Alessa Witt studied Business Administration and Business Ethics in Munich, mainly concentrating her research on the German Mittelstand and “Hidden Champions”. Currently, she is finalising her PhD at the University of Edinburgh Business School focusing on the internationalisation paths of German and British global niche champions and their associated competitive advantages. Her findings and publications have been well received at various international academic and public policy focused conferences.
Hidden Champions in Germany and the UK
Germany’s Mittelstand approach has received a lot of attention and has become an ambition for many neighbouring countries. George Osborne recognises its importance and suggests, “We should all learn the lessons of the successful Mittelstand Model.” But what exactly is the German Mittelstand Model?
The notion of the Mittelstand proves difficult to interpret, as it is as much to do with a mentality reflecting deep-rooted German traditions, rather than just a question of company size. So what can Britain really learn from Germany here? Research at the University of Edinburgh focused on bridging this gap and investigated an elite group of Mittelstand companies commonly referred to as ‘Hidden Champions’.
Mainly identified in Germany, these firms are market leaders, ranking among the top three worldwide in their defined niche market by selling rather unsexy but highly specialised products.
This study is the first to identify over 50 of these champions hidden throughout Britain and compares the most outstanding cases to the German counterpart. The presentation highlights key success factors of both German and British Hidden Champions leaving the audience to decide; has Britain already secretly grown its own ‘Britainstand’ or instead has it built a potentially short-lived ‘Brittlestand’ model?