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Article - Digitisation

Taking control of the digital transformation


Digitalisation is in full swing. It is a global trend that is transforming all parts of our lives. The digital transformation offers tremendous potential for improving people’s quality of life, for creating revolutionary business models and for doing business more efficiently. By providing a favourable framework and targeted funding schemes, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy aims to harness the potential offered by digitalisation and to successfully master any new challenges that may arise, thus taking control of the digital transformation.

As of now, there are more than 20 billion devices and machines which are connected via internet; in 2030, this figure will rise to half a trillion. Digitalisation and interconnectedness can be an engine for growth and prosperity. The digital economy in Germany is not only an important industrial and technology sector, it also helps speed up the digitalisation within companies, the world of work and society. This is also demonstrated by the annual “DIGITAL Economy” monitoring report (in German).

Digital skills are key for the competitiveness of companies, particularly for SMEs. These companies therefore require particular assistance and support. In industry, digitalisation helps develop smart production procedures that lead to higher productivity and efficiency. The buzzword used to describe this trend is Industrie 4.0. Industrie 4.0 makes it possible to not only meet customers’ individual needs, but also to develop entirely new industrial products and business models.

Taking control of the digital economy

Digitalisation leads not only to the creation of new products and services, but also to the disruption of traditional market concepts. By adopting the 9th amendment of the Act against Restraints of Competition on 28 September 2016, the Federal Government improved the regulatory framework governing abuse of market power and mergers. This amendment takes account of the particularities of digital markets, thereby providing effective protection against abuse of market power and guaranteeing effective control of mergers. Find out more (in German).

We must actively manage digital transformation and introduce new, future-oriented rules governing the digital economy, the sharing economy and digital platforms (in German). In order to ensure that there is fair competition between these platforms and established market players the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has launched a broad-based discussion process. A first outcome of this process was the publication of the White Paper on Digital Platforms which – based on the discussion – sets out clear proposals for digital regulatory policy. There are two aspects that are of key importance: First of all, we ought to make sure to generate inclusive growth. This can be achieved by creating a level playing field for investment and innovation. Secondly, we must protect people's personal rights and data sovereignty. Go to to find out more (in German).

Policies for a digital society

Adopting modern internet policies means adopting fair and simple rules for digitalisation that ensure that consumers’ rights relating to the digital world can be enforced and that individuals and companies can harness the social and economic potential offered by digitalisation. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has adopted a number of important internet policy initiatives and regulatory measures in order to ensure that individuals and companies can share in the benefits of technological progress and that funding is provided for new innovations. Click here to find out more about internet policies.

Facts and figures on digitalisation

Symbolicon für Bürogebäude in Deutschland

Percentage of commercial enterprises
that are already highly digitalised (2018)

Symbolicon für Eurostapel

Percentage of commercial enterprises
using Big Data in 2018

Symbolicon für Scheck

Amount in billion euros
that businesses and individuals invested in start-ups in 2018

Symbolicon für Sicherheit

Percentage of German companies
that have already fallen victim to cyber crime (2018)

Strategies for the digital transformation

A framework that takes account of the digital strategies of tomorrow

We live in a world that is becoming increasingly digital and interconnected. This development is having a direct impact on our everyday lives, on the way we interact with others, on our work, and on our participation in society. We want to take control of this development by providing the right regulatory framework and strategies for our future.

The Digital Agenda 2014-2017, which was adopted by the Federal Government in summer 2014, serves as the government’s road map for implementing digital policies in cooperation with the business community, the social partners, civil society and academia. Over the last three years, the Federal Government has undertaken key measures to meet the goals set out by the Digital Agenda. These measures include the adoption of funding programmes for the expansion of high-performance, nation-wide broadband networks, the launch of additional digitisation projects, the adoption of the IT Security Act and Plattform Industrie 4.0.

On 26 April 2017, the Federal Government adopted its 2014-2017 Report on the Digital Agenda. The report is outlining the progress achieved on digital policy in the last three years. It shows that, in many areas, Germany is well-prepared for the digital future. You can find detailed information about the Digital Agenda here.

