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West Coast Initiative

Dieter Weinand (Bayer) and Pascal Levensohn (American Academy in Berlin), October 4, 2018. Photo: Brian Byllesby

Disruptions caused by rapid innovation and advances in digital technology are altering nearly all aspects of human life. The American Academy in Berlin has established the West Coast Initiative to address the many challenges that accompany these developments, creating a multidisciplinary forum in which academics, policymakers, entrepreneurs, and executives from Germany and Silicon Valley can discuss their overlapping concerns and gain insight from each other’s experiences. The West Coast Initiative thus encourages Silicon Valley thought-leaders to engage with experts in the American Academy’s broader transatlantic network, on topics including:

  • Business, Entrepreneurship, and Governance
  • Work and Education
  • Health, Mobility, and Sustainability
  • Digitalization, Democracy, and the Rule of Law

Read more below about events that have taken place in Berlin and California as part of the West Coast Initiative. Support is provided by Bayer AG, BMW Group, Pfizer Pharma GmbH, Alfred Möckel, and Pascal Levensohn. If you wish to add your support to the West Coast Initiative, to contribute from the United States please contact Emily Carey, at; phone: +1 212-588-1745. For contributions from Germany or Europe, please contact Berit Ebert, at; phone: +49 (30) 804 83 108.

On October 9, 2019, the American Academy in Berlin and HERE Technologies held a dinner discussion on the current and potential economic effects of automation and digitalization on the German labor market. The event was moderated by fall 2019 Richard C. Holbrooke fellow Laura D’Andrea Tyson, joined by experts from private industry and the corporate world, the federal government, academia, and various research institutions. The event was supported by HERE Technologies and BMW Group.

On October 4, 2018, the American Academy in Berlin and Bayer AG held a dinner discussion in Palo Alto on the potentials and risks of applying artificial intelligence to the fields of drug discovery and diagnostics. The event—featuring Dieter Weinand, President Pharmaceuticals at Bayer AG, and American Academy trustee Pascal Levensohn—brought together a distinguished group of entrepreneurs, academics, and business executives for a lively and insightful exchange. The American Academy in Berlin extends special thanks to the White & Case Silicon Valley office for hosting this event.

On June 19, 2018, the American Academy in Berlin hosted a luncheon with Amy Wilkinson (Founder & CEO of Ingenuity and author of The Creator’s Code) at the BMW Representative Office in Berlin. Together with executives from leading national and international startups as well as major corporations, Wilkinson discussed the skills needed to foster successful entrepreneurship and innovation in today’s fast-paced, globalized economy. This event took place within the Academy’s West Coast Initiative and was part of Wilkinson’s stay as a Stephen M. Kellen Distinguished Visitor.

On March 15, 2018, in San Francisco, the American Academy convened a discussion on technological innovation and work with journalist Steven Hill, a spring 2016 Academy alumnus and author of, most recently, The Start-Up Illusion (2017) and Raw Deal (2015)—both books about how companies like Uber are affecting the labor market—and Jens Wohltorf, co-founder and CEO of Blacklane, the Berlin-based limousine service and mobile app. The event, a cooperation with the Bay Area Council Economic Institute, was moderated by Academy trustee Pascal Levensohn.

The American Academy brought Norman Pearlstine, former editor in chief of Time, Inc., and chief content officer of Bloomberg, to Axel Springer SE on February 7, 2018 to discuss digitalization and commerce with Mathias Döpfner, chairman and CEO.

On October 10, 2017, the American Academy brought California-based venture capitalist and Academy trustee Pascal Levensohn to Berlin for a dinner discussion with several dozen Berlin-based corporate and finance leaders about best practices for creating effective boards. A globally recognized expert on private company board dynamics, Levensohn identified common conflicts between directors and the CEO; how to recognize misalignments of interest between company management, family owners, financial investors, and strategic investors; and how to resolve common conflicts between management and investors in early-stage companies.

