Germany is to become even more innovative

FAQs on the annual report of the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation Germany is to become even more innovative

More targeted promotion of eastern Germany as a centre of innovation, cyber security and relations with China – those are the recommendations of the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation. Chancellor Angela Merkel was presented with the Commission’s 2020 annual report on Wednesday. Here is an overview.

Uwe Cantner, Chairman of the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation, presents Chancellor Angela Merkel with the Commission's annual report.

Uwe Cantner, Chairman of the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation, presents Chancellor Angela Merkel with the Commission's annual report.

Photo: Bundesregierung/Schacht

Where does eastern Germany stand as a centre of innovation, 30 years after reunification?

Even 30 years after reunification there are major structural differences between eastern and western Germany, and these differences impact on innovative activities. Although the eastern part of Germany has made up ground, eastern German companies still find it more difficult to initiate innovative projects and to market these, although they actually cooperate more than western companies.

…and what does the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation recommend?

The Commission of Experts recommends focusing on promoting excellent innovative projects and proposes that structurally weak regions ought to be considered. Parallel assistance would also help attract innovation-oriented companies. Support should be provided for the marketing of innovative products and networking actors involved in innovation.

What about cyber security?

Attack vectors of companies increase with increasing digitalisation. The need for protection, that many companies do in fact recognise, works counter to their innovative activities. There must be more investment in cyber security, since Germany is lagging well behind the USA, China and Japan in terms of patents registered.     

…and what does the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation recommend?

The Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation recommends communicating more knowledge about all aspects of cyber security at institutes of higher education. Some parts of the digital infrastructure should be licensed on the basis of the same criteria throughout the European Union, as the European Commission is now planning for the roll-out of the 5G networks. EU-wide minimum standards and certification too are to be supported. Targeted needs-driven procurement can be used to promote innovative products. The necessary flexibility can be ensured by not giving preference to any particular technology.

Low-threshold information and advisory services should be made available, especially to small and medium enterprises. Cyber security promotion programmes already in place in small and medium businesses should be tested for their effectiveness, and adapted to bring them into line with the constantly changing threat. And finally, reporting obligations might have to be extended.

What form does the knowledge and technology transfer between Germany and China take?

There is a concern that there could be a one-way flow of expertise, which could weaken Germany’s scientific and economic performance. There is no empirical evidence to date of any weakening. However, when Chinese investors acquire stakes in companies or take over businesses it could be linked to an attempt to acquire or exercise political and strategic influence, in particular in the case of cooperative projects with the scientific and research community, which is subject to the direct influence of the government in China.

…and what does the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation recommend?

The Commission of Experts recommends that the German government work expressly to achieve a level playing field with regard to direct investment. It supports the plans of the German government to subject company take-overs by foreign investors in sensitive technological sectors to greater scrutiny.

The Commission also recommends setting up a central capacities unit to advise German academics, providing expertise on legal issues relating to cooperation and research. This unit should systematically gather and evaluate information regarding experience gained and problems experienced in Sino-German cooperation arrangements, and make this available to research facilities.

Research and teaching that will increase our understanding of topical political, social and economic developments in China should be stepped up. Then there should be an intensive and ongoing dialogue, coordinated with our European partners, regarding the framework and prospects for scientific and academic cooperation between Germany and China.

The Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation, also known by its German acronym EFI, has been advising the German government for over ten years. Every year it submits a report on research, innovation and Germany’s technological performance. Building on the strengths and weaknesses of Germany’s innovation system compared to international competitors, it produces recommendations for action for national research and innovation policy.

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