Hidden Champions Institute

Hidden Champions Institute opening

ESMT Berlin opens first institute for Hidden Champions worldwide      

ESMT Berlin officially opened the world's first Institute for Hidden Champions (HCI) on November 22, 2017. In his opening remarks, Prof. Jörg Rocholl, President of ESMT, explained the motivation for its founding. “It is the first institute to deal with the topic of hidden champions at the university level. With the Hidden Champions Institute, we want to be a networking platform, a scientific hub, and a think tank for the future of Hidden Champions. Globalization, innovation, and digitization are high on the agenda,” said Rocholl. Germany is the global leader of Hidden Champions, companies that are in the global top three or the market leader on their continent and have a turnover of less than five billion euros.

Prof. Herrmann Simon, Founder of Simon-Kucher & Partners, opened the event with a keynote speech. The academic, who was the first to draw attention to the significance of the Hidden Champions and coined the term, described the challenges these companies will have to face in the future. In keynotes, Jürgen Fitschen, Chairman of the Deutsche Bank Foundation and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Trustees of ESMT Foundation, and Alexander Knauf, Managing Partner of Knauf Gips KG, emphasized the importance of Hidden Champions for the German economy.

On a podium moderated by the chair of the think tank Trend Intelligence Axel Gloger, successful leaders of Hidden Champions discussed with experienced consultants. Vera-Carina Elter, Managing Partner for Family Owned Businesses of KPMG AG; Stefan Messer, Chairman of the Management Board of the Messer Group; Prof. Dr. Jörg Ritter, Partner of Egon Zehnder International GmbH; and Johannes Freiherr von Salmuth, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Röchling SE & Co. KG took part in the discussion. The panelists discussed the advancement of digitalization among Hidden Champions and the need for cooperation. In addition, Hidden Champions should allow for different forms of financing, intensify internationalization, and confidently emphasize the advantages of a rural location for the work-life balance of potential employees.

In closing, the team leading the HCI Prof. Sabine Rau, Prof. Johannes Habel, and Bianca Schmitz defined the aims of the newly founded institute. “The HCI brings together research, executive education, and discourse specifically from and about Hidden Champions for the first time in one place,” explained Founding Director Rau. “We focus on the special features, strengths, and challenges of these companies and offer practical research and customized seminars.”