ZEW Strengthens Its International Profile - Worldwide Networking with the Professional Community Is a Continuous Goal at ZEW

Questions & Answers

ZEW has been working to strengthen its international presence in a variety of ways: by engaging in research projects that focus on global issues, by acquiring clients from all over the world, and by maintaining contacts with outstanding researchers in many nations. Thomas Kohl, the Director of Business and Administration at ZEW, explains the progress that has been made in the internationalisation of the Institute’s activities.

Thomas Kohl has been a member of the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) since 1992. Initially, he worked as human resources director and later took over responsibility for the entire service department. In 2001 he was named Deputy Business Director at ZEW. Since 2004, he has been the Director of Business and Administration at ZEW.

How international is ZEW?

A good answer to this question is provided by the Leibniz Association, which periodically evaluates the scientific work of its member institutes, including ZEW. In its most recent evaluation, the Leibniz Association affirmed that ZEW is one of the leading economic research institutes in Europe. Moreover, the Leibniz Association acknowledged that the national as well as international reputation and visibility of ZEW are strong. Of course, my own day-to-day working experience also confirms the increasingly international scope of ZEW’s activities. The high level of third-party funding we receive, which rose to 6.28 million euros in fiscal year 2010, underscores the reputation that ZEW enjoys among national and international clients and sponsors. The international dimension of ZEW’s work is additionally demonstrated by our involvement in over 50 international research projects each year and by research contracts signed with clients in Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, and Belgium.

What cooperative activities are currently in place?

Over 40 research associates are regularly engaged in research activities at ZEW. Quite a number of these guest researchers come from universities and research institutions from across Europe and overseas. In addition, we offer our own researchers the opportunity to conduct research projects abroad. One example is our collaboration with Prof. James J. Heckman of the University of Chicago, who is a Nobel Prize recipient in economics. Prof. Heckmann provides young ZEW researchers with the chance to work alongside his research team in the area of educational economics. In Asia, we are focused on building cooperative agreements with Chinese universities, such as the Wang Yanan Institute for Studies in Economics at Xiamen University, which is one of the finest economics faculties in all of China.

What is ZEW’s internationalisation strategy?

Our research network is primarily decentralised in its organisation, and is mainly oriented to the specific needs of our researchers. International collaboration frequently takes place when research studies focus on questions involving international comparison. Other cooperative activities serve the needs of academic training and scientific exchange. Examples include the ZEW Visiting Researchers Programme and the ZEW Short-Term Exchange Programme.

What successes have been enjoyed in the drive to internationalise?

What particularly comes to mind is the attainment of funding for our SEEK project last year as well as the SEEK kick-off conference in March 2011. SEEK – which stands for “Strengthening Efficiency and Competitiveness in the European Knowledge Economies” – is a five-year research programme with an international scope that will receive three million euros in funding from the Baden-Württemberg state government between 2010 and 2011 alone. As part of the SEEK programme, ZEW researchers are working in collaboration with foreign project partners on research questions directed at improving the competitiveness of Europe’s national economies. The work currently being performed to create a European-wide patent legislation database is a notable example of a SEEK research undertaking. This database will be used to develop policy recommendations for the harmonisation of legal practice concerning patent infringements in the EU. The fact that Ms. Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science, attended our SEEK kick-off conference is just one reason why we believe we are on the right path with SEEK. Moreover, the first SEEK conference was proud to welcome internationally renowned scholars, such as Prof. Philippe Aghion of Harvard University and Prof. Bronwyn Hall of the University of California, Berkeley.

What goals would you like to accomplish through internationalisation?

Our over-arching goal is to continue strengthening the interconnection of our researchers with the global professional community. We are continuously working to achieve this goal. Alongside personal contacts that can be established through international conferences and joint projects, ZEW is also relying on digital platforms such as RePEc, which makes it possible to publish and retrieve academic articles and papers worldwide. In this area as well, we can point to considerable achievements: our ZEW Discussion Paper series is one of the top-100 working paper series at RePEc, with about 1,500 downloads each month. This makes us the leader among all German economics research institutions.