Seven innovative companies from Germany


Ideas from Germany

Accessible cinema, paper made from grass fibres or a mobile maintenance chamber for wind turbines – seven companies exemplify the innovative power in the land of poets and philosophers.

Research, invention, tinkering, development and innovation: Germany, the country of poets and thinkers, is also at the cutting edge when it comes to creating practical things. From cars to dowels to spark plugs – past inventions have made the country's economy strong and they continue to do so today. Many innovative companies contribute to these efforts every day. After all, innovations are not only important for companies themselves, they also strengthen the business location as a whole. Launching new products and services on the market, whether from start-ups or traditional companies, stimulates competition. Other providers follow suit, the investment volume and productivity increase, new jobs are created. Innovations help an economy to grow and prosper.

Seen in this light, the German economy boasts a strong position. One measure of the innovative strength of economies are patent statistics which calculate the number of patents per million employees. Germany ranks 5th, far ahead of the USA (13th) or China (19th) – Switzerland is at the top of the list.

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The number of patents has generally been on the rise for 20 years, but for various reasons companies do not by far have every innovative product or process legally protected. Patent statistics on their own are therefore not necessarily conclusive. But another study celebrates the innovative strength of German industry: in what is known as the Innovation Indicator 2017, which was compiled by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research in cooperation with the Centre for European Economic Research, Germany ranks fourth out of 35 countries. Germany's innovation system is thus among the best in the world; only Switzerland, Singapore and Belgium are more inclined to innovate. Observers would shout, keep going, the winner's podium is already in sight. But According to the latest KfW Innovation Report, 27 per cent of SMEs claim to invest in the development of new or improved products and manufacturing processes. It doesn't sound so bad at first, but it could be more. Ten years ago, this figure was as high as 42 per cent. All the same, the total volume did not fall during this period, because the remaining companies are now investing more money, not to mention the large companies. Nevertheless, it would be good for the economy if at least one in two or three medium-sized companies were to push ahead with their own innovations.

Cover CHANCEN ”Innovation“

This article appeared in the spring/summer 2018 issue of CHANCEN magazine focusing on “Innovation”.

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And more food for thought for economists: Germany ranks only 17th out of 35 countries in the firstly calculated indicator "Digitalisation innovation", i.e. it falls into the middle of the pack. In this context, it is evident that Germany, as a land of engineers, has traditionally been particularly strong in the chemical, mechanical engineering and automotive industries. Innovations in the area of digitalisation, on the other hand, are not yet a traditional strength and have typically been embraced by start-ups. "An important priority over the next five to ten years will be to continuously strengthen digitalisation as an economic cornerstone," says Volker Zimmermann, economist at KfW Research. After all, the digital world and technical progress are developing faster and faster. Keeping pace is important, keeping ahead is even better.

Better, faster, more digital: not everyone welcomes every innovation, there are always sceptics. Many contemporaries did not predict a great future for the automobile either – and then it overtook everyone. Whether an innovation prevails or even changes the world, how useful and practical it is, can often only be said in retrospect. And of course, the wheel can't be reinvented every day. Or even the car. And it doesn't need to be. The constant modernisation and improvement of existing products and manufacturing processes already drives companies forward and keeps the engine of the economy humming. If one wheel or another should actually be reinvented: all the better for bold entrepreneurs and Germany as a business location.

Published on KfW Stories: Wednesday, 15 August 2018


All United Nations member states adopted the 2030 Agenda in 2015. At its heart is a list of 17 goals for sustainable development, known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Our world should become a place where people are able to live in peace with each other in ways that are ecologically compatible, socially just, and economically effective.