In terms of growth, exports and employment Germany is on solid economic ground. Yet we need more innovation to remain technologically competitive, as well as to solve the most pressing social problems of our time. For this to succeed, innovation and technological progress must always be aligned with our values. We stand for an innovative Germany and Europe that each live up to their full potential.
Continuing innovation is crucial to prosperity
Germany regularly performs well in international rankings of competitiveness and innovation capability. Without question, the country has numerous strengths that justify this positive public perception. The good overall economic trends in recent years have also contributed to this. As a leader in global exports, Germany benefits from rising tax revenues and an employment rate that has reached record levels.
Nevertheless, looking only at the key economic indicators obscures some structural weaknesses and challenges. These are becoming increasingly important as digitalization and technological change race ahead, requiring a very high pace of innovation to stay abreast of the global competition. As an industrial powerhouse, Germany has depended on its technological lead and innovations. However, a closer look shows that the degree of innovation has declined somewhat in recent years.
When it comes to key digital technologies such as artificial intelligence and in the area of the digital data economy more generally, the United States and China have set a quicker pace than Germany. Germany also lags behind in terms of disruptive innovation. German companies are good at optimizing what already exists. However, innovations that revolutionize entire business models and value chains rarely originate from Germany. These weaknesses are even more evident in most other European countries. In order to keep pace with competitors in important economic fields, Germany and Europe must strengthen their powers of innovation.
Economic and social development go hand-in-hand
From a social perspective too, the issue of innovation is of great significance. We are currently facing enormous societal challenges, which have been given their strongest global expression to date in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). How can technological innovations contribute to solving urgent societal problems? How can modern technologies help overcome challenges such as those associated with demographic change or climate protection? And how can we ensure that technological progress always remains consonant with our European values?
To answer these questions, the Reinhard Mohn Prize 2020 project is looking for exemplary initiatives, mechanisms and strategies to help promote innovation in Germany and Europe. On the one hand, the goal is to help Germany remain technologically – and thus economically – competitive. On the other, it is to shape our economic development so that it remains humane and democratic, and offers equal opportunities to all. We start from the premise that two paradigms – “strengthening innovation and technological competitiveness” and “solving societal problems through innovation” – can be combined in mutual reinforcement. In alignment with Reinhard Mohn’s guiding vision of “learning from the world,” we are thus looking for exemplary examples from around the world. Because only in exchange with other countries can we unlock our own potential.