A comprehensive package of complementary policy and funding programs and support activities has been put in place in order to establish Germany as a lead market and provider of cyber-physical systems and smart services by 2020.

The High-Tech Strategy

Logo Hightech-Strategy | © Federal Ministry of Education and Research Germany’s Federal Government has been supporting Internet of Things and Services activities as part of its High-Tech Strategy since 2006. The High-Tech Strategy is a landmark policy program to bring key technology and innovation stakeholders together in a common purpose of developing new technologies.

Most programs within the framework of the High-Tech-Strategy promote partnership between different project partners – particularly enterprises and research institutes - in order to bring together institutional research and entrepreneurial expertise.

The initiative combines the resources of all government ministries, setting billions of euros aside annually for the development of cutting-edge technologies. Research and development projects can accordingly count on generous financial support in the form of grants.

This has led to the creation of new instruments including the Leading-Edge Cluster Competition and nationwide innovation alliances.

High-Tech Strategy 2020

The objectives set out in the High-Tech Strategy were continued and extended within the framework of the "High-Tech Strategy 2020" launched in July 2010. Building on the initial successes of the High-Tech Strategy, this successor initiative intends to create lead markets, further intensify partnership between science and industry, and continue to improve the general conditions for innovation.

The High-Tech Strategy 2020 exists to establish Germany as a lead provider of science and technology-based solutions in the fields of:

  • Climate/Energy
  • Health/Nutrition
  • Mobility
  • Security
  • Communication 


High-Tech Strategy 2020 Action Plan

The German government passed the High-Tech Strategy Action Plan in March 2012 for the further implementation of the High-Tech Strategy.

The Action Plan identifies 10 "Future Projects" which are considered as being critical to addressing and realizing current innovation policy objective as the focus of research and innovation activity. Within these lighthouse projects, specific innovation objectives will be pursued over a 10 to 15 year time frame. A budget of EUR 8.4 billion has been allocated for the period 2012-2015 to implement the various measures of the Action Plan.

Future Projects

Forward-looking projects are the focus of research and innovation policy. Specific objectives are pursued within these projects over a period of 10 to 15 years.

Within the High-Tech Strategy, the following forward-looking projects have been identified.

  1. CO2-neutral, energy-efficient and climate-adapted city ("future city")

  2. Renewable energy resources as an alternative to oil

  3. Intelligent restructuring of energy production

  4. Combating illness with individualized medicine

  5. Improving health through targeted preventive measures and nutrition

  6. Independent living for senior citizens

  7. Sustainable mobility

  8. Internet-based services for the economy (i.e. SMART SERVICE WORLD)

  9. INDUSTRIE 4.0

  10. Secure Identities

The measures to address these objectives have been coordinated among the concerned federal government ministries and departments. Stakeholders from research and industry had been involved in the planning and design of the projects and specific measures. Intensive cooperation and consultation with stakeholders is a critical factor in the success of the High-Tech Strategy. 

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The New High-Tech Strategy

Logo Hightech-Strategy | © Federal Ministry of Education and Research In September 2014, the German Federal Cabinet adopted the New High-Tech Strategy (“Innovations for Germany”). The objective of the New High-Tech Strategy is to move Germany forward on its way to becoming a worldwide innovation leader.

A continuation of the existing High-Tech Strategy and successor activities, the new initiative seeks to consolidate domestic growth and prosperity through a coherent innovation policy founded on knowledge transfer for quicker times from laboratory to market. To this extent, EUR 14 billion in investment funding was set aside in 2014 alone. A further EUR 3 billion in research funding has been set aside for the duration of the current legislative period (2013-2017).

Activities conducted within the framework of the New High-Tech Strategy are conducted in accordance with Germany’s five pillars of innovative strength:

  1. Prioritizing future challenges relative to prosperity and quality of life.
  2. Consolidating resources and promoting transfer.
  3. Strengthening the dynamism of innovation in industry.
  4. Creating favorable conditions for innovation.
  5. Strengthening dialogue and participation.

Central to the New High-Tech Strategy are six priority task areas. These are as listed below.

