Germany creates the first research goal


eActually, the goal should have long since been reached, now it has worked with seven years delay: Thanks to a sharp increase in investment by companies Germany has for the first time used more than 3 percent of its economic performance for research and innovation. Together, the state and the economy spend just under € 100 billion on research and development in 2017, equivalent to 3.03 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This is shown by the new annual statement of the Stifterverband für die deutsche Wissenschaft, which is available in advance from FAZ.NET. Compared with the previous year, the research quota rose by 0.11 percentage points, the strongest increase in a long time.

Dietrich Creutzburg

Originally, the EU heads of state and government had already decided in 2000 to increase the quota to 3 percent in all countries by 2010. Germany is not bad in European comparison. In the EU average, only 2 percent were achieved in 2017. Leaders in the world, on the other hand, are South Korea and Israel, with a good 4.5 percent of research and development spending, followed by Sweden and Switzerland with 3.3 percent, according to figures from the industrialized nations organization OECD. Behind Germany are also the United States (2.8 percent) and China (2.1 percent).

Decisive for Germany's jump over the 3 per cent, however, were the companies, especially the auto industry. For only the research expenditures of the economy have increased according to Stifterverband by almost 10 percent to 68.8 billion euros. The increase was thus much stronger than economic growth. The share of business research in GDP rose to 2.1 percent. The public sector spent $ 30.5 billion on research and stabilized its share at 0.93 percent of GDP.

Research funding will soon reduce taxes

The Stifterverband, an initiative of the economy, also carries out the research statistics of the corporate sector on behalf of the government. In recent years, preliminary estimates have repeatedly raised the hope that the 3-percent target has been reached. However, the result had to be corrected to just under 3 percent each time until 2016 with the final statement. This time, the first estimate submitted in the fall was surpassed for even slightly.

The growth of the automotive industry is remarkable. In the 2017 reporting year, companies in the politically highly controversial sector have increased their research expenditure by a record-breaking 17 percent to 25.7 billion euros. This is a good quarter of all German research expenditure and more than a third of the expenditure of the economy. On closer analysis, the importance of the car factor is even greater, as the Stifterverband shows: If you include the expenditure related to the motor vehicle research field across all industries, it is even 41 billion euros or 59 percent of the research effort of the economy.

Federal Research Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU) is delighted with the new balance sheet and the 3 percent target achieved. “Anyone who invests in research and development today will be one of the innovation leaders tomorrow,” she praises in a statement. In addition to the “highest level” of corporate research, it highlights a well-developed collaboration between science and industry. Politically speaking, the 3% target is already history, as the federal government planned in 2017 to increase the research quota to 3.5% by 2025. An important lever should be the planned tax research funding. With it, companies could claim their research expenses in the future as tax-reducing; it should complement the program support associated with application bureaucracy.

“In order to raise the potential of small and medium-sized businesses, the tax incentives should be implemented as quickly as possible,” says the President of the Stifterverband, Andreas Barner. Finance Minister Olaf Scholz (SPD) pushes his bill but to some criticism – skeptics expect that the plans ultimately but large companies prefer and there will also be many deadweight effects. Scholz expects tax losses of 1.3 billion euros a year. Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) recently announced during a visit to the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft that it would soon be finalizing the project in the cabinet.

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