Making a success of the digital transformation in Germany

In addition to the Digital Agenda, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy also presented a Digital Strategy 2025 at the 2016 CeBIT fair. This strategy sets out important measures and policy instruments that Germany will need to deploy in this legislative term and beyond in order to make a success of the digital transformation.

German administrations also need to keep pace with the digital transformation. For this purpose, the federal government announced to "provide online the 100 most important and frequently used administrative services throughout the country in a uniform manner". The study entitled "Top 100 – the most important and frequently used administrative services for businesses”, which was presented in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy on 5 July 2017, identifies the most important interactions between businesses and administrations of around 5,500 administrative services – i.e. those administrative services that are frequently used by businesses, result in high compliance costs and have huge digitalisation potential. The study is available for download here (PDF, 400 KB).

Guidelines for a digital policy that benefits all

Digitisation is transforming the way we live, communicate, work, do business, and consume. This transformation is not limited to technology and our economy – it is affecting the whole of society. What can we do to prevent digital platforms dominating the market? Will digitisation mean that there will be more or fewer jobs in the future? Do we need an external body to monitor algorithms and self-learning systems? These three questions are examples highlighting the issues we need to deal with in the digital age – issues that concern us all and that we need work on together if we want digitisation to be shaped fairly for the benefit of consumers, businesses and employees.

This is why, in June 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, and the Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection adopted a number of political guidelines setting out how the digital transformation can be shaped for the benefit of businesses, employees and consumers, and drawing up several key fields of action and requirements that digital policy needs to take into account. More information about this can be found here.

The White Paper on Digital Platforms lays down principles for a digitalisation ‘Made in Europe’

Digital platforms have emerged as driving forces for economic development in both Germany and Europe. In order to ensure that there is fair competition between these platforms and established market players, we are seeking to develop a digital ordo-liberal policy. There are two aspects that are of key importance here: First of all, we ought to make sure to generate inclusive growth. This can be achieved by creating a level playing field for investment and innovation. Secondly, we must protect people's personal rights and data sovereignty. The White Paper on Digital Platforms, which sets out specific ideas for digital ordo-liberal policies, is an important step towards achieving these goals. The White Paper also sets out ideas for policies to be implemented at European level as digitalisation does not stop at national borders. Go to to find out more.

Digital Summit – One central platform for developing digital policies

The Digital Summit (formerly called National IT Summit) is the central platform for stakeholders involved in the digital transformation. The most recent Summit meeting was held in the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region from 12 to 13 June 2017. The meeting focused on digital health, on the Rhine-Neckar Metropolitan Region as a model region for smart networking and on the digital transformation of businesses and the administration. The next Digital Summit is to take place in Nuremberg on 3 and 4 December 2018. More information about the Digital Summit can be found at (in German).

Boosting business through smart networking

Smart networking means the systematic and extensive digital networking of existing infrastructure, information and persons in a number of important sectors. The programme helps drive forward the processes of digitalisation (e.g. through smart meters, e-health services, e-learning, e-government, smart homes, smart cities, e-participation, and age-appropriate support systems for living a self-determined life), roll these out nation-wide, and harness the potential offered by digitalisation in a number of key sectors including education, energy, healthcare, transport and public administration. In March 2015, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy launched the Smart Networks Initiative – a central coordination and advice centre for smart networking. Find out more.

High-speed networks are key

Good networks and internet connections are key for driving forward digitalisation. As digitalisation picks up speed, we need to to ensure that our data networks deliver the capacity, availability and latency required. These networks serve as the basis for a digitised society and smart networking. A lot has been achieved over the last few years: more than 70 per cent of German households have access to 50 mbps connections and LTE has been swiftly expanded. There has been a great response to the Federal Government’s broadband funding programme. In order to account for the more demanding requirements that need to be met in the context of Industrie 4.0 (Internet of Things, Big Data) and smart networking (for example e-health, e-government, smart cities), we need to further update our broadband connections: we need gigabit networks that deliver high speed downloads and uploads, we need reliable real-time transmission of data and high-quality internet services. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is stepping up its efforts to ensure that such gigabit networks will be established in Germany by 2025. It has proposed a number of specific measures under its Digital Strategy 2025 (such as establishing a fund for future investment in rural areas and a legal framework that is conducive to investment and innovation).

