A lot. The overly narrow focus on a particular domain of innovation starves the support for innovation is other domains, making Germany lose out in those domains.
This has been bugging me for some time now.
Somehow German politics declared “Industrie 4.0” (industry 4.0) to be a major area of innovation for Germany. Focus, attention, and funding followed. Industrie 4.0 is supposed to be the next evolutionary step in industrial production based on the convergence of the various technology streams we are currently witnessing (software, biotech, hightech, what have you).
As a colleague said: “I have a lot of projects in the 4.0 domain” suggesting, somewhat humorously, that this artificial concept is a research and development domain of its own (rather than a continuation of new and old domains).
This focus comes to the detriment of other domains of innovation. Where is the support for makers, fintech and others? If there is support, it pales in comparison with the funds being channeled into “the 4.0 domain”.
If you want focus and if you want a label for that, it should be much bigger. For example, Internet of Things easily subsumes Industrie 4.0 and would be both broader and more relevant. But that may not have played well to the interests of established German industries. Too bad only that the future isn’t necessarily where the past was.
Fortunately, public funding isn’t everything. Smart entrepreneurs will know where to head to (and when to run for the hills). As such, public funding doesn’t matter as much. Still, smarter signals for domains unchartered rather than incremental would be better.