The following is a selection of past fellows, Distinguished Visitors, and guest speakers at the American Academy in Berlin, who have addressed topics related to technology, innovation, digitalization, entrepreneurship, and climate change:

Wendy Hui Kyong Chun
Professor of Modern Culture and Media, Brown University
“Discriminating Data: Neighborhoods, Individuals, Proxies”
Holtzbrinck Fellow, Spring 2017

Al Gore
Former United States Vice President and Senator
“An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”
American Academy Guest, Fall 2017

Steven Hill
“Troubled Future: How the Sharing Economy and Freelance Society Are Threatening Workers’ Livelihoods, and What We Can Do About It”
Holtzbrinck Fellow, Spring 2016

Andrew Keen
Author and Internet Enterpreneur
“The Internet is Not the Answer,” Panel Discussion at ESMT
Guest Speaker, Spring 2015

William Uricchio
Professor of Comparative Media Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“The Cultural Work of Algorithms”
Holtzbrinck Fellow, Spring 2015

Evgeny Morozov
Author and Essayist
“Social and Political Implications of the Internet of Things”
Bosch Fellow in Public Policy, Spring 2015

Lawrence H. Summers
71st United States Secretary of the Treasury; President Emeritus and Charles Eliot University Professor, Harvard University
“European Economy & Financial Future: An American View”
Kurt Viermetz Distinguished Visitor, Spring 2015

Hal Harvey
Chief Executive Officer, Energy Innovation
Policies to Decarbonlize the Economy
Airbus Group Distinguished Visitor, Fall 2015

Jeremy Rifkin
Founder and President, The Foundation on Economic Trends
“The Zero Marginal Costs Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism”
Kurt Viermetz Distinguished Visitor, Fall 2014

Daniel Rosenberg
Professor of History, University of Oregon
“Data. A Quantitative History”
Axel Springer Fellow, Fall 2014

Vaclav Smil
Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Department of Environment and Geography, University of Manitoba
“Grand Transitions: Looking Ahead without Forecasting”
Airbus Group Distinguished Visitor, Fall 2013

Liaquat Ahamed
Investment Manager and Pulitzer Prize-winning Author
“Will the Euro Survive?”
Allianz Distinguished Visitor, Spring 2013

David Bollier
Author, Activist and Co-Founder, Commons Strategies Group
“Formulating a Template of Action for the Global Commons Movement”
Bosch Fellow in Public Policy, Fall 2012

Kelly Sims Gallagher
Associate Professor of Energy and Environmental Policy, The Fletcher School
“The Globalization of Clean Energy Technologies”
Airbus Group Distinguished Visitor, Spring 2012

Michael Greenstone
3M Professor of Environmental Economics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“Can Adaptation Save Us from Climate Change?”
Airbus Group Distinguished Visitor, Fall 2011

Rosina Bierbaum
Dean of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment
“Development in a Changing Climate”
Guest Lecturer, Fall 2010

Tom Daschle
Former US Senator and Senate Majority Leader (D-South Dakota)
“Shared Solutions to Our Global Energy Challenge”
Richard von Weizsäcker Distinguished Visitor, Spring 2008

Thomas Heller
Lewis Talbot and Nadine Hearn Shelton Professor of International Legal Studies, Stanford Law School
“The Political Economy of Climate Change: From Bali to Copenhagen”
BMW Distinguished Visitor, Spring 2008

Jason Scott Johnston
Henry L. and Grace Doherty Charitable Foundation Professor of Law; Nicholas E. Chimicles Research Professor in Business Law and Regulation, University of Virginia
“Climate Change Policy for Realists”
Bosch Fellow in Public Policy, Fall 2007

Amory B. Lovins
Co-Founder and CEO, Rocky Mountain Institute
“Climate Change, Oil, and Nuclear Proliferation Issues”
C.V. Starr Distinguished Visitor, Spring 2007

Larry Lessig
Formerly C. Wendell and Edith M. Carlsmith Professor of Law, Law School, Stanford University
“The Fidelity in Translation” (Fall 2006)
“Good Germans, Everywhere” (Spring 2007)
J. P. Morgan Fellow and Lloyd Cutler Fellow, Fall 2006 and Spring 2007

Spencer Abraham
10th United States Secretary of Energy (January 2001 – January 2005)
“The Bush Administration’s Approach to Global Climate Change: New Technology, Scientific Research and International Cooperation”
Guest Lecturer, Fall 2003

Paul M. Schwartz
Jefferson E. Peyser Professor at UC Berkeley School of Law and a Director of the Berkeley Center for Law and Technology
“Information Privacy in the 21st Century: Convergence, Harmonization, and Public Security”
Berlin Prize Fellow, Fall 2002

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