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Dr Peter Wittmann
Public Relations

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Innovative strength is unequally distributed in Germany

Despite increasing digitalisation, innovations are still concentrated in the large cities and their immediate surroundings. Regions far away from the metropolises remain lagging behind. One reason is the deficits in public education and research infrastructure in peripheral areas. This is shown in a current study under the direction of the Leibniz Institute for Regional Geography.

According to the scientists' findings, the players in out-of-town areas are certainly integrated into supra-regional networks. However, publicly funded cooperation activities in particular are strongly oriented towards densely populated areas. Far away from the urban agglomerations, however, knowledge, ideas, findings and methods spread in Germany only to a limited extent. In the metropolitan region, the actors cooperate mainly among themselves and little with partners outside the metropolitan areas. These differences are more pronounced among public research institutions than among companies. The researchers conclude from this that peripheral regions are lagging behind in terms of innovation performance and knowledge transfer mainly due to their weakly developed public education and research infrastructure.

To compensate for this deficit, the researchers recommend strengthening the education sector with a focus on dual training systems and promoting multilocal networks and exchange opportunities with innovative actors. Local skills should also be supported and obstacles to knowledge sharing removed. These include, for example, information deficits regarding the expertise of research institutions or lack of interest on the part of companies in participating in research projects.

The study is based on data on the innovation and cooperation behaviour of various groups of actors in Germany. The focus is on contractually regulated forms of cooperation and knowledge exchange. Surveys in the Thuringian Kyffhäuserkreis and the Donau-Ries district in Bavaria are intended to shed light on the more informal transfer mechanisms. The results will soon be published as part two of the study.


The study is part of the joint project "Broadening Horizons - Changing Perspectives" funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, which is developing strategies to promote the transfer of research results to areas far from conurbations in four model regions. It takes a look at rural regions as specific innovation areas and thus expands the discourse fixed on metropolitan areas.

Original publication

Brachert, Mattias / Graffenberger, Martin / Lang, Thilo (2020): Innovation and knowledge transfer outside the agglomerations. Context factors, structures and spatial patterns. (forum ifl 36), Leipzig, 147 p. ISBN 978-3-86082-109-1.

Scientific contact person

Dr. Thilo Lang