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Article - Innovation Policy

Transfer initiative: more ideas - more successes

Introduction

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, at the kick-off event. Enlarge

Peter Altmaier, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, at the kick-off event.

© BMWi/BILDKRAFTWERK

Germany offers a favourable environment for companies to develop innovative products and services. Expenditure for research and the rate of development of new ideas are high in an international comparison. Germany invests more than three percent of its total gross domestic product for this purpose.

But even more use can be made of these good preconditions. Our aim is to make even more ideas a success.

We are seeing that large companies account for the bulk of the increasing research and development spending. The spending by small and medium-sized enterprises in this field has been stagnating for years.

This is why we are working on increasing the innovator ratio, i.e. the proportion of enterprises that have launched at least one product or process innovation within a three-year reference period.

How are we improving the German innovation ecosystem?

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) has launched a transfer initiative to help enterprises translate ideas into marketable products, processes and services.

In the context of the transfer initiative, the Economic Affairs Ministry, together with innovation stakeholders, examines what improvements need to be made in order to facilitate the tranfer of ideas to the market and what adjustments are necessary. For this purpose, existing instruments are reviewed and new ones are developed. The aim is to optimise the innovation ecosystem to successfully stimulate innovation in Gemany.

Coronavirus and Innovation

Coronavirus: Impact and measures in the field of innovation policy

From 8-30 April 2020, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy conducted an online survey on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on research, development and innovation (R&D&I) activities by companies. The results of the survey can be found here (PDF, 790 KB) (in German) In response to the coronavirus crisis, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy has already implemented numerous measures as part of its innovation and digital support programmes (PDF, 145 KB) (in German) to make the processes involved less bureaucratic, support digitisation, and make it easier for innovative SMEs to access these programmes. For a number of best-practice examples from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy's research, development and innovation funding programmes intended to help contain the coronavirus pandemic, please click here (PDF, 167 KB) (in German).

Series of dialogues

Identifying barriers to innovation, outlining funding possibilities

The key elements of the transfer initiative include a series of dialogues and a roadshow. The objective of the series of dialogues: to identify and remove impediments to the transfer of findings from research to practice. A roadshow will disseminate information about the Economic Affairs Ministry’s funding portfolio and the outcome of the series of dialogues.

The target group of the series of dialogues comprises representatives of business, science and associations, project management and government. Experts discuss how Germany’s innovation ecosystem can be improved and what barriers currently exist. The series of dialogues will be continued on different aspects at various venues. Intensive discussions between experts are to come up with ways to tackle obstacles to the transfer of research findings and to make full use of their potential.

During the kick-off event on 11 March 2019, Federal Minister Altmaier said: “We want to talk with all the stakeholders involved in the process of innovation. We want to listen to the people working on the transfer of research findings in their day-to-day work. We will then draw up and implement joint solutions.”

If you wish to be informed about activities and events in the context of the transfer initiative, you can join our mailing list here (in German).

We also invite you to forward your ideas and proposals on how to improve technology transfer and to participate in the process beyond the events being held in the context of the series of dialogues and the roadshow. We look forward to your contributions at transferinitiative@bmwi.bund.de.

The fifth transfer initiative dialogue event took place as a virtual conference and focused on the potential of innovative public procurement for technology and knowledge transfer.

As part of its preparations for the event, the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy conducted an online survey on innovative public procurement from 18 May to 5 June 2020. The results of the survey can be found here (PDF, 789 KB) (in German).

Innovative public procurement can have a huge leverage effect on technology and knowledge transfer. The transfer initiative dialogue therefore looked at how public procurement can contribute even more to paving the way for innovative products and services to enter the market.

Mr Thomas Jarzombek, Commissioner for the Digital Industry and Start-ups at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and Federal Government Coordinator of German Aerospace Policy, gave a presentation showing the potential held by innovative public procurement. Following this, Professor Michael Eßig (PDF, 324 KB) (in German) from the University of the Federal Armed Forces in Munich outlined the ideal conditions for implementing innovative public procurement more broadly.

The dialogue was used to discuss and develop ideas on how innovative public procurement can be used as an instrument of knowledge and technology transfer to an even greater extent in the future. Keynote speeches were given by contracting authorities (PDF, 532 KB) (in German) and suppliers (PDF, 250 KB) (in German) to present their points of view, and a live survey was undertaken among the participants (PDF, 481 KB) (in German). These especially focused on the question as to what extent SMEs and start-ups in particular are able to participate in innovative public procurement.

Participants of the event used the workshop to develop the following core statements:

Statement 1: It is very important for contracting authorities to have an internal innovative procurement strategy.

Statement 2: Internal training on innovative procurement instruments supports knowledge development at the contracting authorities.

Statement 3: The establishment of an e-marketplace is welcomed by suppliers and contracting authorities.

Statement 4: Communication between contracting authorities and suppliers is a key element.

Statement 5: Suppliers need simpler access conditions so that innovative products and services are able to reach the market.

Statement 6: Suppliers need functional service descriptions.

The fourth dialogue event in the context of the transfer initiative took place at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and was entitled ‘The role of standardisation for technology transfer’.

In impulse statements, representatives from business and science presented their experience with standardisation in the fields of Industrie 4.0, civil security research, blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI). In the subsequent workshops, they discussed how the involvement of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the development of national, European and global standards can be facilitated and how standardisation can help enterprises even better to bring their innovative ideas to market.

In summary, the participants identified the following fields of action and put forward seven arguments to simplify and accelerate the transfer of ideas to market:

Argument 1: The lack of involvement especially of start-ups in the field of standardisation is in particular due to a lack of information.

