Baden-Württemberg has the strongest innovative power in Europe. Fully 4.6 per cent of its gross domestic product is invested in research and development, which corresponds to 16.9 billion euros annually. Four of Germany’s nine best universities are in Baden-Württemberg and more than 80 extra-mural research facilities work with the universities and institutes of technology in the region. Baden-Württemberg subsidises major fields of research in science and engineering as well as in the humanities and social sciences.
Motor vehicles, airships, emails, anti-blocking systems and SAP software – many pioneering developments have been made in Baden-Württemberg, which also explains why Baden-Württemberg is one of Germany’s most economically prosperous states. Global players such as Daimler, Bosch and SAP have their head offices here and, besides motor vehicle manufacturing, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering are some of the most important sectors of the state’s economy.
The technological lead of Baden-Württemberg’s economy is closely linked to its long scientific tradition. The Heidelberg university is Germany’s oldest and numerous Nobel Prize winners either come from this state or have worked here. Besides novelist Hermann Hesse, Professor Dr. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Professor Dr. Georges Koehler, Professor Dr. Bert Sakmann, Professor Dr. Klaus von Klitzing and Professor Dr. Harald zur Hausen must be mentioned. Baden-Württemberg has a dense network of very good and, in some cases, world-renowned universities and institutes of technology with a total of 287,500 students – nine universities, six teachers’ training colleges, 23 universities of applied sciences, Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University (DHBW) with its eight main locations and four branch campuses and eleven colleges and academies of art and music, design and film. They all represent the great variety in the arts and the sciences. Along with the state tertiary educational institutes, there are 24 private institutions.
Baden-Württemberg’s universities of applied sciences are major guarantors of the highest quality in teaching and research and of the successful transfer of knowledge to society and commerce. With the collaboration of the private commercial sector it is their task to find scientific answers to the major questions of the future. They provide new ideas for the development of our common wealth and supply major stimuli for innovation such as ensuring sustainable mobility or for coping with climate change through the use of clean, energy-saving technologies.
The universities combine research, teaching, study and continued education and promote and develop the sciences, and thus the students benefit from the close links between research and teaching.
The teachers’ training colleges teach and do research at a high academic level for teaching practice and the teaching profession. And the institutes of technology offer excellent practically oriented degree courses in technology, commerce, social sciences and design.
With their degree courses and R&D capacity, institutes of technology are an essential source of inspiration for their regional economies, as is the Dual College, which combines the advantages of a university education with those of vocational training in the fields of commerce, technology and socially oriented occupations. Students at the Dual College are simultaneously apprentices/trainees in a company or a social welfare institution, where they spend half the period of their degree course.
The high quality of tertiary educational institutions in Baden-Württemberg is visible in many rankings and not least in the results of the Excellence Initiative. In this purely scientifically led process, 1.9 billion euros have been awarded to universities in Germany so far. The prizes subsidise clusters of excellence, graduate schools and future concepts for further development of the universities.
The title of “elite university” was also linked with successful future concepts. Baden-Württemberg was the most successful state in the excellence initiative. Of the nine elite universities in Germany, four are in Baden-Württemberg: Freiburg, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe und Constance, and the state also has seven excellence clusters and nine graduate schools.
Baden-Württemberg supports its tertiary educational institutions with guaranteed basic support of over two billion euros annually; this is added to by external funding totalling 574 million euros. With its excellent universities, which are highly placed in many rankings, and numerous companies which are particularly heavily involved in research and development, Baden-Württemberg has an excellent research scene in which scientific and commercial interests meet. For example, a large number of Germany’s major national research centres are represented here: twelve of a total of 80 Max Planck Institutes and 14 Fraunhofer Institutes are based in Baden-Württemberg. A total of 80 non-university research facilities are based here.
The large number of clusters and networks in Baden-Württemberg are of great advantage for the transfer of knowledge and technology and are based in strategically important research and technology fields such as the life sciences, nano and micro-systems technologies, information and communications technology, new materials, air and space travel as well as mobility, energy and environmental research. Cooperation between universities, non-university
research centres and the commercial sector is supported by Baden-Württemberg’s State Ministry of Science. The top clusters are models of cooperation. These emerged from a nationwide competition which supports a total of ten clusters. Three initiatives from Baden-Württemberg reached the top in the competition: MicroTEc Südwest (micro-systems technology), BioRN (bio-technology) and Forum Organic Electronics (optical technologies). These companies perform core work both in science and in business in their respective industry sectors.
If the state and the private sector invest jointly in knowledge and insight, we will find new answers to the questions of the future. To do this we need the expertise of all intellectual disciplines – science, engineering, the humanities and the social sciences. All these have the potential for socially and commercially relevant knowledge and deserve our support. The words of Benjamin Franklin are indeed relevant: “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”
The author studied political science, economics and German language and literature. She was a spokesperson for political education at the Society for Political Ecology from 1993 to 1995 and then was appointed general manager of the Heinrich Böll Foundation Baden-Württemberg. She has been a member of the Baden-Württemberg state legislature since 2001. Theresia Bauer has been Baden-Württemberg’s State Minister of Science, Research and Art since 12 May 2011.