Driving forward digital inclusion and skills development

Digitisation is particularly affecting the areas of knowledge, education and training: our job roles will be fundamentally transformed. This means that a special focus needs to be placed on digital inclusion and education. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is funding the ‘D21-Digital-Index (in German)’, which is the most relevant study for assessing to what extent Germany has been digitised so far.

The focus is no longer exclusively on helping people gain access to the internet, but on securing an adequate supply of skilled workers and on digital integration. At the 2016 National IT Summit, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy presented a paper on digital education outlining how digital learning and skills development are to be enshrined across the entire education chain.


Keyvisual zu G20, Symboldbild für Digitalisierung; Quelle:



To the website

SMEs Digital

Driving forward the digital transformation in small and medium-sized enterprises

New software solutions, Industrie 4.0 applications, standardised e-business processes and digital networking provide SMEs and skilled crafts businesses with a wide range of opportunities for developing new products and services. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is using targeted awareness-raising campaigns, information and qualification events in order to support SMEs and skilled crafts businesses and to make the best possible use of the potential of digitalisation.

Digitalisation and networking are having an impact on all parts of a business – from products and services to working, production and communication processes. Studies have shown that SMEs are doing less well than big companies when it comes to digitising their working and business practices. SMEs need to face up to this development, harness the opportunities and master the challenges linked to it in order to keep their business viable and competitive in the long term.

‘go digital’ helps small and medium-sized companies access IT consultancy services

The nationwide ‘go-digital’ funding programme promotes practical consulting services for companies wishing to keep pace with technological and social developments in the areas of online sales, digitalisation of day-to-day business and IT security. With its three modules "IT Security","Digital Market Development" and “Digitalised Business Processes", it is aimed specifically at small and medium-sized companies in the commercial sector and the craft trades.

Innovative Start-ups

Start-ups are driving digitalisation

Young companies are highly innovative and thus substantially drive forward the digital transformation. Start-ups are willing to take risks, they are dynamic and flexible. They develop digital solutions and business models that can be quickly scaled up. This is why the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy is supporting young start-up entrepreneurs, in particular as they go through the capital-intensive growth stage.

Tools for funding venture capital

Thanks to the creation of the coparion co-investment fund, the ERP/EIF growth facility worth 500 million euros, the topped-up ERP/EIF fund of funds and the European Angels Fund, more venture capital is now available for young, innovative companies. The ERP/EIF fund-of-funds invests in venture capital funds which then invest in technology firms that are in their early or growth stages. The European Angels Fund co-finances investments made by selected and experienced business angels.

In spring 2017, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy launched the third edition of the High-Tech Start-Up Fund, which provides seed financing to young, fast-growing technology startups. In the future, a special focus will be placed on attracting medium-sized companies as investors.

The INVEST funding programme will be enhanced. We are envisaging doubling the maximum investment sum for which funding can be claimed, raising it to 500,000 euros, and introducing an exit grant worth 25 per cent of the profit made from the sale of a business.

Detailed information about the funding and financing instruments that exist can be found in the SME financing section.

Bringing together start-ups and supporting their internationalisation

Many large German cities are currently seeing the creation of regional digital hubs that bring together representatives of start-ups, academia, SMEs and industry. The Digital Hub Initiative is to help the twelve German hubs to better connect with one another and to make them more widely known around the globe. To make this happen, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy will set up a hub networking agency and raise awareness for how to attract start-up entrepreneurs, young companies, skilled workers and investors from abroad. More information about the initiative can be found under (in German).

In the long run, most digital start-ups are successful only if they internationalise their activities and look beyond national and European borders. The German Accelerator provides access to comprehensive mentoring and coaching services in the US for German start-ups and young entrepreneurs in the life sciences, the technology sector and the digital economy.

