“Some analysts tell us,” Secretary Schütte said, “that we’re now riding in the dining car of the world economy and eating for breakfast the opportunities that the market is currently offering. These include a boom of supply and demand for new technologies from South Asia and Southeast Asia, which in some ways are complementary to German strengths. But when this boom is over, the analysts say, we will have to pay the price.” He added that no one could tell whether this was “a typical case of German self-doubt, or whether it is the correct view.”
At present, he said, Germany is seeing high demand for energy and environmental technology products and, more generally, for systems technologies. Economic growth is above long-term trends and many industries experience labor and skills shortages. This brings a new set of issues for the German innovation system: how can the country use its finite human and capital resources in the most flexible and productive ways? In the face of limited resources, how can Germany continue to create value and increase the income of the citizens? A new challenge is to integrate into the labor market talents that remain on the periphery because they come from different cultural backgrounds.
SIMILARITIES AND COMPLEMENTARITIES
His third thesis, he said, drew not from differences between the two countries but from similarities. Germany and the United States have similar resources in research, technology, and innovation policy. One such resource is an ambitious and comprehensive innovation strategy. A common feature of both strategies is addressing the need to better translate available funding into innovations. The basis for innovation in both countries, according to analysts, is an efficient scientific system. Similarly, both countries cooperate in addressing “grand challenges,” including energy research, energy supply, mobility, and electric mobility. Both search for solutions that span the political field, including cross-application technologies. The U.S. supports the Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI); Germany has an Action Plan for Nanotechnology. Both use similar orientations and similar instruments. Both countries work to unleash entrepreneurial spirit, support young companies, and broaden and improve the framework for technology-oriented businesses. Both are struggling to respond to the challenges posed by Southeast Asian competitors. For each, education is the foundation for present and future policies. “But with all this in common,” he said, “we should not forget that our two institutional frameworks are quite different,” including the customs and even the rhetoric used to describe frameworks and challenges.
Secretary Schütte concluded by offering a summary of some of the questions that drive Germany. First, it seems sensible to compare “best practice”