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Research Summit 2020

Innovation and diversity – between creative destruction and social participation

– Cancelled –

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The Research Summit – International arena for critical-constructive dialogue, interdisciplinary forum for reflection and brainstorming, living networking location

Each year, around 400 decision-makers, experts, thought leaders and newcomers from science, business, civil society and politics come together at the Research Summit to discuss how the German innovation system can be advanced. The Research Summit has provided the impetus for the reform, expansion and strengthening of the German and European research and innovation system since 2015. Each year, the Summit participants address a priority issue of high importance for innovation policy, which is further differentiated on the basis of key questions. The Research Summit's key addressees are policy makers.

Focus topic of the Research Summit 2020:
Innovation and diversity –
between creative destruction and social participation

Innovations arise in particular when a variety of ideas, people and organisations are available to meet challenges. Successful innovations create competitive advantages, often lead to positive development impulses in companies and economies, and thus form the basis for greater prosperity. However, both, the chances of producing innovations and the access to innovations, differ, in some cases considerably, between the various regions, companies and population groups. These disparities are due to a number of historical and other boundary conditions, but also to innovation itself. For example, incremental innovation can lead to the systematic improvement and upgrading of technologies, business models and skills that are already successful today, while at the same time devaluing others. In this way, existing disparities between regions, companies and population groups can increase further and solidify. Likewise, disruptive innovations can create entirely new opportunities for the development of regions and companies as well as for individual participation. But not everyone can seize the opportunity equally and this can lead to new, profound inequalities. So, how should innovation processes and innovation policy be designed so that the creative forces of innovation outweigh the destructive ones and social participation can be ensured?

The 2020 Research Summit brings together leaders from science, business, civil society and politics to discuss the role of innovation as a driver of disparities on the one hand, and as a means of overcoming disparities on the other. To what extent, then, are differences in the innovative capacity and innovation performance of regions and companies meaningful and therefore acceptable from a social and economic perspective? Which political strategies are helpful in dealing with desirable diversity and in overcoming undesirable disparities? ls innovation policy even an appropriate instrument in this context? Each round of discussions concentrates on an expression of disparity – spatial, social and entrepreneurial.

Spatial disparities

Spatially, innovation performance is very dissimilarly distributed. These spatial disparities are the result of political and societal constraints, as well as the unequal distribution of technical infrastructure (e.g. fast internet, transport infrastructure, laboratories), well-trained professionals, scientific institutions or enterprise clusters. In Germany, for example, there is a clearly discernible gradient between the innovative performance of the southern federal states and those of the eastern or northern German federal states. The innovation gradient within the European Union and the North-South divide on a global scale are even more pronounced. Consequently, significant differences in prosperity and quality of life exist in Germany, in the EU and worldwide. Strong voices in politics and society therefore demand the expansion of R&I infrastructures and research establishments in economically weak regions. Others argue that in order to strengthen international competitiveness, state funds should be better invested in centers than in peripheral regions.

Social disparities

A variety of complementary qualifications and competencies are important prerequisites for innovation within societies and companies. However, innovations are not merely produced by societies and companies, they also have an effect on them. While some population groups benefit massively from new insights, technologies and business models, the impact on others can be negative. Innovationsare accompanied by structural changes that can have a direct impact on the labour market and on people's everyday lives. This raises the question of whether the free play of market forces is best at harnessing the potential of the positive developments of innovation or at countering the negative effects of innovation through proactive education, labour market and distribution policies.

Disparities in the corporate sector

Productivity growth rates in Germany and other developed economies have been falling for several decades. Simultaneously, an increasing disparity in innovation performance in the corporate sector can be observed: the proportion of companies producing innovations is declining. Innovation activities are increasingly concentrated in a few large companies. Because the growth of macroeconomic productivity depends to a very large extent on innovation, this concentration of innovation activity on fewer and fewer stakeholders is regarded as one of the primary reasons for declining productivity growth. In addition, the increasing concentration of innovation activities also has a self-reinforcing effect: By deploying increasingly complex technologies with the help of innovations, established companies create barriers that make it difficult for other companies to enter the market. A counter-strategy in this context may be to encourage the emergence of national or European champions. Another approach could be to focus on supporting SMEs and start-ups, thereby allowing them to bring new technologies and business models to market.

Preliminary programme

May 6th, 2020, 8.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Allianz Forum, Pariser Platz 6, 10117 Berlin, Germany

Participation by personal invitation only


8.30 a.m. 