  • Digital Economy and Society
    Innovative solutions are being developed to address the challenges inherent in digital technologies, and opportunities for value creation and prosperity in Germany identified.
  • Sustainable Economy and Energy
    Consumption and production need to become more environmentally sustainable, resource-efficient and socially acceptable.
  • Innovative Workplace
    Focus on profound changes taking place in the modern workplace with jobs as important basis for creative ideas and economic innovation.
  • Healthy Living
    Increased research activity aimed at helping people live longer, healthier and more independent lives.
  • Intelligent Mobility
    Research activity supporting integrated transport policies that optimize modes of transport in terms of efficiency, capability and interaction.
  • Civil Security
    Addressing security issues inherent in complex systems and infrastructures (e.g. energy supply, communications, mobility, and logistics) in everyday life.

The New-High Tech Strategy will see the German Federal Government provide support to science and industry within the context of collaborative partnerships covering everything from the digital society and digital manufacturing processes (i.e. INDUSTRIE 4.0) to electric mobility and individualized medicine.

Particular support is provided for small and medium-sized enterprises in the form of the technology-neutral programmes initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) including the Central Innovation Programme for SMEs (ZIM) and Cooperative Industrial Research (IGF).

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Leading-Edge Cluster Competition

A peerless landscape of industry clusters has sprung up across Germany, allowing the country to take its place as a global innovation force. Comprehensive industry value chain presence in the respective clusters ensures that the newest and most innovative products and services are delivered to the highest possible standards.

Germany’s unique industry cluster concept has created an environment in which operators from all sectors are able to flourish in close proximity with other industry actors and investors, academic institutions, and research centers. The German federal government’s cluster strategy encompasses the following activities:

  • Competition to promote exchange processes between universities and companies
  • Region-specified measures to foster the development of clusters
  • Measures to foster the development of clusters in individual fields of technology
  • Cross-industry competence creation
  • Leading-Edge Cluster Competition

From these clusters, fifteen “Leading-Edge Clusters” have been identified within the framework of the High-Tech Strategy. Science and industry work in partnership in industry-specific "clusters" that receive substantial public-private partnership R&D funding. Those clusters identified as “Leading-Edge Clusters” receive public funding of up to EUR 40 million over a five-year period.

Central Innovation Programme (ZIM) for SMEs

The Central Innovation Programme SME (ZIM) is a nationwide funding program for SMEs and partner research establishments.

ZIM has been open to all industry branches and technological sectors as a source of support for innovation efforts since 2008. The aim of ZIM is to sustainably increase the innovative capacity and competitiveness of SMEs including craft businesses and independent professions and in doing so contribute to their growth and the generation of new jobs.

Several options exist for companies seeking ZIM funding:

  • ZIM-KOOP provides R&D funding for work conducted jointly by two or more companies or by one company and one or more research institutions. Cooperative networks consisting of six or more SMEs can receive external management service funding.
  • ZIM-SOLO provides funding for individual companies who conduct their own R&D activities in-house.

Individual Project Funding
Funding may be provided for R&D projects undertaken by individual companies including small and medium-sized companies in accordance with the definition of an SME and other SMEs with up to 500 employees including affiliated or partner companies.

Cooperation Project Funding
Funding may be provided for cooperation R&D projects undertaken by several companies or between companies and research institutes which are small and medium-sized companies in accordance with the definition of an SME; other SMEs with up to 500 employees including affiliated or partner companies; and public and non-profit-making private research institutes.

Cooperation projects can receive funding covering between 35-50 percent of costs. Grants payable to research establishments can cover up to 100 percent of costs.

Cooperative Network Project Funding
Grant funding is made available to cover share of network management personnel costs. This is equivalent to up to 90 percent of eligible costs in the first phase (up to one year) and phase two (with 70 percent in first year followed by 50 percent and 30 percent in years two and three respectively).

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Digital Agenda for Germany

Following on from the “Digital Germany 2014” ICT strategy, developed by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) in coordination with other relevant ministries in 2010, the “Digital Agenda for Germany” sets out a course for the country to establish itself as Europe’s leading digital nation.

The Digital Agenda has three key objectives:

  1. To further explore and exploit the innovative capacity of Germany in order to enable further growth and employment;
  2. To support the nationwide expansion of high-speed networks and enhance digital media literacy across all generations in order to improve access and public participation;
  3. To improve the security and safety of IT systems and services in order to increase trust among the public and the business sector.

The Digital Agenda provides a framework for the country’s digital policy, concentrating activities in seven key fields.

