The Rhineland-Palatinate is one of 16 German federal states (Länder) located in the southwest of the Federal Republic of Germany. In 2010, its total population was 4.01m, 4.9% of the national total. Its capital city is Mainz. The Rhineland-Palatinate borders the federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse, and the countries Belgium, France and Luxembourg.
In 2010, regional GDP in Rhineland-Palatinate was €107.6b, accounting for 4.3% of the overall German GDP. Regional GDP per capita reached €26,861 in 2010, which amounted to 87.9% of the German average. The regional labour force in 2010 amounted to 1,864m, 4.6% of national total (yearly averages). Most employees work in services (71.7%), while 26.7% work in industry and 1.6% in the agricultural sector. These figures are in line with the national averages (72.9/25.8%/1.3%). In 2010, unemployment in the Rhineland-Palatinate was at 5.7%, well below the national average of 7.7% and the third lowest of all German states, behind Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg.
Rhineland-Palatinate's economy is influenced by its central position in central Europe, its export share being continuously above the German average (46% in 2009). Main export branches include the chemical sector, vehicle construction and mechanical engineering and also wine, the latter reflecting the state's position as Germany's leading producer of wine, both in terms of grape cultivation and wine export. Over the past decades, the state has undergone a significant sectoral shift towards a service economy as indicated in the above cited numbers on sectoral employment. In 2008, the services share of gross value was 66.1% compared to 32.4% in industry and 1.5% in the agricultural sector. Nonetheless, the overall contribution of services is still below average in a German comparison, and traditional industries such as chemicals, mechanical engineering and vehicle construction still play a significant role. Another important branch is the pharmaceutical industry. The corporate landscape is characterised by a high number of specialised small and medium-sized businesses (in both industries and services) and also the presence of a few major multinational enterprises (in industry, e.g., BASF in Ludwigshafen).
The overall RTDI intensity in the Rhineland-Palatinate can be characterised as low compared to other German regions; the Stifterverband ranks Rhineland-Palatinate among those states within Germany with less developed R&D activities. The RTDI sector is industry-oriented by German standards: in 2007, the share of regional business expenditure on R&D amounted to 74.0% compared to 70.0% on the national average. In 2008, the region's overall expenditure on R&D contributed a mere 3.2% (€1,952m) to the German total, even lower than the region's 4.3% GDP share. Correspondingly, the number of DPMA (German Patent Office) patent applications (1,274) remained significantly below German average (3,077) and made up a mere 2.6% of the national total. In 2008, the German federal government spent 1.6% of its total expenditures for R&D in Rhineland-Palatinate (€156.6m). In 2009 about 3.3% of all German R&D personnel are employed in the region (16,761 FTE), roughly two thirds thereof in the business sector (11,803 FTE, 3.7% national total).
Notwithstanding the relatively low overall R&D intensity of the Rhineland-Palatinate, its research infrastructure features several outstanding research units located within the region's higher education institutions as well as non-university research centres. The state comprises four universities and seven state universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschulen). In addition, Rhineland-Palatinate is home to three Max Planck institutes, three Fraunhofer institutes and four institutions of the Leibniz Association, among a variety of other non-university research institutions. The region also contains several research clusters (e.g., in information and communication technology, automotive technologies).
As a German federal state, the Rhineland-Palatinate has substantial autonomy with regard to legislation and tax-raising powers, as well as a say in some matters of federal policy. The German Basic Law gives the states considerable autonomy in R&D policy. This is particularly the case for higher education policy where each state independently enacts its own legislative framework. Within the federal states, the degree of autonomy of single higher education institutions is rather high in terms of profile and research agenda-setting.
At the regional innovation policy level, two ministries play a central role in innovation policy. The Ministry for Economic Affairs, Climate Protection, Energy and Regional Planning is responsible - among other areas - for regional economic and structural policy, industrial policy and business development policy. The Ministry for Education, Science, Further Education and Culture is responsible for education policy as well as science and research policy.
Another major funding agency is the Rhineland-Palatinate Innovation Foundation ("Stiftung Rheinland-Pfalz für Innovation"), founded in 1991 by the state government. The foundation's objective is to support scientific and technological development in the region. Its emphasis is on the support of basic research projects and application-oriented research, new technologies and knowledge transfer to the state's business enterprises. Thematically, the foundation's activities focus on nanotechnology, material sciences, process engineering, biotechnology and chemistry, medicine, and environmental sciences, energy, and information and communication technology.
An important agency which administers public support measures is the Investitions- und Strukturbank Rheinland-Pfalz (ISB). Coordination of knowledge and technology transfer is organised via the IMG-Innovationsmanagement GmbH, which is a subsidiary of the ISB and also the Institut für Innovation, Transfer und Beratung gGmbH (ITB), which is focused on universities of applied sciences.
The overall objectives of Rhineland-Palatinate's regional innovation policy are i) to strengthen the competitiveness of higher education institutions as well as non-university research institutions, ii) to optimise transfer processes between science and economy and iii) to strengthen the innovation capacity of enterprises, especially SMEs. A special emphasis has been on supporting co-operations between science and industry in form of regional clusters and networks and also on establishing transfer networks at higher education institutions (HEIs).
There is no single overarching regional innovation policy document in the Rhineland-Palatinate, but there are several loosely related strategic policies. In 2005, a major initiative ("Initiative Wissen schafft Zukunft") was launched by the State Government, which, in addition to institutional funding, provides additional funds for HEIs and non-university research institutes. The aim is to strengthen infrastructures and to foster profile-building within research as well as technology transfer by cluster-building and networks. In 2009, this initiative was extended with a special emphasis on capacity-building at HEIs in order to strengthen education. Additionally, starting in 2008, a special focus within the framework of the "Wissen schaft Zukunft" program has been started with the "Research Initiative", which aims specifically at the region's four universities and focuses on measures fostering research excellence and profile-building. Accompanying the "Wissen schafft Zukunft" programme, the Ministry for Education, Science, Further Education and Culture also fosters R&D projects within its research and technology programme. Its thematic focus is on the fields of micro-/nanotechnology, ICT, material sciences, optics, health sciences and biotechnology. In addition, there are several programmes supported by the Ministry for Economic Affairs, Climate Protection, Energy and Regional Planning in the areas of entrepreneurship (support for start-ups, spin-offs) and technology transfer. Also, the ISB supports enterprises with financing for R&D projects, market transfer activities, patent activities and start-ups via several programmes.