Burkhard Ischler: Science-to-business! – Three theses regarding modern knowledge transfer

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.

 

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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.

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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.


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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.

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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.

 

untitledThe 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.