Last year Germany emerged as the economic powerhouse for all of Europe – and the engine of this powerhouse is in Baden-Württemberg. We owe the remarkably rapid recovery of the German economy in particular to the high level of efficiency of companies and employees in Baden-Württemberg. Baden-Württemberg is Germany’s top industry, research and export state.
The economically strong sectors motor vehicle manufacturing, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, medicine and measurement and control technology contribute a major share of this favourable development. Baden-Württemberg is home to world-class companies such as Daimler, Bosch, Porsche, SAP and ZF, along with many small and medium-sized companies which are better known as high-quality suppliers or which have gained an international reputation with essential products. Technically sophisticated and high-quality products and processes are usually the result of intensive research and development (R&D). Baden-Württemberg is top in this field – in 2008 it spent over 16.8 billion euros on R&D activities in absolute terms. At 4.6 per cent, its share of GDP is the highest in Germany. In 2007, 19 per 1,000 employees in companies in Baden-Württemberg worked in research and development compared to only ten per 10,000 for Germany as a whole.
Innovation presupposes qualified personnel, access to the latest scientific knowledge and rapid, functioning technology transfer. No other state in Germany offers such variety at its universities as Baden-Württemberg. Teaching and research at its universities and institutes of technology in particular are of high quality. Four of Germany’s nine elite universities are located in Baden-Württemberg and we will continue to support top university research and its successes here. But commercially oriented non-university research facilities also supply important “seeds” for innovation in the commercial sector. These include the eleven research centres of the Baden-Württemberg Innovation Alliance and 16 institutes and facilities of the Fraunhofer Society, which carry out some 5,000 subsidised research projects on behalf of the commercial and public sectors.
The institutes of the German Aerospace Center in Stuttgart and Lampoldshausen are also of major importance. The research centres are integrated in a functioning technology system.
This also includes the more than 470 transfer centres of the Steinbeis Foundation and the innovation advisors from the regional chambers of commerce, which are also located at the universities and institutes of technology in Baden-Württemberg. As part of the innovation offensive, special investments in the commercially oriented research centres together with the federal government’s future investment programme and from EU funds (the European Regional Development Fund, or ERDF), have been initiated since autumn 2008. The Baden-Württemberg state government will assist our high-powered and diverse non-university research scene to enjoy ideal conditions and to further expand the number of research centres.
However, the innovative challenges lie not only in individual, pioneering inventions but in particular in bringing together knowledge from various disciplines and fields. With complex technologies and increasingly shorter product life cycles, it is important to link up all players in the innovation process with each other more closely. The state government has already provided major incentives through the structure of network organisations such as the media and film company MFG, BIOPRO or the Baden-Württemberg Microsystems Technology Society (Mikrosystemtechnik Baden-Württemberg e. V.) together with support for joint research projects between research centres and companies for several years.
In the second round of the competition, ten initiatives in various technology and theme sectors, such as air and space travel, metal technology and medical technology, gained awards for strengthening regional clusters in Baden-Württemberg, receiving financial assistance from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for establishing cluster management. Overall, this will provide some five million euros to assist 20 cluster initiatives in Baden-Württemberg together with the winners from the first round.
At the same time, the establishment of seven state-wide networks from the creative industry, automotive, environmental technology, fibre-based materials, logistics, production technology and mechatronics also received assistance worth 2.7 million euros from ERDF funds.
Entrants from Baden-Württemberg were also very successful in the last two rounds of the top cluster competition organised by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Of ten entries in the competition, four entries from Baden-Württemberg or which had major holdings in local partners were successful in the finals. The winners are active in software, micro-technology, biotechnology and organic electronics.
The combination of ecology and economy is a central objective of the Baden-Württemberg state government. Commercial performance, social justice and ecological responsibility are to be better linked with each other.
In the area of economic and technology policy, we want to develop dynamic and sustainable growth areas for the commercial sector. In the recommendations by the independent Innovation Council and the study by McKinsey & Company and the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IAW), four sectors were designated sectors of the future with above-average growth rates: sustainable mobility; environmental technology, renewable energies and resource efficiency; health and nursing care; and information and communication technologies, Green IT and intelligent products.
Sixty million euros are available in an incentive programme for an initial implementation round, especially in so-called lighthouse projects. These include establishing a light construction centre, a new Fraunhofer light construction project group and research projects in battery production and solar module research at the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research (ZSW).
In future the Baden-Württemberg state government will make efforts to ensure that Baden-Württemberg, the home of the motor car, becomes the leading market for top automotive technology and electro-mobility and that it continues its vigorous efforts to become a leading supplier of alternative drives – we need lower-emission, environmentally friendlier cars. Part of this state’s initiative for promoting electro-mobility is the recently created state agency for e-mobility and fuel cell technology. This initiative includes measures in the area of the research infrastructure, vocational training, support for research and projects and aspects of transport.
In economic and technology policy, the focus will be on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular. While they have a comparatively low share of macroeconomic R&D volume, they are still players in the use and distribution of innovation. This factor is particularly significant for Baden-Württemberg’s economy as this state has 60 per cent of all manufacturing employees in SMEs with fewer than 500 employees.
Not only do the customers of medium-sized companies make the highest technological and quality-related demands, the export-oriented manufacturers of niche products also succeed worldwide with their sophisticated products. This is why we want to improve access for small and medium-sized companies to universities and research and development centres.
Dr. Nils Schmid was born in 1973 and has been Deputy State Premier and Minister of Finance of the state of Baden-Württemberg since May 2011. He studied law at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen and gained his doctorate in 2006. He has been state chairman of the SPD in Baden-Württemberg since 2009.