Linking skills and pooling resources are the right way to meet the challenges posed by globalization and the increasing dynamism of structural change. Knowledge-based industries, in particular, develop very successfully in regional clusters, which facilitate knowledge exchange and generate a critical mass of skills that complement one another. Geographical proximity between research organizations, investors and companies can produce networks that lead to new business ideas and the foundation of new enterprises.
Regional innovation clusters bridge the gap between industry and scientific research. Successful clusters can stimulate the competition on the market, and at the same time create fruitful collaborations which ultimately benefit everyone involved.
A key element of the German government’s high-tech strategy is therefore to promote cluster initiatives. In the “Pact for Research and Innovation”, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has assumed the task of conceiving and implementing innovation clusters. Such collaborative ventures set themselves clear goals and define milestones for their development. The purpose of innovation clusters is to pool the strengths of a region and activate them to solve demanding tasks. In addition to industry and universities, the networks include local nonuniversity research institutes that can make important contributions in relevant thematic areas. Through this initiative, the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is providing impetus for the further development of regional centers of excellence, and is supporting the regions’ skills and expertise. Innovationclusters will primarily serve as an instrument to help develop existing strengths. The collab-orations will generally be restricted to within one federal state. Another important factor is how much money the industrial partners and the state are willing to invest in new projects within a region in addition tocurrent expenditure.
Collaboration within the clusters should extend beyond that of a mere communication network. The clusters are built on mutual respect for one another’s strengths and are prepared to take on specific tasks in an end-to-end chain from the invention to the final product. It is important to work together towards a shared objective, which can best be achieved through concrete projects. That is why the Fraunhofer innovation clusters are, first and foremost, project clusters. This means that the funds provided are used for particularly attractive projects that can only be implemented within a given network.
The distribution of tasks within each innovation landscape is maintained. While the public establishments create the basis for new products and services, the funds provided by industry are used to implement and market these innovations. This promotes collaboration in the development of concrete products. The positive effects of jointly achieved success onfurther cooperation are invaluable.
Joint, harmonized research and development at Fraunhofer Institutes, universities and in industry not only provides stimulation and helps to forge links within a cluster, but also has a financial leverage effect. Being able to mobilize equal funding from the regions and the industry involved is a prerequisite for setting up an innovation cluster, and ensures commitment on the part of all those concerned.