The Foundation and Source of Germany’s Innovation Ability - Preface

Germany is recognized worldwide as the leading country on innovation ability. In all of the ranks of the innovative countries with a worldwide impact, Germany never falls out of the top six. Great innovation vitality, outstanding innovation teams, excellent innovation system, eminent innovation transformation ability and keen ability to capture the market for innovation, all of which have brought Germany with great material wealth, strong national strength, well-off lives for common people, stability and prominent international prestige.

The competition of the national strength in the world nowadays is the competition of national innovation ability in nature. It would be very hard for a nation without innovation ability to maintain its ability of sustainable development. The founder of the innovation theory as well as an Austria-American scholar, Professor Joseph Schumpeter put forward the famous assertion of "creative destruction" more than a century ago. The innovation, no matter it is a product, a process, or a mechanism, more often than not, brings a new enterprise, a new industry or even a new market into being, whose emergence tends to eliminate a large number of off-the-shelf products, thus gives a devastating blow to many companies, and even the whole industry.

 Even once the leading enterprises and industries, if lying asleep on the original innovation, also can't get rid of the mojo of the "creative destruction" theory, nor of the fate of elimination. On October 14, 2014, the Finnish Prime Minister Alexander Stubb remarked that Apple's series of innovative products destroyed the two pillar industries in Finland. As a result, the national economy began to decline, and the national credit rating was downgraded. His comments are very thought-provoking. He said, "Two champions in our country fell down. iPhone killed Nokia, while iPad killed the Finnish paper-making industry. But Finland won't bend, we will stage a comeback."i

 "Creative destruction" theory shed light upon a truth: only by innovating persistently can an enterprise remain in the leading position in the market; only by innovating consistently can a society have a solid material foundation; only by innovating ceaselessly can a nation never perish from the earth. Germany provides us with an exceptional reference in this sense. In fact, Germany also has experienced dark period in its historical development, for example, time of Nazi ruling, but German people are good at reflecting on the history, adept in learning from mistakes, and are able to regain confidence and strength to innovate after setbacks. Now, like what Stefan Theil analyzed in his essay "Why Germany Still Makes Things"ii, Germany’s innovation ability is in many ways superior to the United States rather than inferior.

So what is the foundation and source of Germany’s innovation ability? Why can this country always hold an invincible position in the fierce of global competition? Yet nobody can answer this question clearly, even the German society and academia have controversy over it. To answer the question clearly, however, is of great theoretical significance and prime practical significance. The year 2015 is the launching year of the "Sino-German innovation partnership". Expectations from the two governments, interests of the two societies, enthusiasm of the business fields of the two countries, concern from academia of the two countries, all made Institute of German Studies of Tongji University, the in November 2014 newly founded think-tank in this field, focus its studies on Germany’s innovation ability, and we are very honored to accept the challenge and fix "the foundation and source of Germany’s innovation ability" as the motif of the first annual themed blue book, in hope of attracting more brilliant articles and understanding the real reasons for Germany’s innovation ability, learning from German lessons and experience of innovation so as to make contributions to improving China's continuous innovation ability.

A nation's continuing innovation ability should be generated from the interior, instead of the exterior. Therefore, the analysis of Germany’s innovation ability cannot be separated from the analysis of German history, culture, politics, economy, military, language, philosophy, medicine, music, ethics, moral integrity, architecture, food, folk customs and religious beliefs. Employing the wholistic methodology, we will systematically analyze the foundation and source of Germany’s innovation ability centering on the theme of "Germany’s innovation ability", explore its historical origin, reveal its cultural background, parse its policy, tap into its military motivation, comb its philosophical connotation, probe into its medical ingredients, identify its music content, measure its ethics, uncover its moral basis, describe its architectural inspiration, disclose its basic diet, investigate the origin of the customs as well as review its religion. However, the innovation, as we understand, is not confined to the innovation on technology and institution in the sense of economics, instead, we advocate an innovative perspective in a broader sense to include the social innovation and managerial innovation in the scope of investigation, which also conforms to the main idea of Programs of Action for Sino-German Cooperation: Jointly Build the Innovation (published by both Chinese and German Governments in October 2014).

The wholistic method needs a whole team. Relying on the rich resources of the studies of Germany accumulated over a century in Tongji University, we have worked hand in hand with some top-notch experts in this field both at home and abroad to analyze systematically the foundation and source of Germany’s innovation ability from five aspects, namely, economy, politics, culture, society, ecological civilization. Relevant issues include: the links between German system of social market economy and Germany’s innovation; the role of driving force of the German cooperation system plays in Germany’s innovation ability; cultural interpretation of Germany’s innovation ability; relation between Germany's social security system and German innovation; investigation of Germany's innovation ability in the perspective of Germany’s strategy of energy shift, and so on. Each piece of the directional analysis is an independent analysis report, exploring the connection between each relevant field and Germany’s innovation ability, analyzing the effect of the relevant fields on German innovation ability and its mechanism, unveiling the principles of the mechanism of effects and its intensity.

Here, experts in this field both at home and abroad are all cordially invited to join our discussion, contribute to the publication, share innovative opinion with us, and we expect to work hand in hand to explore "The Foundation and Source of Germany’s Innovation Ability".

i Matt Clinch, "How Apple prompted this country's downgrade", CNBC, 13 Oct 2014.

ii Stefan Theil, "Why Germany Still Makes Things", Scientific American 307, October 2012, pp. 41-43.