Prof. Dr. Reiner Kurzhals
Founder and Professor of Statistics and Quantitative Methods at Münster University of Applied Sciences
»We are a hotbed of talent and growth capital – the drivers of data intelligence and AI.«
In a short interview, Reiner Kurzhals, company founder and Professor of Data Science at Münster University of Applied Sciences, explains what opportunities he sees for NRW in the field of Big Data Analytics and why German SMEs should talk much more about their successes.
Your area of teaching and researching at Münster University of Applied Sciences is “Statistics and Quantitative Methods”. How has this field changed given the technological innovations in the field of AI?
The term “Statistics and Quantitative Methods” is already several decades old, because today’s methods for intelligent data analysis have been around for decades for the most part. But in practice there is a lot of movement: Innovations in technological implementation capabilities have created completely new business models in recent years that are being implemented by the most successful companies in the world. The computing power of computers has increased rapidly, so that more and more data can be processed in less and less time. And thanks to AI, even unstructured data, such as customer opinions, can now be analyzed well. This is an extreme innovation driver of our time. Often cited examples here are Netflix or Airbnb: Both global market leaders rely, among other things, on a so-called “data lake” to agilely transfer unstructured data into a real-time business model. This can then be used to generate recurring monthly revenues. A traditional database model of a traditional competitor could never achieve such success.
You yourself have founded several companies, most recently the Westphalia DataLab in Münster. Where do you see the strengths of North Rhine-Westphalia as a location?
The most successful American and Asian data business models focus predominantly on B2C, which is how they became famous and well-known. In Europe, and especially in Germany, we traditionally have a different focus: industrial SMEs. If we manage to bring research theory and SME practice closer together, we will inevitably be able to establish data business models in the B2B sector, which can then also be successfully marketed worldwide. With its countless hidden champions, Europe is very well positioned for this path. In NRW, we have the advantage that the networking between research and industry already functions particularly well. The hidden champions must now consistently grasp this opportunity and implement it in an agile manner with the numerous NRW startups. This is a forward-looking perspective for NRW, and also for Europe.
What opportunities in the context of data intelligence and AI should North Rhine-Westphalia’s research and business community definitely not miss?
For me, there’s only one thing I can say: We need to make much more use of our assets and market our skills better. Excellent young talent from excellent universities, newly positioned in agile startups, and an inquisitive, but technologically still learning middle class, must come together more quickly and show the world that very great things can be created here in the long term. We just have to do it and talk about it a lot. Good marketing with the best quality creates trust in our location. We are a hotbed for talent and growth capital – the drivers for data intelligence and AI. The typical North Rhine-Westphalian down-to-earthness must be transformed into articulate innovative strength!
Reiner Kurzhals is an entrepreneur in the field of Big Data Analytics and Professor of Data Science at Münster University of Applied Sciences with 10 years of experience in top strategy consulting and large-scale industry. After selling his first Big Data company to McKinsey & Company New York in 2015, he is currently focusing on building an automated data analytics platform as founder of the industrial startup Westphalia DataLab with a team of over 50 data science professionals. In 2019, Prof. Kurzhals and his company won the first prize for machine learning applications at the RWTH Aachen Center Smart Services. In 2020, the company was a prize winner at the German AI Prize of the Axel Springer/WELT publishing house in Berlin. In 2021, it took first place in the Customer Insights Applications of the RWTH Aachen Center Smart Services.