Upholding internationality to boost progress and competitiveness

Nur wer über Ländergrenzen hinweg blickt, kann von globalem Wissen profitieren. Für Deutschland ist Internationalität zum entscheidenden Standortfaktor und Wettbewerbsvorteil geworden. Die Bundesregierung treibt diese Entwicklung mit der Internationalisierungsstrategie gezielt voran.

Global challenges can only be overcome through partnership. As one of the world’s leading innovation hubs, Germany plays an active pioneering role in both the national and international arena. In this spirit, at the G7 Summit in Schloss Elmau, the Federal Government campaigned for greater cooperation in research and development activities and in finding solutions to current urgent issues. The international networking of all German stakeholders from science and research – and thus their integration in transnational knowledge flows – is a crucial factor in preparing for and overcoming such challenges. As this network guarantees the competitiveness and achievement potential of German science and industry, the Federal Government makes every effort to facilitate these relations. Europe continues to be the unshakeable central pillar of Germany’s international commitment.

In the course of globalisation and the growing interdependence of international interests, education, research and innovation are in a constant state of flux. In view of the progressively transnational processes of knowledge generation and utilisation, it is more important than ever before to reaffirm Germany’s position as a high-performance innovation hub. Numerous indicators are evidence that Germany is at the top of the international league and benefits from globalisation:

  • With an overall market share of approximately 12% in research and development-intensive goods, Germany has maintained its outstanding competitive position in the global marketplace behind China and ahead of the United States. Medium and high-tech exports account for approximately 9% of Germany’s trade balance.
  • From 2003 to 2013, the increase in patents with world market potential per million inhabitants amounted to approximately 9%. Thus, the number of triadic patents in Germany per million inhabitants is more than 240% above the EU-27 average.
  • In 2013, 59% of papers published were the result of cooperation between researchers at several research institutes. The share of international co-publications was particularly high, namely 54% in 2013. Therefore, the degree of networking in Germany’s science sector is well above average.
  • According to the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard, five of Europe’s top ten corporate R&D investors are located in Germany.
  • The European Commission’s Innovation Union Scoreboard 2015 ranks Germany in fourth place as one of the European Innovation Leaders.
  • As a hotspot for research, Germany is regarded as an attractive academic location and takes third place behind the United States and the United Kingdom among the destinations for international students from OECD countries.

The potential of international cooperation

The Federal Government intends to persist in fully utilising the potential and the opportunities that international cooperation offers Germany. At the same time, Germany has to accept its global responsibility: to help find groundbreaking solutions to the major challenges facing our societies and economies and put them into practice. It must do this, for example, by making its economy more sustainable, implementing the Energiewende and addressing the shortage of skilled manpower, along with issues related to migration and occupational mobility. Furthermore, international cooperation gives Germany’s role greater definition and enhances the effectiveness of its science and research presence in the converging arenas of industry, research and urban centres. The instruments launched by the Federal Government range from the exploration and initiation of opportunities for cooperation, the implementation of specific research, innovation and education projects, right through to developing joint support programmes and establishing joint research infrastructures (see also V International cooperation in research and innovation).

The creation of the European Research Area (ERA) has elevated Europe, making it a decisive factor in the alignment of international research policy; therefore, the Federal Government is actively pursuing the integration of its endeavours in the European framework. Concerted action on the part of important EU Member States enhances Europe’s visibility, giving it added weight vis-à-vis the world’s other major innovation regions. Horizon 2020, which runs from 2014 to 2020, was designed to complement national research programmes; with a total funding volume of 77 billion euros, it is the world’s largest self-contained programme.

Moreover, Germany has been underpinning its bilateral cooperation with important partner countries around the world. This applies first and foremost to countries with dynamic growth and significant emerging markets; besides, it is of strategic importance in terms of access to excellent science and technology resources.

By virtue of their international contacts and specific tasks at the interface of science and practical application, the Federal Government’s departmental research institutes play a crucial role in the development and international harmonisation of methods, standards, norms and regulations. Thus, they create conditions that are conducive to the success of innovation processes and international collaboration in tackling global social challenges, like the Ebola epidemic or the fight against antimicrobial resistances.

Germany’s active involvement in multilateral initiatives and institutions like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is conceived as a long-term investment in the future. On the one hand, these international organisations offer a framework for developing joint research standards and general conditions at the global level; on the other, by providing specific data processing and analyses, they ameliorate the basis for national and international policy decision-making – one example being the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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A top priority: accelerating internationalisation

International collaboration in the fields of education, research and innovation enhances Germany’s standing. There is often only a thin line between cooperation and competition. Therefore, having defined strategic priorities and developed instruments to maintain Germany’s international competitiveness, the Federal Government is accepting global responsibility for the sustainable development of the economy. The Federal Government’s 2008 Strategy for the Internationalisation of Science and Research created a framework for its diverse activities in this field. The BMBF’s International Cooperation action plan is bringing Germany’s profile as a recognised centre for science, education and innovation into sharper focus.

The Federal Government defines three overarching objectives in international collaboration within the knowledge triangle of research, innovation and education. Two other thematic priorities address Germany’s responsibility in the world:

  • Scientific excellence via international cooperation
  • Developing innovation potential internationally
  • Strengthening cooperation with developing and newly industrialised countries
  • Assuming international responsibility and contributing to the solution of global challenges
  • Creating perspectives through education – for people and the economy

The action plan was an important step in the ongoing development process of the internationalisation strategy. In light of the profound impact that internationalisation is now having on the entire science system – including the research institutes, universities, intermediary organisations and research-based companies – and since Germany needs to find answers to the resulting challenges, the plan will place particular emphasis on enhancing networking among science institutes.

The Federal Government deploys a broad range of instruments in working towards these objectives. These include stepping up the networking of international activities carried out by German science and research organisations, making excellent research infrastructures available for research cooperation at the international level and supporting foreign students and scientists. By expanding international research cooperation, driving the internationalisation of leading-edge clusters and comparable networks, and actively involving foreign partners, the High-Tech Strategy also intensifies international dialogue and exchange, and harnesses innovation potential, even across borders.

Another key area is improving Germany’s international standing as an attractive location for science, research and innovation. Research marketing, the German Houses of Research and Innovation and strengthening the culture of welcome for foreign researchers all play a crucial role in this respect.

The Federal Government’s internationalisation strategy is being refined in the current legislative period by implementing the provisions stipulated in the coalition agreement.

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