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Workshop IV will highlight the research and innovation landscape in the US, startup hubs as innovation locations, collaboration with startups, introduction of the STEP program, the shaping of digital transformation and customer-centric innovation for businesses, intrapreneurship, the exchange of tried-and-tested innovation methods and best practices.

Our Speakers

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Ralf Westhoff

Geschäftsführer, Arvato Systems GmbH, Gütersloh

Ralf Westhoff is Managing Director of Arvato Systems GmbH and responsible for the Consumer Products and Media sectors. After studying business administration, Ralf Westhoff held various commercial and strategic positions within Bertelsmann since 1999. In 2004, Ralf Westhoff took over responsibility for controlling Arvato's global services businesses as VP Corporate Controlling and Consulting within Arvato's commercial staff. He then served as SVP Corporate Controlling and Strategy in the Central Controlling and Strategy department at Bertelsmann. In 2016, Ralf Westhoff moved to Arvato Systems as CFO, where he has held his role as Managing Director since September 2020. Ralf Westhoff is married, has two children and lives in Gütersloh.

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Marco Kollmeier

Geschäftsführer, BENTELER EV Systems GmbH, Paderborn

Marco Kollmeier has been with BENTELER since June 2005. As of December 2021, he has taken over the management of BENTELER EV Systems GmbH (BEVS).  BEVS is the e-mobility division of the BENTELER Group. Battery systems, chassis up to complete e-platforms are developed and produced here. The latest innovation of BEVS is an Autonomous People Mover. BEVS is the spin-off of BENTELER's E-Mobility business unit founded in 2017 by Mr. Kollmeier. With subsidiaries in Shanghai China and Detroit USA, BEVS is successfully positioned worldwide. It maintains cooperations with Bosch, Pininfarina, Vibracoustic, Mobileye and Beep and is strongly networked worldwide. Mr. Kollmeier holds a degree in industrial engineering from the University of Paderborn. He is a member of numerous committees, current commitment is the membership in the association "NeMo - neue Mobilitäten".


Andrea Diewald

Abteilungsleiterin Innovation, Investor & Startup Relations GACC New York, Hamburg 

Andrea Diewald joined the German American Chamber of Commerce New York as head of the Consulting Services department in January 2011. Moving from New York to Germany in 2014, she took over the new business unit "Innovation, Investor & Startup Relations". Focusing on fast-growing, scalable startups, the GACC NY launched the STEP USA program, which exists as a travel format and as virtual program.  The development of individual internationalization strategies is one of the most important goals of this program. Andrea Diewald studied American Studies and political science at Leipzig University, at the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Strasbourg and at New York University. 


Rich Christiansen

Partner, Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton, LLP - San Diego, CA

Rich Christiansen is partner at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP, a multi-practice international law firm. Rich obtained his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Brigham Young University and his J.D. from New York University School of Law. Rich focuses his practice on patent prosecution and counseling for a broad range of technologies, including electronics, medical devices, software, clean technology, and mechanical devices. Rich has helped his clients design, build, and rejuvenate IP portfolios to achieve business and legal objectives. Rich's practice includes due diligence, clearance reviews, opinion work, licensing, and litigation. Rich is fluent in German.

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Niklas Hunsdiek

Senior Innovation Manager | Startup Partnerships, E.ON Strategy and Innovation

Niklas Hunsdiek has been working for E.ON’s Group Innovation department since October 2021. In his role as Senior Innovation Manager , he is responsible for Startup Partnerships and Venture Building. Previously, Niklas worked as a startup coach at the University of Applied Science Aachen , where he also successfully built and launched the Startup Center. Prior to his role at FH Aachen, he worked several years in international business development at MOTUL. In his last position at MOTUL he managed the sales business in United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland. Niklas holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Passau and Zeppelin University Friedrichshafen. In parallel to his position a t University of Applied Science Aachen he finished his PhD in field of External Corporate Venturing



Sven Thorsten Potthoff

CEO, German American Chamber of Commerce of the West (GACC West)

Sven Thorsten Potthoff has headed the AHK USA - San Francisco since the beginning of 2020, covering the western United States. Previously, he was CEO of the German Croatian Chamber of Commerce abroad and the Delegation of German Economic Affairs in Bosnia & Herzegovina. With his team, he is dedicated to the mission of connecting stakeholders and players from a wide variety of industries in order to enable growth for companies involved in transatlantic trade. The focus is on the unique innovation ecosystem of Silicon Valley. Mr. Potthoff studied economics at the Free University of Berlin with a focus on international economic policy. He also worked for the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) and Germany Trade & Invest (GTAI).

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