Innovation and Gender Research

Worldwide innovations such as the internal combustion engine, the aspirin or the mp3 format originated in Germany. For Germany to continue to compete internationally, the long-term innovation potential of the German economy must be exploited and increased. Most German innovation, especially in the industrial sector, occurs in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which are often able to hold their own in the world market with very little investment in R&D and often with no R&D department of their own. One determining factor is the growth of regional suppliers and industrial structures. Another is conducive institutional and local conditions.

Nevertheless all companies are experiencing growing pressure to compete more effectively and to continually increase their foothold on the worldwide market. In order to maintain and increase their innovative capacity, both small and larger companies realise that they must become more open to innovation, in the sense of open innovation, and at the same time must make available the competencies and resources necessary for innovation to take place. The increasingly demanding task of innovation management is, particularly for SMEs, a huge challenge. Joint innovation projects with other companies or research institutes can be successful approaches. Cooperation with other partners can reduce the risks of innovation and offer opportunities for additional external resources. However finding suitable partners and the exact definition of joint projects is not always easy. Different company strategies demand internal innovation management approaches which take individual circumstances into consideration. The identification and development of such innovation management approaches is a central focus of our research.

Technology and technological developments, like science and knowledge, are not inherently neutral. Cultural and social structures and attitudes also play a role, which are expressed in the relationships between the genders in individual societies. Gender relations in turn also influence the development of society, science and technology in complex ways. In periods of economic, political and social change, existing views on gender and gender relations are increasingly called into question and modified. One of the tasks of gender research is to investigate the impact of gender on such processes and developments. The participation of women in highly-qualified scientific and technical work in Germany is minimal. However with the increasing importance of the knowledge society, more and more highly-skilled workers will be required. Current demographic changes in Germany and the already-noticeable lack of skilled workers, have increased the focus on the subject of equality between women and men, something academics, politicians and industry have been demanding for decades. For this reason the German government, its regional states and the EU support a range of equal opportunities measures at various levels.

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