In addition, exchange programmes that meet the specific needs of businesses help pave the way for success. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy assists German start-ups to develop new markets by funding exchange programmes of the German Startups Association, including the German Israeli Start-up Exchange Program (GISEP) and the German Indian Start-up Exchange Program (GINSEP).

Engaging in dialogue with start-ups and launching competitions

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has been organising a series of start-up nights that help link up start-ups with established companies. Young companies can showcase their business ideas to large corporations and SMEs and to get into conversation. This makes it possible for the well-established firms to pick up on innovative ideas for their companies and for young entrepreneurs to benefit from other companies’ experience. In order to boost the number of high-tech start-ups that are being created in Germany, the Ministry has also redesigned the ‘Digital innovations’ competition for business start-ups. The competition helps potential start-up entrepreneurs by providing them with advice and capital, and by linking them up with established companies and potential investors.

In the context of the ‘Young Digital Economy’ Advisory Board, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has established a direct and practical dialogue between the young German start-up scene and policy-makers. The Advisory Board gives the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy advice particularly on the development and potential of the young digital economy and on new digital technologies in Germany, and on how to provide start-ups with a better environment in which to grow.

Wall with post-its from an Start-Up; Quelle: Getty Images/Emely

© Getty Images/Emely

Start-ups: a driving force for growth and competition

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Funding new Technology

State-of the art digital technology – from the research lab all the way to the market

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy’s funding programmes for digital technologies provide important stimulus for transferring scientific findings into state-of-the-art technology that can be sold on the market.

Under its ‘development of digital technologies’ portfolio, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy provides funding for pre-commercial research and development projects. The aim of this work is to pick up on key ICT trends at an early stage and to accelerate the process of transferring scientific findings into marketable state-of-the-art technology with high-level potential for practical applications.

There are a wide range of funding priorities: The smart data programme helps fund projects in the areas of industry, mobility, energy and healthcare in which innovative, secure big data solutions that can be widely used are developed.

The PAiCE – Digital technologies for business funding programme addresses forward-looking technology fields such as product engineering, logistics, service robotics, industrial 3D applications, industrial communication and projects that cut across several of these fields. Bringing together scientific networks and excellent medium-sized companies in an efficient way is to help speed up the transfer of creative ideas and scientific findings into practical applications.

Under the Smart Service World I and II programmes, funding is provided for projects that seek to develop smart services that can be used in many of different areas of our lives and across all business sectors.

Under the Trusted Cloud funding programme, a particular focus is placed on cloud services. The programme aims to build trust for cloud-based solutions among companies – for example by introducing unified and transparent criteria for assessment.

An overview of the programmes that received funding up until 2015 can be found here (only in German).

Tablet and traffic infrastructure, symbolic of intelligent networking; Source: martin-dm

© martin-dm

Smart networking

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Security and Standards

Providing for secure digital services that users can trust

As our economy and society become ever more digitised and interconnected, ensuring data security and adopting reliable standards becomes ever more important.The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy wants to ensure that small and medium-sized companies can protect themselves against cyber threats and that they can fully share in the benefits of the digital transformation.

As part of its ‘T Security in Commerce’ initiative, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy constantly develops new and specific measures that help raise awareness for IT security among businesses, particularly SME.

A special focus is placed on optimising the regulatory framework and on strengthening the IT security sector at both national and European level. One of the key challenges in this regard is providing information about the security standard of IT products by issuing quality labels or certificates. In September 2016, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy conducted a scientific study into this subject. This study seeks to determine the extent to which small and medium-sized enterprises use certificates and quality labels to inform users about the security of their own products and services. In addition, the study seeks to find out how important IT security is for users as a criterion for selecting third-party products and services.

Reliable data protection in the cloud

Cloud services are central to the digital transformation of the economy. This platform lists only those cloud services which meet the criteria of the Trusted Cloud Label – i.e. which are trustworthy and meet the requirements for transparency, security, quality and compliance with the law. The label was the result of the work undertaken in the context of the Trusted Cloud technology programme, which was launched in 2010 with the aim to develop innovative and secure cloud computing solutions, particularly for SMEs. The programme ended in 2015.

