entrepreneurial organization, but it was already 20 years old. It didn’t have the entrepreneurial flair it could have had in the United States. Today there are few companies in Germany to be partners with young software entrepreneurs or high-tech entrepreneurs, and despite the structural innovation going on, which is positive, there is still lack of talent and experience that would make it more comfortable for an entrepreneur to start here.”
Mr. Engardio asked Dr. Beyer how important it was for Germany to have a more entrepreneurial climate, and how much it could be improved through policy. Mr. Beyer replied that it was “extremely important,” and that many people at all political levels were discussing the issue and working to improve it. There are now entrepreneurship programs in universities, for example, and “a lot of money is spent there.” Nearly every university had offerings in this area for students, he noted, “but it’s a question of the culture. It is also the question of giving people a second opportunity. Bankruptcy laws have recently been changed to give people another chance when they have failed as entrepreneurs. I would argue that we are moving forward—hard.”
Mr. Engardio then asked what lessons Germany offers the United States.
Mr. Dahlman answered that Germany has a “more developed process for taking knowledge into action.” The United States has focused more on breakthrough innovations, and hasn’t been as systematic about moving them to the market. “I’m most impressed by what we just heard about the changes in the education system in Germany, in particular the Excellence Initiative. I am most interested in how well that is doing, and the research metrics that are used for institutes that are very different from one another.”
Mr. Wolff said that Germany’s emphasis on human capital is very impressive, as is the willingness to reexamine the education system with the understanding “that we live in a world of competition and that educational institutions have to compete.” This is true not only in Germany, he said, but across Europe and internationally. There has to be a metric to measure the universities’ contribution to society.
Dr. Wessner said he was impressed by the diversity of opinions, including the view that EU policy should not support applied research, and the contrasting view in favor of the research supported by the Excellence Initiative. He also noted the strength of technical and vocational education in Germany. “The quality of educating the work force seems far superior here,” he said. “This is a major difference, and one that has an impact on manufacturing.”
Mr. Curran said that his children had grown up in both systems. He had respect for the level and quality of vocational training in Germany. One drawback was that “there are many more vocational trainees than there are interesting positions for them,” but he found this “a good challenge to have.” A positive aspect, he said, was the custom of a high school graduate spending 1.5 or 2 years as a vocational trainee at a bank or large company. One of his sons had vocational training at an Internet company, where he could learn what was expected by industry, and the company could test his ability as a potential hire.