The Federal Research Ministry is using the "Entrepreneurial Regions" (German: Unternehmen Region) programme family to promote regional innovation alliances in Eastern Germany. Based on this, the Ministry is currently developing a pan-German innovation funding concept “structural change”.
Even after more than 25 years of German unification there continue to be structural differences between East and West Germany. The new German Länder primarily lack large research-based companies and mid-sized companies that are experienced in the global marketplace, which shape the innovation landscape in the western Länder. Nevertheless, in order to facilitate important innovations for every modern economy, the Federal Research Ministry has developed the Entrepreneurial Regions Idea, which outlines a region-oriented and entrepreneurial funding policy.
"Entrepreneurial Regions" (German: Unternehmen Region) is part of the Federal government’s new High-Tech Strategy. As an innovation initiative with an open theme, it supports regional alliances in developing a sustainable technology profile whilst consistently using and developing the strengths in their region. In this way, “Entrepreneurial Regions” wants to provide real perspective for young skilled workers and talented scientists, accelerate innovative start-ups, and develop competitive regions with their own economic and scientific profile. In an ideal scenario, the individual programme will lay the foundation for long-term successful regional clusters.
In order to achieve this ambitious goal, “Entrepreneurial Regions” places high demands on initiatives supported, including self initiative, openness, entrepreneurial thinking, a clear innovation strategy, market orientation, focus on nurturing new talent and an international focus.
Since 1999, a programme family has grown with six ongoing individual programmes, focusing on the various needs of the East German stakeholders in the innovation process. The programme Zwanzig20 – Partnership for Innovation (German: Zwanzig20 – Partnerschaft für Innovation) also included West German partners for the first time in 2013; in 2016, the Innovation Forums for the Mid-Size Sector (German: Innovationsforen Mittelstand) started up. As a Germany-wide support programme, they are aimed at innovation partnerships in both West and East Germany. Interested parties have various options if they want to get involved: they can either apply to a current programme or can actively participate in the work of already-existing alliances.
Right from the start, “Unternehmen Region” has seen itself as a learning innovation initiative, flexibly adapting to changing needs and conditions. Regular programme evaluations support this process. Then comes the next step: the Federal Research Ministry continues to develop “Unternehmen Region” into a Germany-wide innovation funding concept for regions going through structural change.