In terms of RTDI, Saxony is leading amongst the former East German regions but lagging nationally. In 2017, the gross expenditure on research and development was 2.81%, slightly below the national average 3.07%, but well above the European one 2.08% (Eurostat, 2020). Its RTDI sector is public-oriented by German standards. In, 2017, the share of regional business expenditure on R&D amounted to 44% (€1.47b) compared to 69% for the national average (Eurostat, 2020). Likewise, the region’s overall expenditure on R&D contributes by 3.41% (€3.4bn) to the German total which is in line with the region’s share in GDP (3.07%) (Eurostat, 2020).
Similarly, the number of EPO patent applications per 100,000 inhabitants (9.3 in 2012) remains significantly below the German average (23.03). The share of employment in high-tech industries and knowledge-intensive services amounted to 3.9%, notably below the national average of 4.2% (2017) (Eurostat, 2020).
The region hosts one of the nation’s most renowned technical universities, the Dresden University of Technology (TU-Dresden), one of Germany’s eleven Universities of Excellence with a notable focus in technical fields and natural sciences. The main fields are: natural sciences and mathematics, civil and environmental engineering, engineering sciences, humanities and social sciences, medicine and teacher training.
In Saxony, there are four state universities, an institutionally separate graduate school, five state universities of applied sciences, five state universities of Arts and five universities of applied sciences (Studieren in Sachsen, 2019). Around 50 non-university research institutes operate in Saxony among them features four Helmholtz facilities, six institutes of the Max Planck Society, fourteen institutes of the Fraunhofer Society, eight institutes of the Leibniz Association, a branch of one such institute as well as six institutes funded from the regional level (Ausseruniversitäre Forschung, 2019).
Despite a large array of higher education and research institutions, only 33.2% of 30-34-year olds had attained tertiary education levels in Saxony (2019), a figure below the German average (35.5%) and well below the European average (41.6%) (Eurostat, 2010). Moreover, only 3.9% of the working people are employed in the high technology sector which is lower than the national average (4.2%) and the European average (4.2%) (Eurostat, 2020).
Three highly cross-sectoral topics stand out in terms of innovation: lightweight engineering, energy storage technologies, electromobility or organic & flexible electronics.(Business Saxony, 2019).
In Saxony, several platforms or infrastructures supporting innovation can be found. The incubators contribute towards the competitiveness of the development and growth of young enterprises in the region. Amongst them, the Technology Centre Dresden (TechnologieZentrumDresden, TZD), founded in 1990, is one of the largest German technology centres. The TZD provides customised infrastructure and services for innovative start-ups as well as SMEs. The Technology Centre Chemnitz (Technologie Centrum Chemnitz, TCC), offers a mix of creative spaces and professional workplace as well as an excellent infrastructure, combined with consulting and general assistance. The TCC’s four locations host some 70 companies today.
Meanwhile Chemnitz hosts the Smart Systems Campus, a technology park that focuses on microsystems technology and brings together science, research, and industry actors. The BIO CITY LEIPZIG houses an innovation incubator where researcher and entrepreneurs work together in the fields of biotechnology and biomedicine. The BioInnovationCenter Dresden (BioInnovationsZentrumDresden, BioZ) has a specific focus on molecular bioengineering, which also brings together scientists and young professionals in the field. A further 13 technology centres exist in the region.