Digital Transformation: Cooperation Between SMEs and Startups Is Essential

SMEs, startups, established companies and researchers will discuss the challenges of digital transformation for the economy and society at MIT:FUTURA, which will take place in Berlin on June 5. The event will focus on exchange and cooperation — because only by working together, can transformation be successful.

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Alexander Lahmann, Junior Professorship of M&A in Small- and Mediumsized Entitites

The collaboration between SMEs and startups has many benefits for both sides. Startups can learn from established companies how to structure their operations, deal with financial questions and establish their business on the market. In return, SMEs benefit from the startups’ new, sometimes unconventional, ideas which are of great significance for the transformation process in the digital age. The digital transformation affects all areas of our society and economy. At MIT:FUTURA, which is organized by the Small and Medium-Sized Businesses Association of the CDU/CSU parties (MIT), the speakers will therefore talk about the working world, the future of mobility, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. HHL will join the event as a research partner and will be represented by, amongst others, Professor Alexander Lahmann during the key talk.

Politics must transform as well

The political perspective is also very important for the collaboration between SMEs and startups in the context of digital transformation. Companies and organizations develop strategies for how to redesign their business models and internal structures in such a way that they fit into our digital age. “At the same time, the parties have to think about how to win over new members and use digital tools for that purpose,” says Dr. Carsten Linnemann (photo above), Chairman of MIT and Vice-Chairman of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group in the German Bundestag. Therefore, MIT:FUTURA has also set itself the goal of developing political demands from the many discussions and panels which are meant to help SMEs and startups with their digital transformation.

At HHL, lecturers and students also deal with the digital transformation in all areas. According to Professor Stephan Stubner, Dean of HHL, it is important to bear in mind that there is no unique definition of the term ‘digital transformation’. “We see that here at our school as well. Digitalization has not just been incorporated into our instruction — for instance, at our Heinz Nixdorf Chair of IT-based Logistics — but also within our school.” Therefore, companies should come to understand that digital transformation does not mean that the intern or apprentice deals with these ‘modern’ processes. “It is not enough to be active on social media and have a website,” says Stubner.

Start-ups can help to overcome fears

Many SMEs and entrepreneurs fear dealing with digitalization in their companies. They obtain information from all sides, are contacted by consultants and have deficits within the company pointed out to them by their own people. This may overburden them. “Finding it difficult to deal with changes is something deeply human,” says Stubner. Therefore, especially SMEs find it helpful to exchange experiences with their peers and to seek contact with startups that can support them in these change processes. “Successful transformation means learning from each other,” emphasizes MIT Chairman Carsten Lindemann. MIT:FUTURA will provide inspiration.

Would you like to attend MIT:FUTURA in Berlin on June 5? You may register for the event until June 1 by using the following link:

All information on the program and the speakers is available at