AiF board members Jens Jerzembeck and Thomas Reiche (r.) - © DVS and FehS

AiF is an effective partner in the German innovation system

"'Do' is the motto of SMEs with an affinity for research, and thus also of the AiF, in view of the transformational challenges facing the German economy, which can only be overcome through research and innovation," explains Thomas Reiche, Chairman of the AiF Arbeitsgemeinschaft industrieller Forschungsgemeinschaften "Otto von Guericke" e.V. and Managing Director of AiF member FEhS-Institut für Baustoff-Forschung e.V. (FEhS Institute for Building Materials Research). In its current reorientation process, the AiF is contributing its decades of expertise as a bridge builder between industry, science and politics in favour of innovative SMEs. "As an umbrella organisation of 85 non-profit research associations, the AiF is the only research-oriented, cross-sector and technology-open industrial network at national level and is of outstanding importance for the German innovation system," emphasises Reiche.

"Research associations are associations of companies with common research interests and are therefore a special feature of the German research landscape," adds Jens Jerzembeck, also an AiF board member and Managing Director of the DVS Research Association for Welding and Allied Processes. "Industry-supported research associations, such as the members of the AiF, have initiated and continue to initiate hundreds of thousands of innovation projects that are geared towards the needs of companies and thus demonstrably strengthen the competitiveness of the German economy." The AiF and its members have a unique infrastructure for cross-industry cooperation between companies and scientific institutions within the framework of pre-competitive joint industrial research (IGF). The Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection (BMWK) supports IGF projects with public funds in the programme of the same name.

As it no longer administers the IGF programme as of this year, the AiF is realigning its commitment as a strong voice for innovative SMEs. Reiche says: "With the involvement of all members, we are adjusting and sharpening our self-image and our mission as a coordinator of SMEs' research needs, defining future tasks and optimising the organisational structure". Strengthening joint industrial research has been the statutory purpose of the AiF since it was founded in 1954. "For this reason, we continue to advocate the preservation and expansion of the IGF. It is a key instrument not only to ensure the competitiveness and future viability of SMEs, but also to support them in the urgent transformation tasks," explains Jerzembeck.

The digital platform AiF InnovatorsNet also contributes to cross-industry networking. It offers companies, start-ups, research institutes and other organisations from the innovation spectrum in the Federal Republic of Germany the opportunity for a low-threshold exchange and provides information on current topics relating to research, innovation and transfer. Representatives from companies, universities and research institutes value AiF InnovatorsNet as a "sustainable ecosystem for innovation", "tangible transfer" and "network for future-oriented cooperation between start-ups and SMEs".