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  • Dear Readers!

    There is good cause for celebration! 30 years of a unified Germany. Or perhaps we should say: ‘30 years of working on a unified Germany’? Seen from a historical perspective, it is certainly true to say that the reunification process has not yet been completed. In fact, looking at Germany’s history, you might well be excused for thinking that this process will never be completed. Each individual region has its own cultural peculiarities, its own dialect, its own sensibilities, its own breed of people. And, of course, their traditional dishes are worlds apart from each other. But that’s the way it should be as it is the differences that create a strong dynamic for change and enrich our culture and economy. Having said all that, we are still quite a young nation. Germany really hasn’t been around that long. Our country – as a federation of states – did not come into being until almost 100 years after the United States of America was founded. And we are all well aware that they are still working hard on unifying their nation.

    We are very grateful that our family-run business has been able to play a constructive role in shaping the reunification process from the start. While criticism continues to be directed towards the Treuhand (the agency responsible for privatising the former East German enterprises) for the way it acted – its focus was often on processing rather than developing – our aim has always been on finding robust, future-oriented solutions by working closely on the ground with the different city and regional authorities. The results speak for themselves – whether it be in the Lausitz region where our public private joint venture WAL Betrieb provides water management services and has kept fees and charges stable and jobs secure for decades now despite the region’s declining population; or in Schwerin, where the public private partnership between the city and REMONDIS has been hugely successful at delivering key services cost effectively. And these are just two examples of many. It was – and continues to be – the amazing personal dedication of the company’s employees in the regions that made it possible for REMONDIS to become a local east German family-run business in these new areas after the wall fell. What’s more, some of the family moved from the Westphalian town of Selm to make their home in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern – but this just as a side note. Unity requires active commitment, as does sustainable development. REMONDIS is dedicated to both, always working with the future in mind.

    One thing is certain: there are a lot of things still – or once again – to be done. The recession brought on by Covid-19 is having a dramatic impact on the finances of local authorities. According to the Federal Statistical Office, the cities and districts faced a shortfall of 9.7 billion euros in the first six months of this year. As a comparison: the deficit amounted to just 0.3 billion euros a year ago. The reason for this negative trend was the drastic fall in revenue received by local governments in the second quarter of 2020. The German economy nosedived by 9.7% between April and June – the first time it has ever had to face such a huge drop. Yet another reason then for thinking about how the pressure can be taken off local governments in the future. They don’t have to do everything by themselves – the private sector is happy to help. Public private partnerships are a robust solution for delivering cost-intensive essential services, such as waste management and water management tasks. I and Professor Michael Schäfer, retired professor of public sector economics at the Eberswalde University for Sustainable Development, illustrate this very clearly with the help of many examples in one of the books we co-authored – and we don’t forget to mention the negative examples either. As everyone knows, people learn from their mistakes so they can do a better job in the future. And this is precisely what we are doing together with our friends and partners in the not so new states in the east of Germany, in Europe and across the world.

    We hope you enjoy reading this latest issue. Stay safe!

    Yours

    Ludger Rethmann

Ideas for new services

Data, software, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence – this is what the new REMONDIS Innovation Hub (RIH) is all about. Set up as a separate department in the Business Development division run by Sven Averhage, it comprises five young colleagues who meet in a co-working space in Hamburg to assess and realise ideas to enhance current REMONDIS services or to introduce new ones.

The first product is already on the market

“RIH’s primary goal is to develop marketable solutions. That means that we’re not simply looking at testing new technologies but at implementing ideas that will offer REMONDIS some genuine digital advantages and add value to its business,” explained Dr Felix Thiele. Together with Johannes Schön and Daniel Natrup, it was he who launched RIH last year. The team has already created its first marketable product – its DataFleet project – which is being marketed by the newly founded firm, REMONDIS Digital Services GmbH. Other projects are focusing on subjects such as AI-based analyses of video material from sewer inspections and the use of data analyses to optimise pumping stations as well as setting up a dynamic route planning system using sensors measuring bin fill levels. Finding ways of identifying outthrow material in organic waste bins using a combination of optical and digital technology and artificial intelligence is also on their to-do list. What’s more, this team of digital experts has also been helping to further develop the international skip and container services platform, Redooo.

“We want to implement ideas that will offer REMONDIS some genuine digital advantages and add value to its business.”

Dr Felix Thiele, RIH

Optimising offers & making strategic investments

To realise its projects, RIH has often found itself collaborating with external specialist firms and start-up businesses – potentially creating opportunities to invest in young, up-and-coming companies. To make this possible, the department has generated its own directory that lists all start-ups around the world that operate in one or more of REMONDIS’ business divisions (recycling, water and services). The team is, therefore, also the first port of call for in-house ideas and external start-ups as well as for other companies that wish to contact REMONDIS about innovative subjects. Just recently, for example, REMONDIS purchased a share in Westphalia DataLab in Münster. This company, which employs around 50 people, is looking at ways of using software to make the benefits of artificial intelligence available to everyone. And their prospects are obviously good: RWTH Aachen University’s Smart Services Center recently named this Münster-based firm a “Champion of Machine Learning”.

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