The Visible Hand Making Germany A High Tech Heavy Hitter

Ever since George Bush became President, Washington has debated whether Uncle Sam should support commercial research and development directly. Many industry groups and technopundits say yes; the Bush Administration says no. Now comes a report from the industry-funded Council on Competitiveness that adds more fuel to the fire by linking much of Germany's technological prowess to its industrial policy.

The report points out that Germany leads the world in many technological categories. In 1990, it exported nearly 30% more manufactured goods than did either the U.S. or Japan. The reasons, the report says, include industrial cooperatives, which help companies solve problems and acquire new manufacturing technologies, and research institutes that do R&D for industry and train students to solve real-world problems.

The German government also devotes a higher percentage of its R&D funds to commercial technologies than does the U.S., says Daniel F. Burton Jr., the council's executive vice-president. "The No. 1 lesson is that industrial innovation is a direct and specific goal of German government policy," he says.

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