  1. Digital Infrastructure
  2. Digital Economy and Digital Workplaces
  3. Innovative Public Administration
  4. Digital Environments in Society
  5. Education, Research, Science, Culture, and Media
  6. Security, Protection and Confidence for Society and Business
  7. European and International Dimensions of the Digital Agenda

Central the ICT strategy is the development of intelligent networks in the energy, traffic, health, education and administration sectors based on a well-developed broadband infrastructure – with bandwidth of at least 50 Mbit/s available nationwide by 2018.

Germany's ICT strategy adheres to the objectives of the "Digital Agenda for Europe" of the European Union. The Digital Agenda is Europe's strategy for a flourishing digital economy by 2020.

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ICT 2020: Research for Innovation

Innovative ICT research - including IT systems for INDUSTRIE 4.0 - is provided by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) in its “ICT 2020 – Research for Innovation” program within the framework of the High-Tech Strategy 2020 and the federal government’s “Digital Germany 2015” ICT strategy.

Particular ICT research focus is concentrated in the area of ICT in complex systems (e.g. embedded systems), new business processes and production methods as well as the Internet of Things and Services.

Research activities conducted in the area of IT systems for cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and Services, and INDUSTRIE 4.0 are all eligible for funding.

Software systems and knowledge processing research funding is divided into three specific categories:

  • Embedded systems focusing in particular on software-intensive embedded systems with links to electronics, communication technology and microsystems technology;
  • Simulated reality for grid applications and infrastructure, virtual/augmented reality and ambient intelligence, simulation, information logistics and software development for high-performance computing;
  • Human/machine interaction with language and media technologies, bioanalogous information processing, service robotics and usability
  • The three category research areas are complemented by the cross-sectional technologies of software engineering, reliability and security due to their specific focus on the strategic priorities of software-intensive embedded systems, grid applications and infrastructure as well as virtual/augmented reality.

Applicant projects should be business-oriented and include cooperation with either university or non-university research institutions. Calls for applications are published on a case-by-case basis, with the research focus varying between each project.

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AUTONOMIK für Industrie 4.0

“AUTONOMIK für Industrie 4.0 ” is a technology programme initiated by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). Germany’s positions as a world-class production site and provider of production technologies should be secured by creating innovative products and services as ICT solutions and industrial production merge.

The technology initiative contributes to the implementation of the goals set out in the High-Tech Strategy 2020. Priority areas include developing the next evolutionary steps for machines, service robots and other systems able to deal with complex tasks autonomously as the transition from ICT-based control mechanisms to autonomously acting components and systems ushers in a new age in which efficiency, cost effectiveness, and quality increase in new and flexible production infrastructures.

The technological development of the Internet of Things has already been covered in the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) “next generation media (new technologies and ubiquitous computing)” and “AUTONOMIK (autonomous, simulation-based systems for small and medium-sized enterprises)” precursor projects which provided significant impulse to new products, services and business models in different application scenarios.

Important developments in the field of semantic technologies applicable in the Internet of Applications and Services were also established in the BMWi THESEUS R&D funding project.

The successor AUTONOMIK project has made significant funding available to companies and research institutions in order to advance intelligent interacting between ICT and industrial production in the areas of future-oriented production systems and production logic; future-oriented (premium products (including service robots); and future-oriented, knowledge-intensive electronic services

AUTONOMIK für Industrie 4.0 Projects

Twelve pilot schemes were selected as part of the AUTONOMIK funding program. These are as listed below:

  1. AGILITA - Agile production logistics and transport facilities
  2. AutASS - Autonomous drive technology through sensor fusion for smart, simulation-based monitoring & control of production plants
  3. AutoBauLog - Autonomous control in construction site logistics
  4. DyCoNet - Development of energy self-sufficient, smart networks of load carriers in the airfreight industry
  5. LUPO - Performance assessment of autonomous production objects
  6. RAN-based Automotive Network - Transparent and optimum management of processes in the motor-vehicle industry
  7. RoboGasInspector - Simulation-assisted design and evaluation of a human-machine system with autonomous mobile inspection robots for IR optical remote gas leak detection and localisationin industrial plants
  8. RoRaRob-Welding task assistant for tubular and frame structures with a robot system
  9. SaLsA-Safe autonomous logistics and transportation vehicles in outdoor areas
  10. simKMU-Development of non-proprietary, process-integrated and Internet-based simulation services for SMEs
  11. smartOR-Innovative communications and network architectures, for modularised, integrated operating theatres of the future
  12. viEMA-Networked, information-based learning and implementation strategies for autonomous assembly workflows

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CyProS (Cyber-Physical Production Systems)

The CyProS (Cyber-Physical Production Systems) research project consisting of a consortium of actors from science and industry led by Wittenstein AG was initiated in 2012 in order to research and develop a representative spectrum of cyber-physical system modules for production and logistics systems for industrial use.

