The story of the World Business Dialogue has begun many years ago. In 1987 the University of Cologne turned into a conference center when the 1st Deutscher Wirtschaftskongress (= German Business Conference), the predecessor of the World Business Dialogue took place. The topic “Space as a market” proved the founders aim of pioneering a future thinking.
In the beginning the conference took place every second year and the principal language was German. A few years later, in 1997 the 6th German Business Conference had the first English topic: “Return on Globalization”. Four years later the main language turned completely into English and the World Business Dialogue was born. Since 2009 the conference is hosted every year.


20th World Business Dialogue 2017

06.03 - 10.03.2017

The 20th World Business Dialogue took place from 6th to 10th March 2017 and dealt with the main topic „Facing Change“.

19th World Business Dialogue 2016

14.03 - 18.03.2016

The 19th World Business Dialogue took place from 14th to 18th March 2016 and dealt with the main topic „Globalisation: Disrupted?“. Motto and motivation of the individual formats were „Inspire. Enable. Act.“
A pilot project of the 19th World Business Dialogue were the Dialogue Creation Labs which were encouraged by Bayer and the WiSo-Faculty. Three teams worked independently from each other on finding a solution for a problem given by a company. The winning teams received VR One Virtual Reality glasses.

18th World Business Dialogue 2015

21.06 - 21.06.2019

The 18th World Business Dialogue dealt with the topic „Power to the „Power To The People – Redefining Interdependencies In A Trembling World“ – and took place from 8th to 13th March 2015. Speakers and students discussed various topics concerning power structures in different dimensions, such as employee and employer, politics and citizens or between companies.

17th World Business Dialogue 2014

13.03 - 14.03.2014

The 17th World Business Dialogue took place on 13 and 14 March 2014. The discourse was about “Disruptive Innovation“ and dealt with the influence of disruptive innovations: Artificial intelligence, machine-to-machine communication and transhumanism.
Besides disruptive innovations, there was another innovation: The Dialogue Projects had their debut!
Three international teams, consisting of selected students, worked on projects for Bayer, Zurich and RheinEnergie and pitched their results in front of a big crowd.


  • Dr. Christian Bachem, .companion GbR, Partner
  • Arturo Baroncell, International Federation of Robotics, President
  • Dr. Michael Benz, Teradata GmbH, Senior Business Consultant
  • Dr. Ulrich Betz, Merck KGaA/Merck Serono GmbH, Director, Head of Global Department
  • Pieter van Boheemen, Waag Society, Life Science Technologist
  • Dr. Heribert Bohlen, axiogenesis AG, CEO
  • Michael Bültmann, Nokia Deutschland GmbH, CEO
  • Tim Cannon, Grindhouse Wetwear, ‘DIY-Cyborg’
  • Caroline Drucker, Etsy Inc., Country Manager Germany
  • Cosmin-Gabriel Ene, LaterPay GmbH, Founder and CEO
  • Dr. Hans-Jürgen Erbeldinger, partake AG, CEO
  • Pascal Finette, Google Giving, Google Inc., Principal
  • Alexander v. Franckenberg, High-Tech-Gründerfonds, CEO
  • Dr. Christian Garbe, FIZ Frankfurter Innovationszentrum Biotechnologie GmbH, CEO
  • Dr. Michael Gorriz, Daimler AG, CIO
  • Dr. Rüdiger Grube, Deutsche Bahn AG, CEO
  • Dr. Robert Gutsche, KPMG AG, Member of the Executive Board
  • Prof. Dr. Jürgen Handke, University of Marburg, Professor of English andComputational Linguistics
  • Dr. Johannes Helbig, Deutsche Post AG, CIO
  • Jan Heumüller, DataXu Inc., Vice President Sales EU
  • Dr. Wolfgang Heuring, Siemens AG, Head of Research and Technology Center
  • Achim Himmelreich, Bundesverband Digitale Wirtschaft (BVDW) e.V., Vice President
  • Andreas Hufenstuhl, Big Data Global SAP&ORACLE Delivery, Computer Science Corp
  • Oliver Hülse, Rocket Fuel GmbH, Managing Director
  • Eric Johanson, Intellectual Ventures Lab, Project Scientist and Entropy Generator
  • Dr. Jörg Liebe, Lufthansa Systems, CIO
  • Prof. Dr. Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Oxford University, OII’s Professor of InternetGovernance and Regulation
  • Nils Müller, TrendOne GmbH, Founder and CEO
  • Dr. Peter Nagler, Evonik Industries AG, CIO
  • Drazen Nikolic, EY, Partner Advisory Services
  • Dr. Frank Piller, RWTH University Aachen, Professor and Head of Group, Technologyand Innovation Management
  • Ziad Sankar, CardioDiagnostics, Founder and CEOThomas Schröder, Microsoft Germany, Member of the Executive Board
  • Rolf Schumann, SAP Deutschland AG & Co.KG, Head of Database Technology Middle & Eastern Europe
  • Malte Spitz, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen, Politician/Member of the Board
  • Prof. Dieter Sturma, German Reference Center for Ethics in Biosciences, Director
  • Lars Thomsen, future-matters AG, CEO and Chief Futurist
  • Christian Vagedes, “Vegane Gesellschaft Deutschland e.V.”, Chairman

