Reunification was associated with increased innovation activity in both East and West Germany.
However, the “old” federal states benefited much more from the merger than the regions in the former GDR. This is the result of a recent study by economists from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena and the Universities of Groningen and Utrecht. The analyzes make it particularly clear that the intensity of innovation activities in the west has developed much better than in the east since the mid-1990s – the east is therefore falling behind more and more in the area of innovation. The work was created as part of a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research,
As part of their analysis, the researchers compared patent applications per capita in East and West Germany from 1877 to 2015. ” Thanks to this long period of time, we were able to show that before the Second World War there were no east-west differences in the intensity of innovation ,” says PD Dr. Michael Wyrwich.
On the other hand, we find a clear break in the East with the founding of the GDR
The associated introduction of the planned economy .” The figures for 1991 lay the baseline for the development after reunification. “ Starting from this year, we see an increase in innovation activity in both West and East Germany“, explains Prof. Dr. Michael Fritsch from the University of Jena. ” However, this curve rises much steeper in the West than is the case in the areas of the former GDR “. So the gap between East and West is widening significantly. The innovation activities in the East are primarily concentrated on lighthouse regions such as Jena and Dresden.
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Land consolidation and brain drain
The researchers see two main reasons for this development: ” On the one hand, with our study we are empirically demonstrating the effect of the so-called land consolidation for the first time ,” explains Fritsch. This means that double structures in research and development were largely eliminated after reunification at the expense of the East, since the relevant research in West Germany was generally more advanced. “ So West German researchers drove out East German researchers‘ says Fritsch.
This effect was also relatively pronounced because the technological profile of the two German states was very similar. Another factor that played a role was that many highly qualified East German researchers and developers migrated to the West and got involved in innovation processes there. It must also be noted that in the first few years after the Second World War, many innovative companies migrated from East Germany to the West in order to avoid nationalization. These developments caused lasting damage to the innovation system in the East, which even massive political influence, such as support programs and investments, could not compensate for. However, this does not mean that support measures were ineffective,
Strengthen innovations and innovation networks
” With research results like the one now available, we want to create awareness that there has been no convergence between East and West in innovation so far and that this also has something to do with the processes after reunification,” says Dr. Maria Greve. ” But if the East is to catch up economically, then it has to grow faster than the West – and that requires innovations .”
It is difficult to explain why the innovation gap between
East and West continues to widen and why the new federal states are not catching up in this area. The Jena team suspects that the above-mentioned phenomena of land consolidation and brain drain have also destroyed established network structures that are elementary for innovation processes. However, it must also be noted that the tendency to cooperate is more pronounced in East Germany.
It is reasonable to assume that the positive effects emanating from these networks are less than in western Germany. Network structures had to be rebuilt in the east and may need time to unfold their full positive effect. It is also possible that the new networks are less well organized or have only been established since networking was a prerequisite for access to funding. The team intends to go into more detail on the role of networks and their effects in future studies.
In addition, the findings presented form the basis for further research projects.
On the one hand, the researchers want to examine the development in individual technological areas more closely and clarify which forces exactly caused the land consolidation after the reunification. On the other hand, they want to clarify what role the shock-like nature of the transformation played in East Germany. A comparison with innovation activities in Poland and the Czech Republic, where the transformation has been much smoother, is particularly useful for this purpose.