Research Report: Universals of Innovation - Invention and Technical Progress in the GDR and its role after 1990

In the research project "Modernization blockades in economy and science of the GDR"(Mod-Block GDR) Jutta Günther, Ann Hipp and Udo Ludwig analyzed the patent data of the GDR in comparison to the Federal Republic of Germany and present some surprising findings: Since the 1960s, the GDR, like the FRG, has significantly increased its patent activities and did not differ from the FRG in terms of the dynamics of patent applications.

However, an adjustment in the patent level was not achieved due to the less favorable starting position of the GDR. With regard to the technology classes, the GDR and the FRG hardly differed in 1950 and at the end of the 1980s, i.e. the focus of inventor activities was very similar. Despite the obvious technical backwardness of the capital stock and the infrastructure of the GDR, there was a lively inventive activity.

This research report examines the universality of innovation activity and seeks to stimulate discussion of the fact that the GDR developed human resources and technical skills that could be tapped into after the system collapse. This ambivalent technological legacy of the GDR has so far received little attention in the studies on the catch-up process of the East German states.

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