DISCUSSION

Bruce Greenwood, of the European Office of the State of Massachusetts, asked who in Germany helps move innovations and new products to market. Dr. Mayer commented that one of the biggest issues being debated in Europe is the patent system. For many years the issue had stalled, he said, but now seems “moving in the right direction.” The question of whether or not to patent an invention is often an open debate. If a firm really wants a product, he said, they may not bother with buying its patent from an institute. “They just come in with a big crew of lawyers and get the property they want. In terms of revenue, there are a lot of patents being awarded, but the revenue is not impressive.”

Dr. Singerman asked Prof. Mayer how public investments in S&T should be measured in Germany, and whether he was feeling pressure from funders to justify the extraordinary growth in support. Prof. Mayer replied that each institute had a program budget, and had to define its goals, with indicators; these must be verified both by the board of scientific advisors and supervisory board. Nonetheless, he said, there is a debate, notably in the Leibnitz Association, about the downsides of this exercise. “It is clear that the combination of these indicators, program budgets, and peer review is needed.” He said he served for many years on the board of scientific advisors of the DIW, and supported the use of peer review. “But I think institutes use constructive ways of measuring,” he said, “and being accountable for output.” The research organizations, too, issue a yearly monitoring report on the program for research innovation, using indicators that compare outcomes irrespective of available resources. He said there is also “an interesting, ongoing debate on what these indicators mean.”

Dr. Pinkwart added that success “depends on what you want to measure.” For the Excellence Initiative, he said, it is important to see that German universities are more competitive in the world. “It’s not okay that German universities will rank starting at number 50 or 60 in the world. So we can now say that, according to the third European Union Report on Science and Technology Indicators, four of our universities of excellence are in top 10 in Europe, with the Technical University of Munich in third place, Freiburg University in sixth place, tied with Karlsruhe, and Heidelberg in ninth place. “That’s important,” he said; “you have to be visible to attract the best talent in the world, professors as well as students. And I think our excellence competition was very important in making our institutions more visible.”



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