Together with the underlying reference architecture, also to be developed during the course of the three-year project, these system modules will allow the manufacturing industry to realize a significant increase in productivity and flexibility which will also equip Germany to become the lead user and provider of such systems.

This will allow the complexity of increasing competition to be controlled, but also lead to a sustainable and significant increase in productivity and flexibility of manufacturing companies through the development and introduction of cyber physical production systems (CPPS). The resulting CPPS technologies will allow Germany to increase its competitiveness as an international production location as a result of improved productivity and flexibility, while simultaneously allowing CPPS to be introduced to the market as marketable products, thereby establishing the country as a lead CPPS provider.

CyProS follows three separate goal stages:

  • Development of a reference architecture and a representative spectrum of cyber-physical system modules for production and logistics systems.
  • Provision of universal practices, support tools and platforms for the introduction of cyber-physical production systems.
  • Technical and methodological basis for the commercial operation of cyber-physical production systems and their implementation in the real production environment of a showcase factory.


Launched in June 2011 and funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the RES-COM project addresses questions automatized conservation of resources through highly interconnected and integrated sensor-actuator systems in an INDUSTRIE 4.0 context. Prototype scenarios for context-activated resource efficiency are being implemented. RES-COM adopts a completely new type of core technology based on active digital product memory and software service agents with embedded sensors and actuators.

The project is overseen by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in partnership with partners including SAP, Siemens, IS Predict, and 7x4 Pharma.

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Smart Data

The “Smart Data” technology program follows the objectives of Germany’s Digital Agenda and those set out in the “SMART SERVICE WORLD – Internet-based services for the economy” Future Project enshrined in the High-Tech Strategy 2020.

The initiative builds on the important basic technologies and standards developed in the THESEUS, Trusted Cloud, AUTONOMIK für Industrie 4.0, Electromoblity, and E-Energy projects as a basis for big data.

Traditionally strong areas of the German economy should be strengthened and prepared for future developments by the program. Special challenges exist in the adoption of big data technologies and their targeted implementation within the realms of digital possibility. This is particularly true in the changing industry application scenario, in which significant volumes of data are created in the context of autonomous systems, robotics, and automation technologies (from the networking of embedded systems and sensors to intelligent machines and products that communicate with each other and production planning, monitoring, and decision-making systems).

To date, big data solutions have only been a viable option for major concerns. The Smart Data program seeks to rectify this position by promoting the development and testing of big data technologies for innovative services provided by small and medium-sized enterprises.

The global big data market is expected to record market volume of more than EUR 15 billion in 2016. Germany will account for somewhere in the region of EUR 1.6 billion of this total big data market volume.

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Research for Tomorrow's Production

Research into new production technologies and systems will help create the conditions for the future of manufacturing in Germany and add a technical edge in terms of individualized services, resource conservation and reliability.

Launched in September 2014, the “Research for Tomorrow’s Production” program is the first to bundle production, services, and work R&D activities in order to address the challenges and tasks created by increased integration between the previously separate areas.

Production research themes covered include new opportunities for developing product innovations, for example, through product and service hybrid value added.

Concrete areas of research activity include:

  • Creating the production of the future
  • Helping new product and technologies to break through
  • Green and urban production
  • Producing mobility of the future
  • Promoting SME networks
  • Promoting knowledge as key to productivity

Research calls for proposal in the areas of production resource efficiency, efficiently developed innovative products, electric mobility, and intelligent production networking result in the creation of joint science and industry consortia eligible for funding covering up to 50 percent of costs.

More than 500 collaborative projects consisting of more than three thousand partners have benefited from program funding to date. The program’s holistic approach makes it an important building block of the New High-Tech Strategy.

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Asha-Maria Sharma Asha-Maria Sharma | © GTAI

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