Chapter 3: The German National Innovation System
3.1 Political framework conditions
3.1.3 Research landscape
norm. Because these cases are rare due to aforementioned relative continuity in federal bureaucracy, it is not as common as amakudari.
All in all, while there are considerable connections between the bureaucracy, parties and business in Germany, the pattern is different from Japan. While Japanese bureaucracy, LDP, and business developed special relationships, the different institutional structure and absence of a single dominant party results in less symbiotic relationships. While similar business preferences towards conservative parties are observable, the regular transitions in power make business behave less one-sided than in Japan. As German politicians have more influence on bureaucratic appointments and postings it appears that a larger number of bureaucrats tries to remain neutral and that those bureaucrats which cannot be retired are rotated to posts which are regarded as non-sensitive. Further, since 1967 there are parliamentary secretaries of state. These individuals are not career bureaucrats but appointed MPs that support the minister to control the ministery.42 Moreover, past coalition arrangements showed that parties are willing to cooperate despite differing political ideologies, which by and large limit purges to the ministerial top-level positions.43 Thus, it can be claimed that German bureaucrats are more closely controlled than their Japanese counterparts, largely to ensure that bureaux follow the party, or better coalition, policy preferences.
HGF MPG FHG WGL (2011) AIST (2012)
Employees 36.000 16.918 22.000 16.800 2.938
Scientists 12.269 5.470 n.a. n.a. 2.281
Institutes 18 82 66 86 41
Budget (in billion) € 3.76 bn € 1.53 bn € 1.9 bn € 1.4 bn € 6 bn
(JPY 79.734 bn) Public-contracted ratio 70-30 85-15 30-70 85-15 95-5
Federal-Länder ratio 90-10 50-50 90-10 50-50
-Tab. 3 German and Japanese public R&D institutions (Data compiled from associations’
websites. All data as of 2013 except WGL and AIST)
Helmholtz Association (Helmholtz-Gemeinschaft Deutscher Forschungszentren; HGF) is Germany’s largest scientific organisation in terms of employees. Its primary focus is “big science” such as (nuclear) energy, aero(space), transportation, and health. As these fields suggest, most HGF research institutes tend to focus on basic or applied large-scale R&D. HGF receives around 70% of its funding from public budgets and 30% through contracted R&D. 90%
of public funds are provided by the federal level and 10% from Länder level (Helmholtz Association website, 12.12.2012). Max-Planck-Society (Max-Planck-Gesellschaft; MPG) shares the basic R&D focus, but differs in other respects from HGF. MPG researchers can define their research completely independent and MGP institutes not only cover natural sciences and medicine, but also encompass social sciences. In general, MPG is almost completely publically financed: federal and Länder level finance 50% respectively.44 Fraunhofer Society (Fraunhofer Gesellschaft; FHG) is focusing on applied R&D in fields such as energy, environment, mobility, communication or health. Although the lion’s share of FHG’s funding is contracted R&D, 30% of contracts are with public institutions, meaning that not a small fraction of its total budget is coming from public sources. Leibniz Association (Wissenschaftsgemeinschaft Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz; WGL) is situated between HGF, MPG and FHG as it specialises in application-oriented basic R&D. WGL encompasses a wide spectrum of scientific disciplines without any clear focus. Although WGL also receives funds from contracted R&D, it is largely publically financed and federal and Länder level provide 50% of funding respectively.
Besides these R&D performers, there is also the Federation of Industrial Cooperative Research
44 This general rule does not apply to large-scale R&D such as MPG’s Institute for Plasma Physics. Like HGF shows, German large-scale R&D follows a different arrangement, i.e. 90% support from federal sources and 10% Länderfunds.
Association Otto von Guericke (Arbeitsgemeinschaft industrieller Forschungsvereinigungen;
AiF). Its central activity is cooperative industrial research (Industrielle Gemeinschaftsforschung; IGF), which mainly caters to SMEs. While the aforementioned research societies, especially those focused on basic R&D, are mainly funded by BMBF, AiF/IGF is financially supported by BMWi, which initiated AiF’s formation in 1954. According to AiF, its activities support R&D activities of around 50.000 German SMEs.
While strong diversity and specialisation are one of the strengths of the German NIS, there are also negative aspects. The relatively narrow focus of many institutes makes them insular institutions. Therefore, it is necessary to develop improved knowledge transfer mechanisms and a higher degree of coordination. A good example for missing coordination is the MP3 standard:
developed by a FHG institute, this technologic standard completely changed the music industry and FHG is said to earn € 50 million annually through licenses (Dalziel 2010: 12f.). However, the market for MP3 applications such as music players is completely dominated by East-Asian and US firms. Thus, from a NIS perspective, the economic gains for Germany could have been much higher if the cooperation between industry and research performers had been better.
Therefore, coordination in general and knowledge transfer in particular have been identified as the main weaknesses of the German research system (Fraunhofer ISI et al. 2008: 13f.).
In comparison to Japan, the organisational structure of publically funded R&D performers in Germany is more branched out than the centralised AIST. Due to its specialisation on large-scale science that is directly dependent on government, only HGF resembles AIST in its politically defined agenda. Due to the long tradition of public-private cooperation in R&D, all large German R&D associations currently receive more funding through contracted research than AIST. If one compares the number of R&D institutes, it appears that AIST is also more centralised than the public German R&D performers. However, German associations do not underly AIST’s relatively narrow focus on natural sciences and medicine but also engage other research fields. Regarding only natural sciences, it appears that both countries share a relatively high degree of R&D specilisation. Thus, it appears that the higher differentiation of the German system results from a generally broader scope of activities. On the backside, this suggests that Japan is focussing funding stronger than Germany. Concerning administration-internal divisions, it appears to be less problematic than in Japan. Although several ministries, especially health, defence, and agriculture, have several research institutes under their aegis, these tend to specialise in questions specific to their parent organisation’s mission (e.g. disease control, ABC weapons protection and animal health). Therefore, these research institutes are active in research on topics related to safety or risk control of potential dangers. As the fields of activity are narrow and there exists no exclusiveness such as described for the Japanese case, it can be stated that the problem of separated divisions does not appear in Germany.