Aimee Chanthadavong
August 27, 2018

Germany a model of innovation

Policy

Germany a model of innovation

Alex Schlager: German success in innovation provides a model for others

There’s no denying that Germany is an innovation powerhouse. But what is it that underpins Germany’s ability to consistently innovate across different industries at a rate much faster than many other parts of the world?

Alex Schlager, the Verizon executive director for security solutions who spent the last decade in Germany before relocating to the United States believes it’s the country’s ability to focus on following processes.

“The Germans have a very high degree of discipline in terms of adhering to processes and policies,” he told InnovationAus.com.

Mr Schlager says those processes are mainly underpinned by strong government policies and monetary incentives – including grants and subsidies – that are designed to support enterprises with their international endeavours.

Mr Schlager said while there are countries like the United States that are equally innovative, the way the Germans approach it is very different.

“The Germans are very engineering focused, engineering minded. Thinking happens from the bottom up when they approach specific problems,” he said.

“In the US, it’s a little bit different. It’s more top down, it’s more outcome orientated. But in the end you see very high degrees of innovation in both countries.”

Mr Schalger’s remarks come as the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council (IPC) released a report, The Innovation Economy, which identified Bavaria, Ontario, and Massachusetts as some of the most innovative regions.

NSW IPC chairman Neville Stevens attributed the success of these regions to long-term government policies.

“All of these successful regions have decades [of support] behind them. Innovation isn’t an overnight success. It’s the result of a range of consistency of government policies over a long period of time,” he said during the launch,” he said.

“I think it’s an area that we can have a look at in Australia. There is a tendency sometimes that we perhaps have not been sufficiently long term when it comes to innovation.”

However, Mr Schlager notes that while there are some clear advantages to adhering to policies and process, it can also hinder on a country’s ability to be agile, which is he says is also another contributing factor to innovation.

“Agility is a very big cultural challenge in terms of when you think about agile and agile development. It’s a very developed set of tools and methodology. You can learn it, but it’s ultimately changing the behaviour and culture. The willingness to change a culture will drive behaviour,” he said.

Regardless of how a country approaches innovation whether it’s through a combination of strong government policies or agile practices, Mr Schlager believes that government will always look to enterprises for innovation – and it will never be the other way around.

“Government look to the enterprise space to understand what might be applicable and state of the art in the context of government,” he said.

“But I doubt it will never be the other way around, which is not bad or negative; they just work at a difference pace and they are driven by different requirements.”

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