In its weekly report the DIW Berlin took positive stock of the initiative International Liaison Offices Research-Co-operations, an initiative which was started by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 1995 and which was continued by the Federal Ministry of Economics in 1999.
Nineteen liaison offices were set up by the project sponsors (German Federation of Industrial Research Associations, German Association of Chambers of Industry and Commerce and the German Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft) in Central and Eastern Europe in Asia and South America. In these countries small and medium sized companies often have access to unexploited know-how which could help increase their innovative capacity and competitiveness. For the companies involved, these markets are also interesting markets for the future. The foreign liaison office's task is to deliver up to date information on the research landscape in these countries for small and medium sized businesses as well as for research institutes. The organisation and implementation of international research and development co-operations is another free service provided by the office. Joint R&D co-operations are often a precondition for a future opening-up of new markets and a co-operation in production and marketing processes. Yet, most medium and small sized businesses are still reluctant to enter international R&D co-operations - a fact that can be mainly attributed to lack of experience and fear of high costs.
About 190 meetings, which had been organised by the liaison office till the end of August 2000, resulted in R&D partnerships. However, the actual number of co-operation projects is probably much higher, as only projects which were later submitted to research sponsorship were recorded. The liaison offices also support cross-border agreements on R&D labour division and on the economic use of the R&D results. Considerable results have been obtained so far- an average of only 100.000 DM was spent on each office by the Federal Ministry of Economy. In its expertise the DIW-Berlin and the Institute for Socio-Economic Structural Analysis (SÖSTRA-GmbH) favour a well adjusted extension of the office network and a flexible financial and personal equipment adapted to the countries' different demands. Information-flow networking between the different foreign offices, the three project sponsors, the small and medium sized German businesses as well as R&D institutions is furthermore envisaged.