German R&D

Not As Innovative As They Look

“25th Hour” project: Audi is researching the use of time in
Tooting their own horn on innovation: An Audi experiment in automated driving underway at the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart. Source: Audi

When it comes to fostering a culture of innovation, German automakers are happy to toot their own horn. In 2016 alone, Volkswagen, the world’s largest automaker by volume, registered a whopping 6,465 patents. That’s 18 registrations every day. Daimler, in its entire 131 year history, has filed to protect over 110,000 unique inventions. Over the past year, there were 2,000 registrations filed.

These numbers may impress, but a closer look suggests that the quantity doesn’t necessarily translate into quality. Any and every new development can be patented but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be the next iPhone and make for multi-million dollar profits.

Switzerland’s leading economic research organization, BAK Basel, has tallied up the number of “world class” innovations patented – that is, those innovations with tangible practical or major economic value – and has found that Germany isn’t quite as innovative as it looks. The results of BAK Basel’s assessment have been made available exclusively to Handelsblatt.

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