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Migration bolsters Germany's innovation, study says

Alexander Pearson
January 2, 2019

The German Economic Institute says its analysis of German patents underscores the need for fewer restrictions on migrant scientists and technicians. The German government recently approved a draft law to that effect.

Woman and man sitting at computers
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Rehder

Nearly one in 10 patent applications in Germany were filed by inventors with a non-German background, a study has revealed.

The share of patent applications by these inventors increased from 6.1 percent in 2005 to 9.4 percent in 2016, the business-friendly German Economic Institute (IW) found in its latest report.

"The results show that migration is making an ever greater contribution to Germany's innovative strength," authors' Oliver Koppel and Enno Röben said.

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Because applications do not include the nationality of the inventor, the Cologne-based organization searched its own patent database for inventors whose first name was foreign in origin and relatively rare in Germany.

The analysis revealed that the number of applications by inventors whose first name met those criteria increased by more than 65 percent from 2005 to 2016. The number of applications from inventors whose first name was German or a foreign name that is popular in Germany increased by slightly more than 1 percent.

Inventors whose first names stemmed from eastern and southeastern Europe filed the largest share of patent applications during this period.

IW: Immigration law would benefit Germany

Koppel and Röben said the results underscored the need for the government to pass a draft law that would ease labor restrictions on migrants from non-European Union countries.

"The planned Immigration Act, whose aims include further simplifying immigration procedures from third countries for technicians and scientists … would provide a positive impetus for Germany's innovation system," they said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet approved the draft law in December amid pressure from German businesses struggling to overcome labor shortfalls in multiple sectors such as IT and construction.

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