Event Reports

Fostering digital innovation

by Christian Echle, Katharina Naumann, Sebastian Weise

Innovation experts from Asia visit Berlin

In the area of digital innovation, Germany can learn a lot from Asia. In September, a delegation of twelve Asian innovation experts visited Berlin. They had a clear message: Whoever wants to shape the future in his or her own interests must actively promote innovation and be open to change. In both areas, Germany still has some catching up to do.

Innovation as source of long-term global economic growth and improvements in quality of live is a key factor in society and economy. Artificial intelligence, big data, Internet of things – the digital transformation is in full swing, especially in many Asian countries. In this technological revolution, policymakers need to evaluate and respond to fast-moving issues and circumstances and coordinate disparate policies toward scientific research, technology commercialization, education and skills development, and regulatory policies in an integrated fashion that drives economic growth.

In Germany the government as well as companies invest heavily in research and development (R&D) and the automotive, engineering, and chemical industries are very strong in research and innovation. Compared to other countries Germany performs poorly in the field of digital technologies though. There are encouraging start-up clusters in a few leading cities, such as Munich and Berlin. But truly innovative start-ups with disruptive technologies that become global are not being founded (yet). Against this backdrop, twelve Asian innovation experts visited Berlin in September at the invitation of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung to gain insights into the developments in Germany and to share their experiences with decision-makers.

The members of the delegation - representatives of various think tanks, international organizations and the private sector – visited IFA, Europe’s biggest consumer electronics exhibition as well as the Internet Governance Forum Germany and held meetings in the Bundestag, the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Chancellery, with Siemens. SAP, and CityLAB Berlin.

The delegation observed that in Asia the willingness to innovate and actively shape new developments was much more pronounced. Innovation oftentimes requires to experiment and take risks. This readiness was not seen everywhere in Germany.

While still benefiting from its strength in the automotive industry, mechanical engineering and the chemical industry, German companies are also successful in the area of Industry 4.0. The manifold industrial data produced daily offer great potential that is not yet being utilized fully though.

It is crucial for Germany not only to think about catching up in the area of digital technologies, but also to think about the innovations of tomorrow today. In addition, it is crucial to connect the existing players even more - especially universities, companies and the public sector. It is also important to promote a "culture of trial and error". Initial steps towards this can already be observed in Germany, such as the creation of the new agency for leap innovations in Leipzig, and the creation of new units for digitalisation in several ministries and the Federal Chancellery.

"We want to and must pay closer attention to the opportunities offered by digitalisation in Germany," said KAS’ Deputy Secretary General Dr. Wahlers during a meeting with the delegation. "The world around us is changing and it is also important to ensure the competitiveness of Germany as a business location," says Wahlers. KAS has defined the theme of "Innovation" as a focus area for the next two years. The foundation will pay particular attention to creating an environment conducive to innovation in Germany. Through KAS’ international network, insights and experiences from abroad will also contribute.

Contact Person

Christian Echle

Christian Echle bild

Director Regional Programme Political Dialogue Asia

christian.echle@kas.de +65 6603 6160 +65 6227 8343
Contact Person

Katharina Naumann

Katharina Naumann bild

Programme Manager Digitalisation

katharina.naumann@kas.de +65 6603 6169

About this series

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, its educational institutions, centres and foreign offices, offer several thousand events on various subjects each year. We provide up to date and exclusive reports on selected conferences, events and symposia at www.kas.de. In addition to a summary of the contents, you can also find additional material such as pictures, speeches, videos or audio clips.