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Photo Credit: EFI

15.03.2022

EFI Annual Report: Germany needs an integrated research and innovation strategy

On 9 March, the EFI Annual Report 2022 was handed over to Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research // Core Topics 2022: Position of Germany and the EU in key technologies / Motorised private transport on the way to sustainability

Cover photo: Presentation of the EFI Annual Report to Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research. From left: Prof. Dr. Till Requate, Prof. Dr. Irene Bertschek (online), Prof. Dr. Katharina Hölzle (Deputy Chair), Prof. Dr. Uwe Cantner (Chair), Federal Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Prof. Dr. Holger Bonin, Prof. Dr. Carolin Häussler. (Photo: Hans-Joachim Rickel/BMBF)

In its Annual Report 2022, which was handed over to Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger on 9 March 2022, the Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation (EFI) comments on research and innovation policy plans of the new German government. »In the coalition agreement, the governing parties have named important tasks of research and innovation policy and placed them in the service of the transformation to a social-ecological economy and society,« says the chairman of the expert commission, Prof. Dr. Uwe Cantner, Chair of Economics, Microeconomics, Faculty of Economics, Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. The task now is to develop an integrated research and innovation strategy that encompasses the entire innovation process and identifies coordinated funding priorities, Cantner said.

Catching up on technology

If transformation processes such as the energy transition, the transformation of the mobility and transport systems or digitalisation are to be successful, Germany must prove itself as a powerful innovation hub, according to the expert panel. Especially in key digital technologies, Germany lags behind the USA and Asian countries, above all China. »German policy must become even more active when it comes to catching up technologically,« Cantner demands. The AI strategy set up by the previous federal government has been implemented rather slowly so far.

Low CO2 price hampers market introduction of technologies

Cantner also says that the pursuit of the ambitious climate goals requires greater coordination of various policy fields. »It is not enough to support the development of low-CO2 technologies with the help of funding programmes; the appropriate framework conditions for the proliferation of these technologies must also be created.« The expert commission attaches particular importance to CO2 pricing. If the CO2 price is too low, many sustainability-oriented innovations that are already ready for the market, for example in the mobility and energy sectors, will not be able to be brought to market quickly.

Shaping science and research policy for the transformation, tapping innovation potentials, further promoting knowledge and technology transfer

The Expert Commission recommends further optimising the existing ›project management agency model‹. In contrast, the EFI views the establishment of a German Agency for Transfer and Innovation (DATI) with scepticism. »Agencies are not a magic bullet,« explains Cantner. The tasks assigned to the DATI largely coincide with those for which the project management agencies are responsible. Priority must be given to the transfer into economic and social application instead.

It is precisely this transfer that is ensured in a particularly efficient manner by the Industrial Collective Research (IGF), which is unique worldwide, according to Dr.-Ing. Thomas Kathöfer, Chief Executive of the Federation of Industrial Research Associations (AiF). He welcomed the EFI's recommendation and explained: »In view of the sharp drop in the innovator rate in German SMEs and the enormous challenges facing the economy and society in the areas of climate protection, energy transition, digitalisation, AI, etc., it is precisely the transfer that needs to be further strengthened. A recently completed evaluation of the IGF has once again confirmed that the precompetitive and open-topic IGF funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (BMWK) is an extremely effective programme for tapping innovation potential in technology and product development. Technological trends are not only initiated by AiF members who implement the IGF, but are also effectively disseminated to SMEs via the AiF's unique network. The priority recommendation for action in the evaluation study, which was published by the BMWK in early January 2022, is therefore to continue this effective funding programme with its clearly recognisable unique selling points in the German (and European) funding landscape.« According to this evaluation study, almost all of the companies and research institutions surveyed appreciated the support provided by the successful knowledge and technology transfer and the facilitated access to practice-oriented research results through the IGF.

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