Strategic Research and Funding Prospects for Baden-Württemberg


Material research, biological/biochemical research methods, medical chemistry, environmental and energy research as well as modern process technologies are of major importance for far-sighted research planning in the federal state. These are the findings of the study "Strategic Research in Baden-Württemberg" presented today by the Federal State Foundation of Baden-Württemberg(Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg) in Stuttgart. The authors of the study are researchers from the Institute for Economic Policy Research (IWW) at the University of Karlsruhe, the Fraunhofer Institute for System and Innovation Research (ISI), Karlsruhe, and the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW), Mannheim.

Making strategic decisions on research funding requires an extensive knowledge of the scientific landscape and a visionary way of thinking in a wider context. The necessary analysis can hardly be conducted by a handful of individuals alone. That is why the Federal State Foundationtook innovative measures to provide new foundations for its research funding. The Foresight Study, which was presented recently, has been the first to combine different scientific analytical methods. Therefore it was possible to add up the advantages of individual methods and thus obtain more tangible results.

"All institutions involved in research funding have limited financial means available and usually face a much larger volume in interesting applications," says Prof. Claus Eiselstein, the director of the Federal State Foundationat the presentation of the study. "Making the wrong choice means wasting money. Therefore, the Federal State Foundationconsiders the results of the study an important instrument for facilitating the decision-making process for its future research areas“, Eisenstein continues.

The study "provides solid information, which are crucial for setting the course in shaping the future of our state", explains Prof. Hariolf Grupp (University of Karlsruhe and Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft) who headed the examinations.

Nearly 100 per cent of the respondents think that in all research areas, financing fundamental research and supporting talented up and coming researchers constitute some of the most immediate and urgent purposes of strategic research funding in Baden-Württemberg. In the eyes of the researchers, these aspects form the basis for innovation as well as sustainable economic and social development.

For the first time, a study has combined two instruments to analyse the research performance in Baden-Württemberg. On the one hand, researchers use the know-how of Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft (FhG/ISI) by systematically evaluating the most renowned technical publications worldwide and then assigning them to specific regions. In order to establish tendencies, the researchers identified the dynamics in 170 research fields and the most dynamic international research areas. The state’s results were then compared on a national and global level to allow an evaluation of the situation in Baden-Württemberg. On the other hand, the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) provided extensive business and research data, which was used for a survey among more than 480 researchers from Baden-Württemberg’s universities and companies, who were asked about their estimations in two comprehensive rounds. Dr. Andreas Fier (ZEW) notes "that the researchers’ impressive input has opened some interesting options regarding strategies and the future of the state for policy-makers".

The analysis focused on natural and engineering sciences as well as on medical research. A complete survey covering all 170 fields of research was dismissed due to costs and time constraints. Neither does the study take into account topics that have already been part of the research funding of the Federal State Foundation, such as optical technologies. The aim was to examine 12 research areas more closely. The study places special priority on the fields of material research, biological/biochemical research methods, medical chemistry, environmental and energy research as well as on modern process technologies.

Material researchis a cross-section technology that does not only involve modern process technologies and production research, but also environmental and energy research. On an international scale, Baden-Württemberg’s researchers have a leading position in fundamental and applied research. Developing new materials is of major importance for both information and biotechnology. The developments in material research further the technological performance of several specialised firms located in Baden-Württemberg. To increase the dynamics of developments, the study recommends expanding existing approaches in Baden-Württemberg. More than 40 per cent of the companies involved in material research think that improving the cooperation between the industry and the world of science determines the increase in corporate research efforts.

The application range of biological/biochemical research methods covers the examination of molecular systems, the modelling of complex biological processes and their application in medicine and food science. All in all, this research area is characterised by a high level of development dynamics. Here, Baden-Württemberg is keeping pace with international developments. The study recommends the financial support of application-oriented research. The industry assumes that the economic relevance of these findings will increase in the future.

Medical chemistryand the closely linked pharmaceutical research and development have a long-standing and successful tradition in Germany. On an international level, Baden-Württemberg conducts cutting-edge research in this sector, especially in fundamental research. In terms of growth dynamics, however, Baden-Württemberg keeps lagging behind global developments. Target-oriented funding can help to improve the medium and long-term competitive standing.

Furthermore, experts assume that Baden-Württemberg is among the world’s leading regions regarding environmental and energy research. This area is also characterised by dynamic growth. All in all, Baden-Württemberg counts as a high-quality performer, but needs considerable assistance in terms of research activity volume. The industry already provides important funding in this research area. Strategic research thus has to place greater focus on ensuring future competitiveness and strengthening creative fundamental research.

All in all, the area of modern process technology is very heterogeneous and broad. The economic dynamics in this field are impressing and require Baden-Württemberg put special efforts into keeping up with international developments. The funding should focus on a number of specific sub-areas to sustainably support and expand the positive competitive standing of today. This would also establish the basis for a successful cooperation with the industry, which is an important provider of financial support in this context.

The study recommends placing greater focus on these five research areas when deciding on new research programmes. However, the other seven economic fields mentioned in the study also offer promising research potential and should be taken into account in the mid-term planning of research funding.