Networks and clusters

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Over the last few years, the Federal Government and the states have initiated a series of projects which aim to create networks and clusters that promote new technologies. Networks and clusters involve both industrial and academic institutions in their research and development activities. 

What is a cluster?

A cluster is an association of businesses, universities, research institutions and other organisations in one region that share a common field of activity. This geographic and thematic proximity creates trust and synergies – important preconditions for utilising joint potential: ideas are conceived, developed and implemented together. This does not only generate new partnerships and faster and more efficient knowledge transfer, but also a positive climate for company formations and business start-ups.  

Key features

One key aim of these bodies is to accelerate the process of making new technology products marketable. Networks and clusters are arranged with respect to 

  • Regional representation 
  • Research topics 
  • Specific application areas and future markets

Promoting networks and clusters

Various support measures – such as the go-cluster programme, the Leading-Edge Cluster Competition and its successor, a funding measure called Internationalisation of Leading-Edge Clusters, Forward-Looking Projects, and Comparable Networks – have aimed to promote the development of powerful cluster structures that will strengthen cooperation between research and industry. The Research Campus funding initiative also supports universities, research institutions and companies that seek to enter into long-term collaborative partnerships on a research topic. Special support is provided for the development of cluster structures, the improvement of the quality of cluster management organisations, innovative service concepts and projects to implement internationally competitive cluster strategies.

Lighthouse projects

One example of a project named as a leading-edge cluster in the relevant competition is Cool Silicon. This network aims to massively increase energy efficiency in the information and communication technology sector. Cool Silicon brings together over 60 companies and research centres from Saxony and beyond. The cluster supports cooperation between research institutions and SMEs to advance the development of new products and solutions.

Cluster Electric Mobility South-West is another lighthouse project. It includes over 120 partners from four sectors in southwestern Germany, where the car industry and its suppliers have deep roots. The members are united in their goal of developing new approaches for a sustainable form of electromobility.

Organisational details

A comprehensive overview of the German cluster landscape and the activities of the Federal Government, the German states (Länder) and the EU in relation to clusters is available at Clusterplattform Deutschland. The website is a joint information portal of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). It offers an overview of support measures and events for research clusters. Here you can find an overview of the cluster landscape.

Research activities

Research activities are conducted in a variety of fields – for example:

  • Environmental technologies
  • Production technologies
  • Information and communications technology
  • Energy technologies
  • Automotive
  • Biotechnology
  • Health industry
  • Medical technology
  • Materials technologies

Research budget

Statistics on the total budget are not available. Public funding is provided as seed capital to form networks and clusters and support research projects on condition that industry and private investors share the financial costs.

Both the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) support these types of associations with different programmes and competitions.