Handelsblatt Exclusive

German Firms Seek AI Boost

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    If Germany wants to play a lead role in the digitization of industry, it needs to improve its game in artificial intelligence.

  • Facts


    • Experts say Germany needs 5,000 AI specialists right now, 3,000 of them in the automotive industry.
    • Cebit trade fair runs from March 20 to 24 in Hanover in partnership with Japan with a focus on the digital future.
    • Currently most AI is defined as “weak”, or narrow. This means it is expert in very specific areas but cannot think more broadly.
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Source: DPA

German companies are short of 5,000 artificial intelligence experts, Wolfgang Wahlster, head of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence, told Handelsblatt.

In the automotive sector alone, there’s a need for 3,000 AI experts, Mr. Wahlster said. The retail, media, banking and insurance industries also have a “tremendous need for AI expertise,” he added. Mr. Wahlster’s estimates are based on a survey of blue-chip DAX-listed companies.

Reimund Neugebauer, president of the Fraunhofer Society, a renowned research group, also said Germany risks falling behind in the AI field.

Mr. Neugebauer, who also chairs a council that advises the government on technology, said Germany is doing well in sensor technology, and collecting and storing vast amounts of data. “But when it comes to the analysis, there’s some catching up to do,” he said.

That is partly due to a serious shortage of expertise in the area of AI. U.S. companies such as Google and IBM are investing heavily in the technology. German software maker SAP is working hard to become the market leader in machine learning for businesses, its CEO told Handelsblatt in November.

The council headed by Neugebauer will present its findings and ways the German AI shortfall can be addressed on Monday at the Cebit technology fair in Hanover.

Some German corporations already use AI technology, a field that straddles computer science and statistics. The automotive industry, for example, is banking on artificial intelligence to push autonomous driving. Volkswagen already employs several hundred IT experts who work on Big Data, industry 4.0, the internet of things and virtual reality as well as artificial intelligence.

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