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Innovation policy advice

Independent expertise on innovation policy

Technological developments can provide solutions to global challenges such as climate change, demographic change and urbanisation while at the same time generating growth, value added and employment at a national level. Innovation is thus key to a country’s long-term global competitiveness. Since 2010, acatech has coordinated a dialogue process between government, science, business and civil society aimed at further strengthening innovation in Germany.

The Innovation Dialogue: Providing expert policy advice to the Federal Government

The Innovation Dialogue between the German Federal Government, Business and Science is a key forum through which acatech provides policy advice at the highest level. The Innovation Dialogue addresses important cutting-edge technologies and the innovation policy framework. The twice-yearly meetings are attended by the German Federal Chancellor, the Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, the Federal Minister of Education and Research, the head of the Federal Chancellery and 16 high-ranking representatives from science, business and civil society.

The Innovation Dialogue is coordinated by acatech President Henning Kagermann. Each session is prepared by a project office at acatech. The Innovation Dialogue project office writes a policy paper on the topic of every meeting, thus condensing the results of a broad-based stakeholder dialogue with experts from the acatech network and other organisations.

Maintaining our strength in innovation: European innovation policy

On 15 June 2017, in its final session before the German elections, the Innovation Dialogue discussed European innovation policy and the promotion of disruptive innovations. Germany needs a strong EU and a strong European Research Area in order to compete with other innovative regions around the world. However, there is currently significant variation in terms of how strong EU member states are in the field of innovation. The Federal Government wishes to work with the European Commission, the member states, science and business to strengthen research and development across the EU.

The digitization of the economy and smart mobility are two areas that can deliver particularly strong value-added at a pan-European level. However, this will require rapid further development of the digital single market. Cybersecurity is another field where cooperation between the member states can achieve better results than individual national solutions. Effective Cybersecurity is absolutely critical to ensuring that people trust digital applications, Industrie 4.0 processes and the platform economy.

Germany’s strength in the field of innovation will also depend on generating disruptive innovations and groundbreaking ideas bearing fruit. Germany must aim to be a global leader not only in incremental innovations but also in disruptive ones. Accordingly, the participants in the Innovation Dialogue advocated the establishment of new instruments to foster disruptive innovations. The promotion of disruptive innovations was also the subject of a discussion paper published in February 2018.

Potential topics for the future

In coordination with the Federal Chancellery and the relevant government departments, in 2017 the Innovation Dialogue project office identified four innovation policy topics on which future innovation policy advice could be provided to the Federal Government: artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, quantum technology, and the cross-cutting theme of how infrastructure can contribute to innovation. Outlines of these topics were summarised in a final policy paper which was presented to the Federal Government in February 2018.

acatech HORIZONS: Concise, easy-to-understand and topical advice

In 2018, the academy will be launching a new publication format as part of its contribution to the public debate. The acatech HORIZONS series is aimed at decision-makers and interested members of government, business and the public who require concise and easy-to-understand information about new technologies. This series is designed to provide readers with a solid basic understanding of the subject matter. The analyses will allow them to assess the relevance of particular technology fields to their own areas of activity.

The acatech HORIZONS publications are a product of an internal analysis process, in which the academy continuously investigates key technology trends and analyses their economic and social potential. acatech Vice-President Jürgen Gausemeier chaired the inaugural meeting of the technology field analysis advisory committee on 7 November 2017. The committee is made up of experts from academia, business, government and the field of science communication. Their main role is to help acatech select appropriate topics for the new publication format. The topics discussed at the first meeting included cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, e-health, quantum technologies, blockchain technology, green food and energy storage systems.

Based on the results of a technology survey carried out among the academy’s members and the companies represented on the Senate, as well as the discussions within the advisory committee, at the end of November acatech’s Executive Board selected the topics for the first two publications: blockchain technology and cybersecurity. The first publication in the new series HORIZONS is scheduled for autumn 2018.

Reimagining mobility

Mobility is a basic human need. It is key to quality of life and economic prosperity. However, it is now more important than ever before for our mobility system to adapt to the realities of the modern world and to environmental and climate policy goals. acatech wishes to help create a future transport system that is innovative and open to new technologies. The goal is to enable smarter, more efficient, greener and above all user-friendlier mobility. The academy is engaged in various projects that focus on the three key drivers of the transition to a new form of mobility: electrification, automation and connectivity. 

As the technology that is best suited to being combined with a renewable electricity system, electric mobility will be the cornerstone of future mobility systems and the key to an integrated climate, energy and mobility strategy. In 2010, the German National Platform for Electric Mobility (NPE) was founded by the Federal Government and partners from industry. It brings together approximately 150 representatives of government, industry, academia, the trade unions and civil society in a globally unique, cross-sectoral partnership between policymakers, business and science. The NPE promotes new initiatives in this field and acts as the Federal Government’s chief advisory body. In April 2017, acatech President and NPE chairman Henning Kagermann presented the “German Standardisation Roadmap Electric Mobility 2020” to the Federal Government at the Hannover Messe. Harmonised norms, standards and certification, for example for charging infrastructure, are critical to the market rollout of electric vehicles. The roadmap provides an overview of the successes achieved to date, and highlights areas where further action is required, such as wireless charging.

The roadmap was presented to State Secretary at the Federal Ministry of Transport, Rainer Bomba, and State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs Matthias Machnig. Left to right: Roland Bent (Phoenix Contact), Rainer Bomba (BMVI), Matthias Machnig (BMWi), Henning Kagermann (NPE; acatech).


January 2018 marked the beginning of the second phase of the acatech project New autoMobility (duration until June 2019). The target scenario for automated and connected road transport and traffic in 2030 (first project phase) will be supplemented with scenarios including cooperative road traffic and intelligent traffic management. In these scenarios, vehicles are connected both to each other and to an intelligent traffic information and communication infrastructure, enhancing road safety and improving traffic flows. The project addresses the combination of different modes of transport (intermodality), data-driven mobility concepts (Mobility as a Service), and a range of pressing social policy questions in the field of environment and climate protection. The needs of towns, cities and local communities are explored in depth. The project thus addresses the future mobility system’s overall architecture from a cross-sectoral, interdisciplinary perspective.

One of the academy’s ambitions for the future is to develop an integrated approach to the fields of electrification, automation and connectivity and to promote the coupling of the mobility and energy sectors. Coordination of these different areas will be critical to delivering national and global environmental and climate targets – and to ensuring the safe and affordable transport of people and goods.