Work package 5: International innovation networks

Research question/focus

Working package 5 is concerned with international innovation networks and the influence of the Corona pandemic on selected country relationships. The working package generates insights and records experiences on the influence of the Covid 19 pandemic on the relationship levels between Germany and relevant innovation partner countries. After analyzing the strategic relevance, feasibility and cultural experiences, Fraunhofer IMW looks at the innovation relationship with countries in different continents: Germany-Sweden/Switzerland, Germany-Israel and Germany-South Korea/Thailand.

For each of the different constellations, the team analyzes which risk factors have had an impact on the relationship level in advance, how the Corona measures influenced them, and which measures can be used to reduce the impact of the current and possible future shocks on the respective relationships. The overarching goal is to strengthen the resilience of bilateral relationships through learning from experience.

The overarching research questions are:

1. how do innovation-involved actors in different contexts respond to the crisis?

2. what influences arise from selected policy interventions on innovation-involved cooperation?

3. what are the implications for future policy decisions and what lessons learned can be derived to stabilize innovation-oriented cooperation?


In the vast majority of cases, innovation and value creation take place in international networks and are subject to complex interdependencies. In terms of innovation policy, the promotion of international networks has also gained substantial strategic relevance in recent years (BMBF 2019).

However, international crises such as the current pandemic and their influence on international cooperation have hardly been considered so far. In particular, questions arise as to how pandemic perceptions as well as pandemic-induced crisis management measures affect international innovation activities and the respective network relationships. On the one hand, there are uncertainties whether the private sector in particular will cut back on its research and development spending and innovation efforts. There are also descriptions of an increasing retreat into the public domain, which could also impair cross-border cooperation in the promotion of research, development and innovation. On the other hand, isolated studies of other crises show that they had hardly any negative effects on innovation activities in the medium term.

The question therefore remains how scarcity, uncertainty and major challenges influence incremental and radical innovations as well as the corresponding international cooperation. Working package 5 starts at this point and looks at the influence of the ongoing crisis on bilateral international cooperation. The focus is on activities that directly or indirectly influence innovation potential and innovation activities - from research and development to sectoral innovations. The team thus understands innovation networks as associations of heterogeneous organizations (companies, universities, research institutions, research and funding policy) that pursue the goal of exploiting knowledge and generating innovations.



The research design includes five empirical case studies that look at different levels of inter-continental relationships. The case studies are complemented by a meta-analysis. The meta-level will particularly focus on cultural, economic and political-social factors. 

Case studies 1 and 2: Germany - Sweden and Germany – Switzerland:

  • Topic and research design: How did different policies in the wake of the corona pandemic affect the innovation behavior of various actors within bilateral cross-national innovation networks? What measures were taken to compensate for potentially obstructive influences on innovation systems and how did this affect bilateral innovation systems? Paradigmatically, the project is located in social constructionism. Methodologically, a model identification is developed based on the literature. Empirical data is gained through semi-structural interviews and media analysis interpreted with actor-network analysis.

Case study 3: Germany – Israel:

  • Topic and research design: How does the corona crisis affect the cooperation of German-Israeli research consortia and innovation partners? How does the corona crisis affect cooperation and innovation behavior? The focus of the analysis is on bilateral cooperation priorities (e.g. chemical industry, biopharmaceutical industry, computer and information technologies). Paradigmatically, the study is anchored in critical positivism. Methodologically, bibliometric analyses, qualitative content analyses, guided interviews, and analyses of media and press releases are conducted.

Case studies 4 und 5: Germany – South Korea and Germany – Thailand:

  • Topic and research design: How does the corona pandemic in the partner countries South Korea and Thailand affect the acceptance of international R&D collaborations. How are the responsible funding agencies and selected bilateral innovation collaborations with Germany be affected? The focus is on selected bilateral cooperation priorities between Thailand or South Korea and Germany, e.g. Industry 4.0 (both), bioeconomy (Thailand) and energy/smart cities (South Korea). Paradigmatically, the study is situated in social constructionism. Methodologically, narrative analyses and guided interviews will be conducted, which will be complemented by virtual focus groups where appropriate.

Fraunhofer IMW

The Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy IMW in Leipzig has been conducting applied, socio-technological and socio-economic research in Leipzig, Germany, since 1996. For the long-term success of customers and partners from business, industry, research and society, the institute develops scientifically based solutions for current global challenges. The institute thus specialises in a range of services on internationalization and knowledge economy in various world regions, including especially North Africa and various parts of the Asian continent (especially West Asia and Southeast Asia).

Expected results

Working package 5 generates findings on the influence of Covid-19 on the relationship levels between Germany and relevant innovation partner countries. It analyzes which risk factors existed in advance, how the corona measures affected them, and which measures can be used to reduce the influence of the current and possible future shocks on the respective relationships (strengthening resilience).

The working package elaborates factors that have a rather positive and rather negative impact on selected bilateral relations with Germany. These factors will be translated into recommendations for decision makers to mitigate the impact of current and possible future shocks on innovation relations.

work package 1

Project management

work package 2

Research data management

work package 3

Political decisions for the containment of the Corona pandemic

work package 4

Economy and Society

work package 6

Civil protection and security

work package 7

Application-oriented research

work package 8

Recommendations for action