The German government has singled out six high-tech research projects in eastern Germany to receive a whopping grant in an effort to energize the region's sputtering economy.
Eastern Germany is going for high-tech solutions
German Research Minister Annette Schavan said on Monday, May 5 that she wanted to kickstart the economy in former Communist East Germany and stem the flight of thousands of young people from the depressed region with a massive cash injection aimed at boosting cutting-edge research and development.
Schavan said six pilot projects in six German states had been selected to receive a total government grant of 48 million euros.
The minister told the Tagesspiegel newspaper that the program, was intended to give selected research projects "the necessary impetus to compete successfully internationally for the best minds."
Schavan told the Potsdamer Neueste Nachrichten newspaper that it aimed "to promote technology-oriented initiatives that increased the innovativeness and thus the economic strength of the new eastern German states."
Feeding back into the eastern German economy
The field of optics is one of eastern Germany's focal points.
The program is intended to promote joint initiatives between universities, independent institutes and businesses, thereby supporting knowledge transfer. It builds on existing strengths in the region.
The undertakings include an investigation by the Geo-Research Institute in Potsdam near Berlin and Cottbus's Brandenburg Technical University into producing geo-thermal energy, as well as projects on plasma medicine (Greifswald), optics (Jena, Ilmenau, Erfurt), water research (Dresden), biomedicine (Max Delbrück Center and Charite in Berlin) and software research (Magdeburg).
Eastern Germany still suffers from higher overall unemployment than western Germany 18 years after reunification. Young people continue to leave the region's rural areas, in particular, in large numbers.
Some media reports say the program is intended to stem this problem. The research minister told Focus news magazine that "there are a number of signs that indicate that eastern Germany still needs considerable support in this respect."
However, there have also been success stories in cities that have concentrated on developing high-tech industries, such as Leipzig, Dresden and Jena.