Clusters - Networks - International

Innovation and value-creation chains are becoming progressively globalised. Global challenges and innovation opportunities have to be tackled by cooperation with international partners from science and economy.

Auszeichnung der erfolgreichen Bewerbungen
Winners of the first round © Hans-Christian Plambeck

Innovation through international networking

Sharing own abilities with others and extend them with international knowledge will help staying competitive and innovative in future. Strengthening international networking of German research and industry is therefore a key element of the German Government’s new High-Tech Strategy.   

By global cooperation with the best minds, the potential for innovation is increased. At the same time the competitiveness of enterprises will be reinforced and solutions to global challenges will be promoted.

Bringing together success stories: internationalisation of clusters and networks

In Germany, research institutions, universities, companies, and other actors have already successfully joined forces in clusters and networks. New promising technologies, products and solutions arise through cooperation across different industries and technologies. In many cases, first contacts have already been established to other leading regions of the world providing complementary skills.

With the funding measure the Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports German clusters and networks in building bridges to complementary players in the world. During a concept development phase and an implementation phase successful applicants shall expand existing contacts to sustainable international cooperation and implement joint research projects to realise innovative leaps. Thus, both sides become more innovative and can better compete internationally.


The funding measure supports the development of internationalisation concepts and their implementation in projects on an equal footing with worldwide partners. Therefore each project can receive funding up to four million euros over a period of up to five years on the German side. In the 3rd round of competition, the independent jury has recommended ten projects for promotion. All projects will start in January 2018.

In December 2015 a comprehensive accompanying research project began its work. The aim is to develop knowledge concerning international cooperation of clusters and networks continuously and to create a basis for the analysis of funding effects. The accompanying research supports the projects in sharing experiences of successful developing and implementing their internationalisation strategies. According to the character of a “learning measure”, the Ministry intends to allow additional accompanying studies with regard to the further development of the funding measure or the exchange of experiences among the project actors.

Who are potential cooperation partners?

The funding measure will foster the cooperation between leading international clusters, networks and innovation regions. Potential foreign cooperation partners should have:

  • complementary competences compared to the German partner cluster or network
  • their own management organisation or alternatively be structured as managed network
  • the ability to realise the cooperation on an equal footing (funding, know-how, division of labour, etc.)
  • the objective to design joint rules of cooperation (cooperation treaty, IP-regulations, etc.).

It is expected that the cooperation projects in the implementation phase are “balanced” between the German and the international partners (particularly with respect to expertise, funding and division of tasks).

Concept development phase

In order to link local dynamics with complementary competences of leading international regions, the management organisations of the leading-edge clusters, forward-looking projects, and comparable networks involved will first draw up an internationalisation concept as part of a concept development phase lasting a maximum of two years. The internationalisation concept has to be developed with the regional partners (bottom-up) and the potential international partners in question. Special emphasis is given to the involvement of SMEs.

On the basis of the internationalisation concept, specific cooperation projects, especially in the area of research, development and innovation (R&D&I), will be developed and coordinated with partners from the prioritised international innovation regions.

Implementation phase

Within this phase the joint R&D&I projects are realised between the members of the German clusters and networks and the members of the international partner regions. Projects have to be sketched out in the internationalisation concept and are part of the joint strategic development. The issues in question must reflect the necessity for international cooperation and the exploitation of complementary expertise for innovation.