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RFID is Key Element to Germany's High-Tech Strategy
The government sees RFID as an emerging technology in which the country can play a leading global role, and is investing millions of euros in research that includes RFID.
Feb 08, 2007—The German government says it has identified RFID as an emerging technology in which the country can play a leading global role, and the country's politicians are putting their money where their mouths are. Germany has invested €200 million ($260 million) in the research of microelectronics since 2006, and many projects that fall into this category are cross-disciplinary ones involving RFID.
Gerhard Finking, head of the microsystems technology division at the Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung (BMBF—Germany's Federal Ministry of Education and Research), says RFID is a big part of the country's overall high-tech strategy—particularly its plan to grow in the areas of health-care and communications technology. The nation's chancellor, Angela Merkel, has even promoted RFID at various international trade fairs.
Germany is the world's largest exporter, and a crossroads to the new European Union (EU) countries to the east. Since many companies in western Europe are now moving production sites eastward to save on labor, property and tax costs, Germany's role as a transit country is becoming even more pivotal. As a result, the already well-developed logistics sector is keen to improve its services and margins by implementing RFID and other new technologies.
Germany presently serves as the president of the European Union and will use this opportunity to raise the profile of RFID at the European level. Together with the European Commission (EC), the government is planning an international conference on RFID, to be held in Berlin on June 25 and 26. Attendees will include such major German RFID adopters and proponents as Deutsche Post and Metro, as well as representatives from research organizations, the media and the government.
Finking could not state exactly how much of the overall investment in microelectronics research will be applied toward RFID because of the cross-disciplinary nature of many RFID applications, but money is flowing in a variety of fashions. Some projects are directly funded by the BMBF, which is making €140 million ($182 million) available for microelectronics research, while others are funded by the Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Technologie (BMWI—the country's Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology), which is providing €60 million ($78 million) for such projects.
In addition, a slew of projects receive funding through the Fraunhofer Society's normal operational budget. The Fraunhofer Society, Europe's largest applied research organization, is funded with state, federal and private monies. Most RFID projects are spearheaded by the Institute for Material Flow and Logistics, in Dortmund.
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