9.30 a.m. 
Welcome address
Prof. Andreas Barner, President, Stifterverband (Association for the Promotion of German Science), Essen

Introduction: Innovation and diversity – between creative destruction and social participation
Prof. Uwe Cantner, Chairperson, Expertenkommission Forschung und Innovation (Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation of the Federal Republic of Germany), Berlin

Inner Circle moderator: Dr. Jan-Martin Wiarda, Journalist, Berlin
Extended Circle moderator: Andrea Frank, Programme Director "Research, Transfer and Science Dialogue", Stifterverband, Berlin

9.50 a.m.
Inner Circle 1 – spatial disparities
Do we need a cohesive policy for the innovation system? 
Strategies for dealing with spatial disparities in Germany and Europe

Key questions
⦁ Which factors lead to a strengthening, which lead to a reduction in regional disparities in innovation and economic performance? What degree of disparity is acceptable?
⦁ Which path should German politics take, which path European politics? Should policy be aimed at a balance between the regions or should investments be made in building internationally visible beacons?
⦁ Does Germany's high economic and innovation performance lead to an undesirable increase in social, economic and spatial disparities in Europe? What pattern and intensity do disparities currently display?

9.55 a.m. 
Prof. Reint Gropp, PhD., President, Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (Halle Institute for Economic Research), Halle an der Saale

10.05 a.m. 
Panel discussion with a round of statements in the Inner Circle
Prof. Katja Becker, President, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft e.V. (German Research Foundation), Bonn
Prof. Reint Gropp, PhD., President, Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (Halle Institute for Economic Research), Halle an der Saale
Silvia Hennig, Founder and CEO, Think&Do-Tanks Neuland 21 e.V., Bad Belzig
Prof. Wolf-Dieter Lukas, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Federal Ministry of Education and Research of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn
Dr. Jenny Müller, Founder and CEO, DIE FRISCHEMANUFAKTUR GmbH, Halle an der Saale
Dr. Stefan Traeger, CEO, Jenoptik AG, Jena
Erich Unterwurzacher, Director, Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy, European Commission, Brussels

10.10 a.m.
Impulses from the Extended Circle and open discussion

10.35 a.m.
Panel discussion

11.00 a.m.
Networking break

11.40 a.m.
Inner Circle 2 – social disparities
How can socio-cultural diversity be better integrated into the design and implementation of innovations? New routes to more social participation

Key questions
⦁ There is a broad social consensus that, where possible, all sectors of society should benefit from the results of research and innovation. How can educational infrastructure and, in particular, vocational qualifications be adapted to meet changing demands on the labour market? 
⦁ Should education and research be focused on excellence or is it more effective to promote education and research across the board? What is more advisable, to bolster higher education or vocational training?
⦁ The self-determined use of technological innovations presupposes financial resources and know-how. What needs to be done to ensure broad social access to innovative applications in the workplace and in everyday life (e.g. care, household, leisure)?
⦁ Can social participation in research and innovation policy decisions be improved through open science as well as through participatory processes – such as are foreseen in the HTS – and social disparities be reduced?

11.45 a.m. 
Dr. Bita Daryan, Head of Group Innovation Strategy, Volkswagen Group, Wolfsburg

11.55 a.m.
Panel discussion starting with a round of statements in the Inner Circle
Prof. Dr. Stefanie Büchner, Junior Professor for the Sociology of Digitalization, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University Hanover
Dr. Bita Daryan, Head of Group Innovation Strategy, Volkswagen Group, Wolfsburg
Philipp Hentschel, Excecutive Director of Netzwerk Zukunftsorte and of Kreativorte Brandenburg, Eggersdorf, co-founder of COCONAT. – A Workation Retreat, Bad Belzig, as well as founder and partner of welance, Berlin 
Dr. Juliane Kronen, Founder and CEO, innatura gGmbG, Cologne
Dr. Judith Niehues, Head of Microdata and Method Development Research Group, German Economic Institute, Cologne
Prof. Dr. Helmut Schönenberger, CEO, UnternehmerTUM GmbH, Munich
Dr. Georg Schütte, Secretary General, Volkswagen Foundation, Hanover
Katja Urbatsch, Founder and CEO, gGmbH, Berlin

12.20 p.m.
Discussion with the Extended Circle

12.45 p.m.
Networking break and lunch

2.00 p.m.
Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Dr. Angela Merkel, Berlin

2.20 p.m.
Inner Circle 3 – disparities in the corporate sector
Does the concentration of innovation activities destroy the diversity of the economic sector? Recommendations for more innovative companies in Europe

Key questions
⦁ What are the causes of the decline in the innovator rate in the corporate sector?
⦁ Do radical innovations and the impact of the creative destruction associated with them lead to a further concentration of innovation performance? Or does this destroy incrustations?
⦁ Should politics accept the increasing concentration of innovation activities in a few major international companies and focus on developing national and European champions? Or should it counteract this development by targeted promotion of SMEs and innovative start-ups?

