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RIO Country Report Germany 2017

The R&I Observatory country report 2017 provides a brief analysis of the R&I system covering the economic context, main actors, funding trends & human resources, policies to address R&I challenges, and R&I in national and regional smart specialisation strategies. Data is from Eurostat, unless otherwise referenced and is correct as at January 2018. Data used from other international sources is also correct to that date. The report provides a state-of-play and analysis of the national level R&I system and its challenges, to support the European Semester.



Challenges for R&I policy-making in Germany

Digital economy and society: Germany ranks only in an intermediate position with regard to exploiting opportunities from digitalization. Efforts are under way to improve digital infrastructure (5G strategy), digital education as well as eGovernment with substantial potential for improvement.

Start-up ecosystem: The number of entrepreneurs in Germany continues to decline, partly due to promising career opportunities for potential entrepreneurs in established firms given the strong labour market. Recent policy changes and developments for the increased availability of venture capital, favourable tax regulations and the establishment of a dedicated stock market segment as an exit option for early stage investors hold much promise to improve entrepreneurship in Germany.

Strengthening innovation in established firms, particularly SMEs: While overall business expenditure for R&D show strong growth rates, innovation activity has become increasingly concentrated in large firms and medium-high tech manufacturing sectors, especially automotive production. Major policy initiatives have been put in place to strengthen existing R&D policies favouring SMEs. R&D investments of SMEs have improved in 2015 which may signal a trend reversal. Political discussion has returned to considering R&D tax credits which would have the potential to foster R&D investments broadly with comparatively low administrative costs.

Resource availability for excellent science system: The German science system has significantly improved its ambition for differentiation and excellence following the joint initiative of Federal and State (Länder) governments, e.g., the Initiative for Excellence. These joint initiatives have large potential but require strategic decision-making. The Excellence Strategy and the Programme for the Support of Young Scientists hold much promise. However, it remains unclear whether they are sufficient to create attractive career opportunities for excellent researchers in Germany.

Smart Specialisation Strategy

Overall, Germany has made good progress in the strategic planning of the smart specialization strategies. Research and innovation are major objectives on a national and Länder-level. The officially confirmed national strategy for Germany is the High-Tech Strategy, which is being planned and implemented with the active participation of all ministries.  

At a regional level, RIS3 strategies are incorporated successfully in the regional innovation strategies of the Länder (Prognos 2017). However, due to its federal constitution of 16 Länder governments, the implementation and monitoring instruments of RIS varies substantially. While most of the Länder build their RIS strategies on the definition and development of regional clusters, the thematic clusters differ. Manufacturing industries, digital and information technologies, energy and environment as well as health industries are part of the identified specialization fields in most of the Länder (Prognos 2017). However, the implementation approaches are heterogeneous. We illustrate these different perspectives and the breadth of RIS strategies in Germany by describing two regions Brandenburg and Baden-Württemberg, with different economic and geographical conditions. Both federal states build on the definition of clusters and the improvement of cluster management activities. Due to the already high level of research, innovation and technological development, Baden-Württemberg has focused more on improving cluster management efficacy, and network effects within and among clusters. In Brandenburg, in contrast, the number of clusters is lower, and the focus is more on enhancing research and innovation activities within the clusters.

Geo coverage
Report year
Official publication date
Wednesday, 28 March, 2018
National expert name
Wolfgang Sofka, Edlira Shehu
Last update: 25/02/2020 | Top | Legal notice | Contact | Search