Within the framework of "Entrepreneurial Regions" (German: Unternehmen Region), the programme "Innovation Forums" (German: Innovationsforen) has the task of boosting regional networks in their start-up phase. The development support helps the initiatives to form their network, to hone their thematic profile as well as to establish and expand contacts and cooperations.
Innovations strengthen regions. The ability to develop innovative products and services is a key prerequisite for the competitive ability of a region and its economic development. Innovations that succeed on the market create employment and growth and provide new impulses for the region.
In East Germany, there are specific innovation deficits such as too few companies carrying out their own research and too little contacts between innovative companies on the one hand and scientists on the other hand. However, a functioning network encompassing members of the business, scientific and research community is crucial for the birth of innovations as networks are the basis for any innovation process. From them, strategic alliances can arise which then develop into long-term clusters with a specific regional profile.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) thus supports the formation of regional networks with the "Innovation Forums"
programme. In doing so, the BMBF does neither focus on the network concept alone nor on the merely scientific cooperation between several partners in a joint project. On the contrary, what is more decisive is that strategic alliances are created between companies, research institutions and universities, thereby developing a clearly recognisable, innovative profile for their region.
At the heart of the programme is an "innovation forum", a two-day event similar to a specialist conference within the framework of which key figures from business, scientific, social and political circles gather. The forum serves to promote the transfer of knowledge, to establish contacts as well as to determine the alliance's position in the competitive landscape. It is hence designed to provide an “ignition spark” for the initiatives, aiding them in attaining a good starting position.
The mid-term goal of the forum is to tap private capital, take part in network management programmes with a longer development support period and expand the fundamental cooperation between the participating partners. The regions’ competences and competitive abilities are strengthened by the initiation of lasting entrepreneurial cooperations.
Initiatives which have developed a clearly recognisable, innovative profile in their regional alliance can apply to become an "Innovative Regional Growth Core" (German: Innovativer regionaler Wachstumskern). A total of 151 Innovation Forums have been supported so far. New forums are added every year, each of which is supported with a maximum of EUR 85,000 for a period up to six months.