The capital region has a variety of different science and research facilities. According to the latest research report of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Berlin-Brandenburg is Germany’s research hotspot. Our universities have been very successful in the Federal Excellence Initiative and they can compete with all other universities in Germany when it comes to the ranking listing the funding by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The universities are also top in using the potentials of science for marketable products and services.
I base this on one unerring indicator: third-party funds from the economy. In 2007, the economy paid the considerable amount of 101 million euros to the regional universities. This puts Berlin-Brandenburg among the top 5 in Germany. Yet, there is still room for more. The universities in North Rhine-Westphalia with 304 million euros are the benchmark.
Berlin was once leading: One of the first technology transfer institutes and the first technology centre were founded here. The business plan competition to support start-ups out of the universities – by now the biggest of its kind and copied all over Germany – was invented here. But today our region is facing strong competition about the leadership in innovations in this area. That is why I want to outline the way to a modern transfer of technology and knowledge in the capital region based on three theories. And I emphasize: Science and economy must go this way together.
Thesis 1 Growth due to innovation: The objective of the co-operation between economy and science is to secure industrial competitiveness.
The key objective of the VME (Verband der Metall- und Elektroindustrie in Berlin und Brandenburg e.V. – Registred Association of the Metal and Electrical Industry in Berlin and Brandenburg) is to secure and enhance the industrial competitiveness of the capital region.
This ability to weather competition successfully was already important in good times, but in times of crises it becomes vital. If your products and services hold up in declining markets you are competitive. In this case, competitiveness is connected with innovative abilities. The entrepreneurial skill lies in developing new products and processes and in marketing them successfully. And innovation is where science comes in.
It is needed to tackle numerous tasks: mobility and energy, climate protection and sustainability, ageing and health are mega-trends only an innovative industry – in close co-operation with science – can solve.
This means, the common overall objective, “growth through innovation”, should apply for us. Science the technology and knowledge transfer is very complex it can be shown in a range of sub and partial goals. The definition of these goals, however, must always aim at strengthening the companies’, especially the SMEs’, readiness for innovation, at improving the economy’s and the research institutes’ ability and willingness to collaborate and thus, ultimately at increasing the number of product and process innovations in the industrial sector.
Thesis 2 Market for innovations: Cutting-edge technology and knowledge transfer is demand-driven.
The Swiss foundation Avenir Suisse has written a sensational text on the reorientation of Swiss innovation policy, thereby developing a model of an innovation market. The model takes into account that scientific and economic systems are generally different: among others, in the way they work, in the motivation of the people involved and in their performance indicators. In order to bridge these differences, Avenir Suisse recommends an innovation market which should be supported by a “demand pull”, the clients’ demand for innovation. In this model, the companies involve the universities in the development of solutions. The “technology push” coming from products or technologies that have already been developed at universities merely complements the demand-orientated approach. In this model, politics do not control the innovation processes but create the framework. In my opinion, this model is closest to the requirements of real life. Now we must make it the basis of our innovation policy.
Thesis 3 Alliance for innovation: The optimization of knowledge and technology transfer is a joint process of industry and science.
Knowledge and technology transfer is not a one-way street. In its complexity it is rather the strategic link between science and industry. This is why joint efforts are necessary to design the process. It requires an alliance for innovation, which basically agrees on a target system, on the fields of action and on the monitoring of the knowledge and technology transfer.Within this alliance communication and collaboration between the groups involved is also optimized.
The key operational elements include a better communication of business demand, increased visibility of the scientific potential and the development and design of sustainable links between businesses and universities – from term papers to strategic research partnerships.
Summary. The central objective “growth through innovation”, the model of an “innovation market” and a joint “alliance for innovation” are the guiding principles of a future-proof innovation policy, for which the VME stands and for which it works – in the interest of companies in the metal and electrical industry in the capital region.
The author was born in Bochum in 1962. He has been the chairman of the board of the Association of Metal and Electrical Industry in Berlin and Brandenburg (VME) since 2008. Among others, the qualified banker and business graduate held a management position at the Deutsche Bank and has been the head of the office of Siemens AG in Berlin since 2008.