, while highly skilled workers are confronted with an overload of work. In the “Designed in Germany, made in X” scenario in particular, it is mainly the educated elite who benefit from high-paying jobs – a social divide would be conceivable. In addition to training top talent, such a transformation should also focus on the retraining and socially meaningful integration of former industrial workers.

A compartmentalized economy – in the example of greater regionalization – could lead to politics specifically regulating automation in order to promote an apparently people-friendly society, so that human jobs are secured, for example. However, what appears to be people-centered could mean a loss of innovative strength and productivity and an associated loss of prosperity, which could possibly lead to social unrest.

The “deep tech industry” scenario seems to create a humane balance in society. However, it does not come without challenges: If technological change is not carefully monitored, tech enthusiasts and tech opponents could come up against each other, especially when it comes to ethical questions about genetically modified plants, AI, robotics or research into as yet unknown phenomena.

Perspectives and outlook

In a scenario of a highly networked, global world, Germany could act as a pioneer in the field of deep tech and play a leading role on the global stage. The question arose as to whether developing countries could skip the manual industrial phase and directly establish a highly automated and more climate-friendly industry. This could lead to a more globally balanced and cooperative economy, but also to new competitors.

In a scenario of regionalization and reshoring, it is realistic to assume that this process will take place at European level rather than purely nationally. A protectionist approach could lead to economic stagnation and a loss of prosperity, while an open-minded approach offers scaling opportunities in local-for-local strategies and thus enables global competitiveness and innovative strength.

Next steps

The Future Lab has shown that the future of industrial work still leaves many questions unanswered. The analysis will be finalized in the coming weeks and published on our website. The next Future Lab will take place on October 17, 2024, and interested participants can contact Carina Stöttner(

In the next Future Lab, we will present the final scenarios and derive a desirable picture of the future for the industry. Industry representatives are cordially invited to participate.

We would like to thank all participants for their valuable contributions and the numerous pieces of feedback, which will be incorporated into the further development of the scenarios. Together we are shaping the future of industrial work.

Events and workshops in futures research and foresight

In a rapidly changing world, it is essential for companies not only to rest on their laurels but to actively shape the future. Themis Foresight, a leading think tank in the field of corporate foresight, offers precisely this opportunity. With our specialized events, known as Future Labs, we enable companies to take a deep dive into the possible futures of their industry and tap into new business potential in the long term.

The role of Future Labs in shaping the future

In our Future Labs, we present our research on topics such as the future of industry, future technologies such as AI or quantum computing or our knowledge of studies on future geopolitical developments. One of our experts will present key trends, developments and scenarios, which we will then discuss with participants from various industries. These public Future Labs have been very popular in the past. Participants acquire futures literacy skills by dealing with these topics.

The next dates:

June 18, 2024 – Stuttgart – The future of industry and industrial work

We are also happy to organize a Future Lab specifically for your company, your region, your industry or your strategy. We use practical methods such as future wheels, backcasting and the futures triangle to make complex future scenarios tangible. These methods enable participants to develop innovative visions of the future, scenarios and technology and business model roadmaps.

Our expertise and your benefits

Themis Foresight supports DAX companies and hidden champions in key sectors such as energy, mobility, food, financial services, ICT and logistics in all matters relating to the future. Our experience shows that many managers lack the time to deal with possible futures. This is precisely where our services come in: We not only offer insights into decisive and possible developments in the coming decades, but also identify social, economic and technological drivers that will transform business models and industries. Our in-depth understanding of business models and our experience working with executives will help guide your company into the future.

Science meets practice

Themis Foresight’s futures research is unique in that it combines science-based research with practical futures expertise and entrepreneurial design options. Our strategies are realistic and practicable, geared towards human needs and economic necessities and prepare the ground for economic, political and legal change.

