Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) form the backbone of the German economy. More than 99% of German corporations are classed as SMEs; of these, 83% employ fewer than five people. Thus, it is only natural for policymakers in an innovation-driven economy like Germany's to pay special attention to SMEs' innovative efforts and success. However, in recent years the number of patent applications from SMEs has been stagnating, and industry groups bemoan a lack of SME engagement in patenting activities.
Given this situation, Bavaria's Ministry of Economic Affairs (Bavaria being one of Germany's federal states) sought to optimize Bavaria's support infrastructure for SME and start-up patenting activities. Bavaria is Germany's most innovative region by several measures (e.g., number of patent applications or R&D expenditure as a share of overall spending), yet observes the same issues in SME patenting as does Germany as a whole.
Dennemeyer Consulting conducted a holistic, qualitative study over the summer of 2018 to assist the Ministry in this endeavor. A comprehensive assessment of the existing support infrastructure was complemented by a series of in-depth interviews with both (potential) clients, i.e., innovative SMEs and suppliers of support services, be it advisory or financial. Thus, it was possible to arrive at recommendations for improvement.
The detailed stock-taking of the extended support system found a large variety of offers, institutions and people involved, from the communal level all the way up to the state level (and beyond to the federal tier and EU level in Horizon 2020 with regards to financial support). Government-funded institutions cover a lot of support offers without entering into competition with commercial providers. Their support offers range from information events over inventor advice and patent searches to obtaining financial aid from a variety of sources.
While the number of services provided is rather large, they tend to be focused on the early stages of the IP life cycle. This means that while there is a lot of support for identifying patentable inventions and working toward the patent application itself, significantly less help is available for establishing market access, defending or exploiting a patent once it is granted.
To find out more about the results of the study, download the white paper below.
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