“Say that we’re good.”

In February 2015 Reimund Neugebauer was interviewed. He is the Head of the Fraunhofer Institutes in Germany: 66 research locations, 24,000 employees and an annual budget of 2 billion Euros.

Neugebauer was asked whether German technical and industrial innovation was weakening. His response: Not at all. Germany’s innovativeness secures the country’s prosperity. Fifty percent of all so-called hidden champions (little-known global market leaders in their fields) are located in Germany. Mittelstand companies, said Neugebauer, are simply very modest.

Neugebauer recalled giving a speech at a company anniversary and deservedly praised the firm. “After me, the owner took the stage and said he felt like clarifying something, saying that the company was just one of many and that everyone in the room was good at what they did. 

He was worried that the praise would not be well received. That’s so typical! In a way, I like this modesty, too. But we also have to be able to say that we’re good. Germany wouldn’t be the world’s No. 1 exporter of research-intensive goods if we had constantly missed the boat on innovations.”