Future Lab – Artificial intelligence in companies

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    Themis Foresight
  • September 2023
  • News

Die Teilnehmer des Future Labs zum Thema KI © Themis Foresight | Gili Shani

Am 20. September fand im wunderschönen PalaisPopulaire eine hochkarätige Veranstaltung statt, die sich mit einem der zentralen Themen unserer Zeit befasste: Künstliche Intelligenz (KI) in Unternehmen. Unter der Reihe “Future Lab” lud Themis Foresight mit Unterstützung ihrer Partner, der Alfred Herrhausen Gesellschaft, Dataciders und irisnet, Führungskräfte aus dem D-A-CH-Raum zu einer tiefgründigen Debatte über die Zukunft der KI und deren Auswirkungen auf Unternehmen ein. Die Veranstaltung war ein großer Erfolg und brachte eine Vielzahl von Expert:innen zusammen, um Erkenntnisse zu teilen und die drängenden Fragen rund um die KI zu diskutieren.

Die Diskussionen auf der Veranstaltung wurden durch den jüngsten Vorstoß der Europäischen Union in Sachen Künstliche Intelligenz, den sogenannten “European AI Act,” angestoßen. Dieses Gesetzespaket hat die Debatte über die europäische Wettbewerbsfähigkeit und technologische Souveränität im Bereich der KI neu entfacht. Die Meinungen darüber, wie KI reguliert werden sollte, gehen weit auseinander. Während einige europäische Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmer in einem offenen Brief für allgemeine Grundsätze und flexible Regulierung plädieren, argumentieren Vertreter US-amerikanischer Tech-Riesen für striktere Vorschriften im Namen der Sicherheit.

Ein Höhepunkt der Veranstaltung war zweifellos die Vielfalt der Experten, die ihr Wissen und ihre Erkenntnisse teilten:

Daniel Abbou berichtete aus seiner Arbeit im KI-Bundesverband und warnte vor den möglichen negativen Auswirkungen des European AI Act auf die deutsche Start-up-Szene.

Joanna Bryson gab einen erfrischenden Einblick in die vielschichtige Natur von KI und betonte, dass es bei KI nicht nur um Algorithmen und Daten geht, sondern auch um die zugrunde liegende Infrastruktur.

Frank Thelen teilte in seiner Grußbotschaft seine Gedanken zur Regulierung von KI und wie diese die Zukunft der Technologie bremsen könnte, ethische Berücksichtigungen aber dennoch notwendig seien.

Stefan Suwelack beleuchtete die Herausforderungen von KI aus organisatorischer Sicht und betonte, dass der technologische Fortschritt mit einer klaren organisatorischen Strategie einhergehen muss.

Christian Frauen präsentierte Einblicke in die Anwendung von KI in der Finanzberichterstattung, ESG, Audit und Risikomanagement.

Gero Presser unterstrich die Bedeutung eigener Daten und erklärte, warum ein dezentraler Ansatz bei der Datennutzung ein Vorteil sein kann.

Dieter Plassmann ermöglichte den Teilnehmern einen praxisnahen Einblick in die Funktionsweise von KI und zeigte beeindruckende Anwendungsfälle mit der Technologie irisnet auf.

Jan Berger und Carina Stöttner, beide Geschäftsführer von Themis Foresight, teilten ihre Gedanken zu KI, der oft übertriebenen Vorstellung von einer Superintelligenz und der ethischen Dimension von KI.

Ein Learning dieser Veranstaltung war die Erkenntnis, dass KI nicht nur technologische Expertise erfordert, sondern auch eine klare digitale Kompetenz im Management. Daten müssen nicht zwangsläufig in riesigen “Data Lakes” liegen, sondern können in gut organisierten “Data Meshes” verwaltet werden. Die Zusammenarbeit von Mitarbeitern wird zunehmend vernetzt sein, und Unternehmen sollten nicht zögern, KI-Projekte mit den vorhandenen Daten und den besten Mitarbeitern anzugehen. Es liegt in der unternehmerischen Verantwortung, Impulse für KI-Projekte zu setzen, die Finanzierung sicherzustellen und die notwendigen Rahmenbedingungen für die Umsetzung zu schaffen. Schließlich müssen Unternehmenswerte, Nachhaltigkeitsziele und ethische Prinzipien im Vorfeld festgelegt werden, da diese in jedem KI-Modell mitschwingen und verbreitet werden.

Die Veranstaltung setzte einen wichtigen Beitrag zur Diskussion über die Zukunft der KI und ihre Regulierung in Europa. Es bleibt spannend zu beobachten, wie sich diese Debatte weiterentwickeln wird und welchen Einfluss sie auf die Innovationslandschaft haben wird.

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