The negotiators of the SPD, Greens and FDP are currently receiving catalogs of demands from almost all interest groups.

However, the fact that more than 20 well-known organizations from science and business are jointly calling out to the future government is a special case - the increased urgency underlines: Germany must be careful not to fall behind in the race for research success and innovative spirit.

Dietrich Creutzburg

Business correspondent in Berlin.

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Unfortunately, the success story of the BioNTech company does not provide any evidence that the research and innovation system is working well. It is time to remedy its deficits and "ignite the next expansion stage". This is the call, the leading forces of which are the German Research Foundation and the Federation of German Industry. The FAZ has received the paper in advance.

"Research and innovation must have the highest priority for the federal government," they warn in it - because that is a basic requirement for successfully shaping major upheavals such as climate protection and digitization.

To this end, they also give the future government organizational advice: This general task must be a “top priority” in the Chancellery;

and it must be anchored in the government's working structure through an “innovation cabinet”, warn the 24 organizations.

The spectrum ranges from Acatech to energy and water management to the Bitkom digital association;

from the University Rectors' Conference to the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina;

The major industrial sectors, from chemistry to mechanical engineering, are also represented.

Deficits in the German innovation landscape

The paper names a variety of individual tasks, but the core is clear: There is hardly a lack of programs and projects for more innovation. However, funding structures and application procedures are often too cumbersome to act as drivers. You need strong and solid financing, but also “agile framework conditions” with “lean, fast, digital and transparent processes”.

The paper outlines the gaps between aspiration and reality using BioNTech as an example: research into the exciting mRNA technology has been going on for a long time, partly privately financed, partly publicly.

The fact that such a useful vaccine became available at such short notice was also a consequence of the need in the pandemic - which led to a joint effort by science, business and politics.

In the everyday life of researchers who might be able to create something similarly useful, however, such acts of strength are rare.

"In fact, BioNTech is an exceptional example - and thus refers to deficits in the normal operation of the German science and innovation landscape", so the paper.

The spirit of research must not be restricted

It therefore demands better conditions for the transfer of research results into applications and products. This is about solidly financed start-up advice at universities and simpler rules so that researchers can more easily implement their knowledge in business. In addition, public procurement policy must become more innovation-friendly. Critics say: Normally, the state would have bought the Chinese vaccine instead of BioNTech.

The old government had already set 3.5 percent of gross domestic product for 2025 as the target for total research expenditure;

most recently it was a good 3 percent, two thirds of which came from company coffers.

Politicians, according to the call, are now primarily obliged to deliver their share despite Corona debts.

At the same time, "the greatest effort" is required to "invest the funds in a targeted manner" in the future - which has probably been in question so far.

To do this, it is necessary to “adapt funding measures to new developments in a much more variable manner”.

This is one of the reasons why they call for an innovation strategy that defines key topics with clear goals, but does not unnecessarily restrict the spirit of research.

“Instead of specifying certain measures in advance, an open approach is required,” according to the appeal.

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