Industry 4.0 - Only One-Tenth of Germany's High-Tech Strategy

  • April 04, 2014
  • Feature

By Bill Lydon, Editor

The Industry 4.0 initiative is just one part of a 10-point high-tech plan in Germany’s strategy to be the leading supplier of products in a number of disciplines. The 10-point plan was created in 2006 and focuses on academia, research institutions and industry.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, Industry 4.0 is Germany’s initiative to achieve the vision of integrated industry by leveraging Internet technologies, also known as the 4th Industrial Revolution.  

Annette Schavan, Germany's Minister for Education and Research, presented the country's high-tech strategy in Berlin in August, 2006, emphasizing, “In the land of ideas, ideas must also ignite.” Schavan coined the sloganm “Ignite Ideas,” for the strategy, which focused on the development of a single national plan for Germany to achieve a leading position in Europe and worldwide to serve future markets. At that time, Schavan noted the government would invest approximately €14.6 billion ($20+ billion U.S.) in high-tech initiatives through 2009.

The strategy addressed five areas:

  • strong cooperation between science and business
  • increased involvement in innovation in the private sector
  • dissemination of leading technologies
  • internationalization of research and development (R&D)
  • funding for talented individuals

The minister highlighted the significance of the federal government's investment but called on other parties to match these efforts with the goal of increasing the portion of GDP spent on R&D to 3%.

Industry-Science Research Alliance

Schavan established the Industry-Science Research Alliance in order to promote closer links between knowledge and skills related to research and innovation. It is a forum in which leading representatives from science, industry, and politics discuss potential strategies for strengthening Germany as a high-tech location. The Research Alliance includes 19 members from science and industry. The group wrote a ten-point plan recommending key measures and tasks that the policy and industry and science sectors need to take in order to strengthen and promote research and innovation in Germany:

  • Emphasize consistency in innovation policy.
  • Continue to act boldly in prioritizing research funding.
  • Expand investments in the future.
  • Eliminate legislative obstacles to innovation.
  • Craft an innovation-friendly tax system, and provide tax incentives for research and development by business enterprises.
  • Strengthen industry-science cooperation in lasting ways.
  • Ensure acceptance of innovation.
  • Attract people to research and development, and prepare them for R&D careers.
  • Build Germany‘s ability to influence and participate in European research policy.
  • Internationalization of research and development: exploit the opportunities for Germany.

More Industry-Science Research Alliance Information:

High-Tech Strategy 2020

On July 14, 2010, the German Cabinet decided to continue the strategy by introducing the High-Tech Strategy 2020.  High-Tech Strategy 2020 will ensure continuity of the overall approach and, at the same time, set new priorities. Germany’s High-Tech Strategy 2020 defines five fields of action: climate/energy, health/nutrition, mobility, security, and communication. It focuses the federal government's research and innovation policy on selected forward-looking projects to pursue specific objectives related to scientific and technological developments over a period of ten to fifteen years.

To achieve these goals, the German federal government has defined ten projects, relying on the advice of an industry-science research alliance. The ten forward-looking projects of the High-Tech Strategy include:

  • CO2-neutral, energy-efficient and climate-adapted cities
  • Renewable biomaterials as an alternative to oil
  • Intelligent restructuring of energy supply
  • Treating diseases more effectively with the help of personalized medicine
  • Better health through targeted prevention and an optimized diet
  • Living an independent life well into old age
  • Sustainable mobility
  • Web-based services for businesses
  • Industry 4.0
  • Secure identities

More information:

The High-Tech Strategy has moved research and innovation way up the German government's political agenda, engaging the political sector, industry, research and people. There is a well-founded belief that based on history future-oriented investments are the best entrepreneurial and economic tools for overcoming economically difficult periods and achieving economic growth and strength.

Thoughts & Observations

This is an impressive holistic approach to orchestrate academia, government policy, research institutions, and industry in Germany to become a global technology leader.

Industry 4.0 is viewed as a way to defend and expand the traditional core of German industry and its international position by leveraging Internet technologies to sell and license machines and plants worldwide.

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