16th World Business Dialogue 2013

13.03 - 14.03.2013

The 16th World Business Dialogue took place on 13 and 14 March 2013 and dealt with the topic „Next Generation Business Strategies – Finding New Ways to Succeed“. In contrast to former dialogues there wasn’t any specific principal theme but a combination of several themes: Human Factors, Big in Business, Happiness in a Modern World and Global Entrepreneurship.
Among the top speakers were Niek Jan van Damme, CEO of Telekom Germany at that time, Daniel Mahler, former Head of Americas at A.T. Kearney.
There was also an innovation concerning the speakers: Earl Ng, originally from the Philippines and enrolled as a student in Hong Kong at that time, took part in a main panel. He was the winner of an online contest in the run-up to the convention and therefore able to discuss the world of work of tomorrow with the German CEOs of Ferrero and Tchibo.


  • Valerie Bockstette, FSG, Managing Director
  • Dr. Markus Conrad, Tschibo, Chief Executive Officer
  • Andreas Dahlvig, HM, Boardmember and former CEO of Ikea
  • Prof. Dr. Lars P. Feld, Walter-Eucken-Institut, director
  • Jürgen Fitschen, Deutsche Bank, Member ofthe Executive Comitee
  • Heinrich Deichmann, DEICHMANN-SE, Head oft the Supervisory Board
  • Daniel Mahler, A.T. Kearney, Partner
  • Carlo Vassallo, Ferrero, Chief Executive Officer

15th World Business Dialogue 2012

14.03 - 15.03.2012

The 15th World Business Dialogue was set on March 14 and 15, 2012 at the University of Cologne. 300 students as well as top-class representatives from economy, politics and science came together to discuss the topic “Checkpoint Consumption” and the changes of the global market. Four main panels debated the following aspects of the changing global consumer behaviour:

Consumption 3.0 – Chances and Risks of the Online World
Consuming Energy – A Market in Transition
Inside Consumption – Who Determines What We Consume?
Global Consumption - Between a Smartphone and a Cup of Rice

Moreover, many executive sessions, workshops and an interactive session dealt with the topic consumption. Experts like Dr. Mirko Warschun, Fernando Burgos, Dr. Thomas Edelmann, Hubertus Meyer-Burckhardt, Rolf Buch and Hans-Otto Schrader were able to give further impulses becauses of their great know-how.


  • Ferdinando Becalli-Falco, General Electric Germany, CEO of Europe and North Asia
  • Kurt Bock, BASF SE, CEO
  • Rick Bowen, Alcoa Inc., President Head of Energy
  • Rolf Buch, arvato AG, CEO
  • Fernando Burgos, Telefonica Germany, Vice President New Business and Innovattion
  • Rüdiger Grube, Deutsche Bahn AG, CEO
  • Suhas Gopinath, Globals Inc., CEO
  • Gerhard Knies, DESERTEC Foundation, Co-founder
  • Hubertus Meyer-Burckhardt, POLYPHON Film- und Fernsehgesellschaft mbH, CEO
  • Kenneth P. Morse, MIT Enterpreneuership Center, Founder
  • Michael Schmidt, BP, Member of Executive Board Europe SE, Vice President HR Europe
  • Hans-Otto Schrader, Otto Group, CEO
  • Mirko Warschun, Kearney GmbH, Partner

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