Transformation is the “project for the future”

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Expert report on research and innovation Transformation is the “project for the future”

The Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation (EFI) has presented its 2024 annual report to Federal Chancellor Scholz. In its report, the EFI warns against losing sight of Germany's long-term focus on transformation.

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Federal Chancellor Scholz at the presentation of the 2024 Annual Report by the Commission of Experts on Research and Innovation.

Uwe Cantner (l.) from the Commission of Experts on Research and Innovation presents the 2024 report to Federal Chancellor Scholz, who was joined by Research Minister Stark-Watzinger.

Photo: Federal Government/Kugler

According to the EFI, the current government has taken up a “project of superlatives” from its predecessors, namely transforming the economy and society to make Germany more climate-neutral, robust and sustainable, and to promote the use of digital technologies. According to the experts, achieving this goal requires a large number of technological and social innovations.

The Expert Commission presented its 2024 annual report to Federal Chancellor Scholz on Wednesday. Receiving the report, the Federal Chancellor stressed that the report and the opinion of the EFI were important for “our vision of Germany’s future development and transformation”.

The Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation was set up in 2008 to advise the Federal Government. Every year it presents a report on research, innovation and technological capacity in Germany. The report sums up the outcomes of the EFI’s work in plain language and presents recommendations on how to address the deficiencies it identifies.

The Commission of Experts acknowledges the progress in transformative policies which the Federal Government has achieved so far. Nevertheless, the EFI is still concerned that increasing geopolitical constraints and growing tensions within German politics could dilute the long-term focus on transformation into a more short-term policy of crisis management.

Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz also described transformation as “the great project for the future of this country.” He posed the question of “how we can remain at the forefront of research in 10, 20 or 30 years.”

He stressed that Germany had already done a great deal, such as expanding renewable energy, creating a resilient electricity system, establishing hydrogen as a fuel, and also adopting a power generation strategy to promote safer and more climate-friendly electricity generation.

Artificial intelligence: a key technology

The Commission of Experts has identified AI as a rapidly developing area with a wide range of potential applications. The EFI suggests that AI can unlock a wide range of potential for innovation and growth and lead to structural change in business and society.

AI is also a major issue for the Federal Chancellor. He noted that many startups and businesses in the field are developing well, and US companies are investing. According to Scholz, there are also many companies in the pharmaceuticals industry which “know what can be achieved with this technology”.

He noted that Europe had set out a legal framework for using AI, and now what mattered was for Germany to make the most of this basis. In his view, Germany must ensure that businesses and researchers alike can apply AI “with a view towards resilience”, and he explained that work was already underway to create the necessary regulatory and policy frameworks. The Federal Chancellor cited the examples of the draft Research Data Act and the Health Data Usage Act, which recently came into force.

Germany needs outstanding workers

In its annual report, the EFI also stresses the importance of making Germany a competitive place for science and innovation. The report argues that Germany therefore requires outstanding staff at its universities, research institutions and businesses. The German science and innovation system is currently losing “human capital” and an ageing society is likely to lead to staff shortages in this field. Nevertheless, the Commission of Experts remains positive about the pathway Germany is on.

The Federal Chancellor stressed that Germany needs “bright women and men who will work as researchers and managers in many key fields and make it possible to deploy modern technology in Germany.”

He cited the example of the Skilled Workers Immigration Act as a way of assembling a team of researchers from around the world “quickly, conveniently and without unnecessary bureaucracy”. Scholz also stressed that it must become a matter of course to use English in Germany as “the language of science”.

Boosting spending on research

The Federal Government is committed to raising the proportion of government spending on research to 3.5 percent of GDP by 2025. Out of “the major European countries”, Germany is the only country to spend over 3 percent of its economic output on research and development. According to the Federal Chancellor, Germany is determined to continue this ambitious project.