In general, structural reforms with regard to the German R&D and innovation system were continued in course of 2012 and 2013, especially the ‘Excellenzinitiative’ (outlook: continue as before) and ‘Pakt für Forschung und Innovation’ (outlook: further expanding). However, both initiatives formally expire in course of the legislative period that has just started (new government just took office in Dec 2013). In other words, both initiatives need to be formally prolonged by the new government. Below, some (recent) policy developments are outlined in brief.
Raising budget of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research
The Federal Government is continuing to make targeted investments in education and research even in times of budgetary consolidation. In 2012, the budget of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) increased by 11% (<link>), the provisions for 2013 grew by 6.3% compared to 2012 (totalling about €13.75b) and, despite the attempt of budgetary consolidation, the Government draft for the 2014 federal budget provides for a further increase in the 2014 budget for the BMBF of about €224 million, up to a total of some €14 billion. <link>
The BMBF Innovation Initiative "Entrepreneurial Regions" (Unternehmen Region) stands for innovation-oriented regional alliances which develop a region's identified core competences to clusters on a high level and with strict market orientation. With this aim in mind, the BMBF has systematically developed a series of programmes for East Germany (Neue Bundesländer) since 1999. The individual programme lines seek to improve the conditions for innovations and set the course for the long-term success of regions ("clusters"). All programmes represent the basic principles of the BMBF innovation support policy and thus of “Entrepreneurial Regions”: lateral thinking, cooperation, strategic planning and entrepreneurial action. In this regard, the most recent initiative is the "Zwanzig20 – partnership for innovation (Partnerschaft für Innovation) which was launched in 2012. In July 2013, the first 10 consortia were selected and received funding. The BMBF has earmarked for this programme a total budget of €500m until 2019. <link>
New National Research Strategy BioEconomy 2030 <link> which aims at reducing oil dependence by use of renewable resources. The Federal Cabinet adopted a strategy on 17 July 2013 to strengthen the bio-based economy in Germany and reduce dependence on fossil fuels. The bio-based economy is a fast growing market and Germany is already at the forefront of developments. By means of the new strategy this position shall be further consolidated while implementing new technologies, creating jobs and improving environmental protection. According to the BMBF, with the new bio-economy strategy and the future-oriented project 'Renewable resources as alternatives to oil' the research foundations for the bio-based economy in Germany are due to be improved.
National Research Infrastructure Roadmap
On April 29th 2013, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) presented a National Roadmap for Research Infrastructures (RI) in Germany (Roadmap für Forschungsinfrastrukturen). The launching of the new strategy is meant to support and guide political decisions in terms of research infrastructures (i.e. for instance large scale research infrastructures of national / European importance, comprehensive experiments, etc.). It is assumed to be an impetus towards joint planning of research infrastructures (at Federal and Länder level in Germany, but as well with regard to large scale RI development in the EU). <link>
German ERA position paper 2013
In its communication on 'A Reinforced European Research Area Partnership for Excellence and Growth', released in 07/2012, the European Commission submitted proposals for further development of the corresponding process. In February 2013, the German Federal Government replied by means of a corresponding Position Paper <link>. Thus, the German government argues against a series of EC suggestions related to ERA-priority III (e.g. introducing a special "industry PhD", an accreditation mechanism for human resources management, and also the requirement of publishing all vacancies on EURAXESS in English). Moreover, it points to the general need of flexibility and in this regard recalls the importance of subsidiarity (esp. with regard to ERA-priority II, IV, and V). No urgent need for (own) action is seen with respect to priority I. Finally, the German government also commented on the ERA monitoring mechanism (EMM).
High-Tech Strategy 2020
This strategy outlines the research and innovation policy of the federal government for the coming years. The main aims of the HTS are to create lead markets, intensify cooperation between science and industry, and to continue to improve the general conditions for innovation. With the proposed directions and instruments, basically all structural challenges can be addressed. On 28.03.2012, the federal government has adapted an Action Plan for the HTS-2020 and thus formulated 10 future-oriented projects (Zukunftsprojekte) which aim at addressing the grand societal challenges. The federal government thus seeks to bundle the innovation relevant policies and initiatives of all federal resorts and also to bring together the efforts made at HEI/PRO and business sector, particularly in the fields of clime/energy, health/healthy food, mobility, communication, and security.
Draft for changing the German Basic Law (Grundgesetz, Artikel 91b)
This draft seeks to change the current regulation in terms of financing universities (in particular joint initiatives of federal and state level; see draft from June 2014 <link>, for general background see: <link>). As outlined in chapter 2.1 with regard to “national economic and political context” and again in chapter 3 below in the light of structural challenges the German system is facing, a main obstacle for significant changes in terms of Germany’s education policy is the fact that it is subject to complex policy coordination since it is within the responsibility of the individual states. The initiative of changing the corresponding legislation is an attempt to improve the situation and allow for joint (federal and state level) financing of universities (i.e. basically reversing the changes made in terms of the last amendment of the law in 2006). However, the initiative is still subject of a controversial political debate.
Freedom for Science law “Wissenschaftsfreiheitsgesetz”: The new law aims at making the budgetary rules of (publicly co-financed) non-university research institutions more flexible, i.e. cutting red tape, providing more freedom on financial decisions and with regard to human resources management, etc.
Foreign Skills Approval/Recognition law „Anerkennungsgesetz“<more info> The new law came into force on 01/04/2012 and creates a legal entitlement to claim for recognition of foreign vocational education (to be decided within 3 months). The newly founded central institution IHK FOSA (Foreign Skills Approval) is carrying out the assessment and decides about recognition. <more info>
The Central Office for International Vocational Education and Training Cooperation at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) has taken up its work in 09/2013. The new Central Office at BIBB (which is under responsibility of the BMBF) will serve as a platform for the exchange of information and is a consequence of the rising international demand for the German VET system. <more info>
 The programmes’ aspirations are generally based on the fact that the most innovative products and applications are almost exclusively the result of highly specialized and integrative knowledge from many sources, minds and organizations of widely varying origins and orientation. In "Entrepreneurial Regions", this philosophy is closely tied to an entrepreneurial approach.
 Innovative Regional Growth Cores (Innovative regionale Wachstumskerne, since 2001), with GC Potential (WK Potenzial, since 2007), Centres for Innovation Competence (Zentren für Innovationskompetenz, ZIK, since 2002), Innovation Forums (Innovationsforen, since 2001), InnoProfile (since 2005), ForMaT (since 2007), Twenty20 – Partnership for Innovation (German: Zwanzig20 - Partnerschaft für Innovation, since 2012), InnoRegio (1999-2006).
 The consortia will carry out research on a wide spectrum of thematic subjects such as innovative materials for construction, new medicines and therapies, and affordable and clean energy.
 For instance, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft (MPI), Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft FhG), Helmholtz-Zentren, Leibniz-Einrichtungen, and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).