Using the Chances of Chemistry 4.0 for a Strong Location

Industrial Policy: Using the Chances of Chemistry 4.0

Arguments and Positions

Industry is the basis for Germany’s economic strength. Products and innovations from the chemical-pharmaceutical industry decisively contribute to success. But the environment for companies is changing rapidly: While competitive pressure is growing, the fourth industrial revolution has started – and sustainable management is gaining in importance.

Innovations are the prerequisite for a successful future of Germany; they are increasingly being developed in cross-sector networks. The chemical-pharmaceutical industry with its innovations can make decisive contributions to a sustainable development – by seeing digitalisation, sustainability and circular economy as an opportunity.

The new era „Chemistry 4.0“ brings a new development stage in the 150-year long history of the industry. Through digitalisation, circular economy and sustainability the companies will change fundamentally their products, processes and business models. Here, linking chemical and pharmaceutical products with digitial services will be the key for additional value creation. In chemistry, digitalisation means not only the use of internal and external data to optimise operational processes; it also means

the development of new, digital business models. Furthermore, the companies are working on future-oriented solutions with impulses for a circular management style with increasing resource efficiency.

In the next three to five years, the industry will invest over 1 billion euros in digitalisation projects and new, sustainable business models. Add to this several billion euros annually for developing resource-saving innovations.

A policy for a sustainable and digital future
Companies need reliable and innovation-friendly framework conditions so that innovative ideas can fast become marketable products, processes and business models. This is because change succeeds best in a political and regulatory environment that encourages new products, services and investments instead of impairing them. Quite often, the strength of German industry is wrongly taken for granted. Industrial policy is a peripheral issue which primarily and selectively relies on subsidies, extra conditions and planned economy measures. Many measures have turned out inefficient. Here, the VCI sees an urgent need for industrial policy action.


  • Strengthen sustainable development through better framework conditions
    Politicians should give impulses by way of the following: tackle urgent infrastructure investments, support the digitalisation of industry, make further efforts for trade liberalisation and a definition of international rules, and ensure that regulation is efficient and legally sound. Furthermore, Germany should face up to the international tax competition. The chemical industry offers to contribute its expertise.
  • Make Germany fit for the digital future
    For further developing digitalisation, the public sector should expand the technical infrastructure, promote digital education, and scrutinize existing data protection rules. The required fast broadband infrastructure should be available by 2025 at the latest. In parallel, a high-performance security network needs to be created in Germany and Europe between public authorities, companies and research facilities.
  • Drive forward the circular economy under industrial policy
    In order to achieve progress in the circular economy, future and existing legislations should undergo an „innovation check“ so that new business models are not obstructed. These points are recommended to stimulate more investment: research promotion for a wide range of technologies, well-funded project support, easier access to venture capital, encouragement of private-public partnerships for pilot projects. Also needed are a societal dialogue on the potential of the circular economy and suitable framework conditions under the industrial policy.

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Henrik Meincke