Minister President of Baden-Württemberg Mappus and EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Geoghegan-Quinn Guests at SEEK Kick-Off Conference at ZEW


ZEW President Wolfgang Franz welcomed some 200 participants from academia, politics and the economy from 20 countries to the SEEK kick-off conference "Strengthening Efficiency and Competitiveness in the European Knowledge Economies" (SEEK). Stefan Mappus, Minister President of Baden-Württemberg, and Márie Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, gave the opening speeches at the conference.

Their speeches were followed by a high-quality panel discussion with Andrew W. Wyckoff (OECD), David C. Mowery (University of Berkeley Haas School of Buisness), Georg Schütte (State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and Dietmar Harhoff (LMU Munich, Director of INNO-tec). They discussed how Europe – in competition with the USA, Asia and other emerging economies – could succeed in achieving long-term sustainable growth, which boosts jobs and wealth by sensibly using renewable resources.


In his opening speech, Wolfgang Franz thanked Minister President Mappus and the state government of Baden-Württemberg for providing the financial means for the SEEK programme. Moreover, he outlined the key aim of the SEEK programme, namely fostering a deeper understanding of policy options in order to find solutions on how knowledge-based economies in Europe could remain innovative and secure their wealth in the international competition for talents, resources and knowledge.

Stefan Mappus, Minister President of Baden-Württemberg, indicated in his speech that Europe is currently not at its best. This, he continued, was on the one hand due to the global financial and economic crisis; on the other hand Europe had to find a way to manage the consequences of the demographic development and public deficits. Here the EU’s growth strategy Europe 2020 applies and the SEEK programme is to help implementing this strategy. “Europe and also Baden-Württemberg rely on new models of knowledge transfer to come out of the current crisis strengthened,” Mappus said. The SEEK programme of high-quality research, which is being implemented by ZEW and international partners, is an excellent example for how academia could give recommendations to politics. Mappus explained how Baden-Württemberg developed from a region with few natural resources into one of Germany’s most innovative regions. This success was only possible because Baden-Württemberg has always fostered growth with education and will continue to do so in the future, the Minister President promised.

Márie Geoghegan-Quinn, EU Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, praised Baden-Württemberg as "Leading Powerhouse of Innovation in and for Europe". However, the region like the whole of Europe must not rest on its laurels. It is expected that in the next few years emerging countries like China or India could overtake Europe in R&D intensity. “The launch of the SEEK programme here in Mannheim also demonstrates an ambition to keep the region among the leading knowledge-based economies,” Geoghegan-Quinn said. Baden-Württemberg is a role model for the EU as a whole and, thus, the EU wants to achieve what Baden-Württemberg has already achieved. Therefore, the EU Member States must remember the commonly agreed target to reinvest three percent of the gross domestic product in research and development. While deficit reduction in EU Member States is necessary, it is also crucial to safeguard investments in areas such as education and research. The EU commissioner explained that she would do all she could to see the EU develop as "Innovation Union", a highly innovative Europe.

During the panel discussion, Georg Schütte, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, highlighted the "race of instruments" between the Member States and the EU with regard to funding research and innovation. Andrew W. Wyckoff, Director of OECD Directorate for Science, Technology and Industry, explained that the global financial and economic crisis lead countries to using investments for innovations as stimulus for the economy. This was a novelty, and due to the crisis innovation policy has turned out to be "mainstream policy". David C. Mowery of the University of Berkeley gave the example of American universities and their conflict of patenting university inventions and at the same time providing technology transfer. "The educational system in Germany is the Achilles’ heal of innovation," Dietmar Harhoff of LMU Munich said. He mentioned that not enough young people in Germany studied subjects like mathematics and science at university. The panel discussion was chaired by Georg Licht, head of ZEW research department "Industrial Economics and International Management", and was followed by a discussion with the conference participants.

At the end of the first day, the conference dinner took place at Gesellschaftshaus of BASF in Ludwigshafen, where Bernhard Nick, President of Verbund Site Management Europe and Site Manager BASF SE, welcomed the participants of the SEEK conference. In his dinner speech, he emphasised that in the long run it would not work if developed countries generated ideas but produced them in less developed countries. Innovation and manufacturing belonged to Europe, Nick said. The outsourcing of production would lead to an innovation drift away from Europe.

Further information on the SEEK programme and live stream videos of the first conference day are available online on the SEEK website.


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