Argument 2: Free searching for and in standards would facilitate their use for SMEs and start-ups.

Argument 3: Easily accessible ways to participate in standardisation processes should be created for SMEs and start-ups.

Argument 4: Standardisation must become much more agile to take account of the time involved especially for start-ups.

Argument 5: Technology funding programmes should take more account of standardisation.

Argument 6: The curricula especially of technical studies should pay greater attention to standardisation to ensure basic knowledge. In addition, intensive courses should be offered for standardisation beginners.

Argument 7: It should be examined whether the existing funding programmes are tailored to the needs of the recipients, and they should be better coordinated, if necessary.

The third dialogue event in the context of the transfer initiative took place at the Kunststoff-Institut Lüdenscheid and was entitled ‘Transfer of technology and expertise from research into practice: the example of plastics’.

This was the first event focussing on a single sector to discuss the following questions regarding the transfer of technology and expertise from research into practice:

  • What barriers impede the innovation process?
  • Why is it often difficult to bring good ideas to market?

Best practices for technology transfer were presented by taking the example of the plastics industry. In panel discussions and workshops, participants talked about framework conditions and instruments to foster and optimise the transfer of technology and expertise.

In addition, there was a live demonstration of innovative technologies, including innovative surface technologies and additive manufacturing. The focus of the whole dialogue event was on the exchange of information between representatives of science and SMEs.

The second dialogue event in the context of the transfer initiative took place in Stuttgart and was entitled ‘Innovation across sectors – opportunities and the potential of cross-sectoral innovation’.

The opening address by Prof. Dr.-Ing. Prof. e. h. Wilhelm Bauer, Commissioner for Technology of the government of Baden-Württemberg, dealt with ‘Strategic technology and innovation management for future growth’.

In impulse statements, representatives from industry, the creative industries and cluster organisations reported on their experience with cross-sectoral cooperation. They presented not only the great market opportunities resulting from cross-sectoral innovation, but also the challenges in the initital phase, especially for small enterprises, and possible solutions.

In summary, the participants identified the following aspects that are important for the development of cross-sectoral innovation:

  1. Encounters with people from outside one’s own sector and environment, for example at events, play a key role for new perspectives and approaches.
  2. Companies need to look at the situation in other industries, be willing to reconsider their business models and products, and be open to new approaches.
  3. Cross-sectoral cooperation with new, unknown partners requires a new type of cooperation:

    • Personal cooperation creates trust.
    • Common objectives and interests need to be identified and specified on the basis of open and honest communication between the partners.
    • Cross-sectoral research and innovation projects are risky. All participants must be aware of the risks involved.

The kick-off event of the transfer initiative took place at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and was entitled ‘More ideas – more successes: how are we improving the German innovation ecosystem?’.

Economic Affairs Minister Peter Altmaier launched the transfer initiative of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy on 11 March 2019. In the speech he delivered at the kick-off event of the initiative, Federal Minister Altmaier said: “Germany is an attractive location for innovation. More is going into research and development. But we need to get better at translating innovation into commercial success. Agile small and medium-sized firms are particularly important for our innovativeness and prosperity. We will design policies to ensure that as many of them as possible can realise their creative ideas. In this way, we can ensure that more ideas are brought to market and more innovative companies flourish in Germany. Where that happens, the jobs and growth of the future will be generated.”

In his speech, Dr Ludger Schuknecht, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, analysed the strengths and weaknesses of the German innovation system and of the transfer system from the international point of view. After a high-level panel discussion, the participants from government, business, science and associations exchanged views in workshops. They discussed issues including the question how to improve Germany’s innovation ecosystem and what barriers currently exist.

Dialogue events of the transfer initiative

Roadshow

The roadshow

The roadshow of the transfer initiative provides an overview of the Economic Affairs Ministry’s innovation policy, funding programmes and initiatives tailored to address a variety of challenges.

The main target group is SMEs, which are important for our economy’s innovative capacity and our prosperity. The roadshow with different themes will be taking the message about the Economic Affairs Ministry’s transfer initiative and innovation policy to companies around Germany.

Roadshow with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Eastern Thuringia in Gera, July 2020
The second roadshow, entitled ‘From the idea to market success’, took place on 7 July 2020 in cooperation with the Chamber of Industry and Commerce East Thuringia in Gera. One of the focuses of the virtual event was the support programmes Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) and go-digital. This included presentation of example projects supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and operated by:

  • Schubert & Salzer Feinguß Lobenstein GmbH (individual project within ZIM),
  • Gesell Gebäudetechnik GmbH (go-digital).

The kick-off event for the roadshow ‘From the idea to market success’ took place on 17 June 2020 in cooperation with Karlsruhe Chamber of Industry and Commerce. One of the focuses of this virtual event was the support programmes Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM), go-Inno and go-digital. This included presentation of example projects supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and operated by:

  • Conemis AG (individual project supported within ZIM),
  • Metrix GmbH und AndererConsulting (go-Inno),
  • AppSphere AG (go-digital).

Innovation policy

Strengthening Germany’s capacity for innovation

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy creates a pro-innovation environment and launches market-driven funding programmes. The aim is to help SMEs embrace new innovations and digitisation, inspire young people to choose a career in technology and the natural sciences, and secure an adequate supply of skilled workers for the future.

A blackboard with math formulas connected to innovation policy

© stock.adobe.com – pict rider

Innovation Policy

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Hand in front of a virtual background, symbolising the transfer initiative