Unified standards for Industrie 4.0

The close networking of technologies and value chains allows for an intensive exchange of data and therefore the creation of more interfaces. This means that unified standards are crucial for Industrie 4.0. You can find out more about this here.

Ensuring that our information and telecommunications technologies are both standardised and interoperable is important not only technologically, but also from a business perspective. Standards offer a competitive edge in global competition to those who develop and enforce them. The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy places a strong focus on open standards and interoperability in order to not only guarantee that complex ICT systems function flawlessly, but also in order to make sure that there is unrestricted access to the ICT markets and to free competition.

Woman in front of a monitor; Quelle: Getty Images/Bloomberg

© Getty Images/Bloomberg

Industrie 4.0

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International Digital Policy

Creating a European and global framework for the digitalisation

Industrie 4.0 and the digital economy are issues that cannot be addressed by one single country. It is necessary to share knowledge, adopt unified standards and harmonise regulatory frameworks so that companies around the world can remain competitive and work together.

The Digital Single Market

The digital economy and trade do not stop at national borders. Creating a European Digital Single Market therefore is the only way that ensures that companies can provide products and services that are based on the same rules and standards across the entire European Union. As part of its current Digital Single Market Strategy, the European Commission is addressing a wide range of issues related to this. The strategy is to achieve three over-arching objectives:

  1. to give companies and consumers better online access to goods and services all across Europe;
  2. to put in place the right framework and a level playing field for flourishing digital networks and innovative services; and
  3. to fully harness the potential for growth in the digital economy.

Since the strategy was first published, all of the proposals for action designed to achieve these goals (a grand total of 44 legislative proposals and political initiatives) have been tabled. The Federal Government, represented by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy in its role of coordinating Germany’s EU policy, is working to achieve swift progress in the negotiations and in the process of implementing individual measures following in-depth discussions.

On 13 December 2016 Germany and France met at a bilateral digital conference. They set out the priorities for cooperation in the digitalisation of the economy in a final declaration called “Joining together to drive forward the digital transformation of our economies”. The conference focused on the digital transformation of industry, on supporting innovative start-ups that boost growth and job creation, on better cooperation on security issues, particularly in the area of cloud services, and on European and international cooperation on providing a free and secure flow of information, particularly by strengthening the European standardisation system. The final declaration on “Joining together to drive forward the digital transformation of our economies” set out the priorities for cooperation in the digitalisation of the economy. Further information can be found here (in German).

European General Data Protection Regulation

The new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) replaces the data protection directive from 1995. It is to provide modern answers as our economy and society become ever more digitised. The GDPR provides an up-to-date set of European data protection rules that help find answers to how to keep data safe in an age marked by big data and new methods and types of data processing such as profiling, web tracking and cloud computing.

Internet governance

Internet governance covers a large number of different fields, ranging from web domain registration rules, global IP-Internet protocol address allocation to general questions about the level of openness or stability and the web. The Federal Government provides input on internet governance via a number of international bodies and organisations.

Further information

  • 10/06/2019 - Press release - International Cooperation

    G20 Ministers adopt Statement on Trade and Digital Economy

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  • 16/11/2018 - Joint press release - Key Enabling Technologies

    Federal Government adopts Artificial Intelligence Strategy

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  • 10/08/2018 - Press release - Digitisation

    Higher grants for digitisation in advanced training institutions

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  • 06/06/2018 - Press release - International Digital Policy

    State Secretary Nussbaum: Ministry's AUDITOR project to guarantee compliance of cloud services with data protection rules

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  • 02/05/2018 - Press release - Digitisation

    2018 Digital Summit to be held in Nuremberg

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  • 18/04/2018 - Press release - International Digital Policy

    State Secretary Bareiß opens first Western Balkans Digital Summit

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Computer chip and gas fiber, symbolic of digitisation; Source: Getty Images / Rafe Swan