2.25 p.m.
Rafael Laguna de la Vera, Director, Bundesagentur für Sprunginnovationen (SPRINT), Berlin

2.35 p.m.
Panel discussion
Tom Hillenbrand, Author of the futuristic thriller "Hologrammatica", Hamburg
Rafael Laguna de la Vera, Director, Bundesagentur für Sprunginnovationen (SPRINT), Berlin
Martina Merz, CEO, thyssenkrupp AG, Essen
Prof. Dr. Reimund Neugebauer, President, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der angewandten Forschung e.V. (Fraunhofer Society fort he Promotion of Applied Research), Munich
Jean-Eric Paquet, Director-General, Directorate General for Research and Innovation, EU Commission, Brussels
Julia Römer, Founder and CEO, Coolar UG, Berlin
Dr. Markus Steilemann, Management Board Chairperson, Covestro Deutschland AG, Leverkusen

3.00 p.m.
Should policy focus on developing national and European champions or specifically promote SMEs and innovative start-ups?
Pro champions strategy: Dr. Markus Steilemann, Management Board Chairperson, Covestro Deutschland AG, Leverkusen
Pro diversification of innovation activities: Prof. Dr. Clemens Fuest, President, ifo Institute, Munich, and member of Scientific Advisory Committee in in the Ministry of Finance of the Federal Republic of Germany

3.15 p.m.
Discussion opening in Extended Circle and vote

3.45 p.m.
Concluding statement round in the Inner Circle

3.50 p.m.
Prof. Dr. Gerald Haug, President, German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, Halle an der Saale

4.00 p.m.
End of Research Summit

Updated March 10th, 2020


Inner and Extended Circle Format

The format of Inner and Extended Circles ensures the involvement of decision makers, experts and thought leaders.

The Inner Circle is located in the center of the hall and, as an arena for discussions, forms the heart of the event. The occupants of the Inner Circle are oriented around the three thematic complexes, the central problems of which are presented in the following programme. 

The Extended Circle comprises all the personally invited guests who do not belong to one of the Inner Circles. However, they are also invited to contribute to the discussion with questions, comments or ideas. Thus, when registering online, all guests declare whether they would like to present their idea, hypothesis or question in the form of a short impulse contribution. If the number of interested parties exceeds the format's time restraints, the Research Summit organisers reserve the right to make a selection.

The Initiators

The Stifterverband (Association for the Promotion of German Science) is a joint initiative of the German economy. The organization is interested in sustainably improving the German education and research environment. In order to achieve this goal, the Stifterverband supports universities and re-search institutes, talented individuals, and analyzes the economic system, which serves as a basis for formulating recommendations for public policy and economic practice.

The Leopoldina (German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina) has been engaged in ensuring that that free market is working in the public’s interest since its foundation in 1652. With its around 1,500 members, the Leopoldina is a collection of excellent researchers from Germany and countless other countries. As the German National Academy of Sciences, the Leopoldina has represented the German economy in international committees and advised on economic and public policy concern-ing all the biggest challenges of our time.

The Commission of Experts for Research and Innovation (EFI) advises the Federal Government from a scientific perspective and submits an annual report on research, innovation and technological performance in Germany. The EFI’s key task is to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the Ger-man innovation system based on international comparisons, and to assess Germany’s prospects as a location for research and innovation. On this basis, the EFI develops recommendations for national research and innovation policy.

With special support of the Volkswagen Foundation
The foundation is an independent, non-profit organization that funds research projects in all disci-plines. Within the framework of changing funding initiatives, it provides impetus for the development of research and higher education. The foundation perceives a special mission in providing support for junior researchers, in fostering cooperation between researchers across the borders of dis-ciplines, cultures, and national states, and in facilitating structural improvements to education and research in Germany.


Contact Person

Dr. Sandra Bühre

Project Lead
Research Summit
T +49 201 8401-499
F +49 201 8401-431

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