Industrial policy

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Industrial policy is a sub-area of economic policy . It encompasses all economic policy measures of a state or its administrative units that affect the structure and development of an industrial sector .


Following the Anglo-American usage, the term "industry" does not only refer to the manufacturing industry, but to every possible branch of the economy, including the so-called new economy . However, as the UK example shows, where two-thirds of industry has been lost in the last thirty years, an unrealistic prioritization of the information economy can lead to processes of de-industrialization that are difficult to reverse.

Industrial policy can take place both actively to influence an industrialization process (e.g. promoting structural change or the provision of export aid) and reactively to the undesired differentiation effects of an industrialization process. Reactive industrial policy includes: B. the implementation of conservation measures or the provision of adaptation aids (e.g. by promoting research and development).

Industrial policy in Europe

In the last few decades industrial policy has fluctuated between the goals of structural maintenance, modernization by strengthening research and development in the pre-competitive area and the selective strengthening of export-oriented industries or industrial "champions".

Until well into the 1970s, the EU's trade policy aimed to improve the situation of crisis-prone sectors such as steel production, shipbuilding, coal mining or the textile industry through direct subsidies, producer quotas, investment limits, price regulation and trade protection, but have been affected by increased international competition since the end the 1980s the high-tech industries in the spotlight. At the same time, there was a growing awareness that trade barriers tend to slow them down.

The first comprehensive approach to a European industrial policy was drafted as early as the early 1970s. The so-called Colonna Report articulates the fears of French politicians in particular about the threat to European industry from overpowering international corporations and the demand for a joint industrial policy strategy. European companies should be created that can survive in the domestic market and face American competition. Implementation failed, however, primarily because of German resistance and the compromises required during EU expansion.

A first entry into a non-structure-preserving, modernization-oriented industrial policy took place in the early 1980s through the formulation of a coordinated research and technology policy. With the Single European Act (EEA) ratified in 1987, research and technology policy found its way into the Treaty of Rome .

It was not until 1992, under the influence of Asian and US competition, that the subject of industrial policy was explicitly included in the Maastricht Treaty . In doing so, they initially orientated themselves on the French “statist” model of an actively shaping, goal-setting industrial policy that Jacques Delors linked to the creation of the internal market. Article 157 of the Maastricht Treaty says: "The Community and the Member States ensure that the necessary conditions for the competitiveness of industry are guaranteed." In this way, the EU Commission hoped to react appropriately to the impending deindustrialization of Europe. As a result, Industry Commissioner Martin Bangemann clearly focused on the areas of telecommunications and the Internet economy, which earned him the accusation of influencing certain industrial groups. This development was revised under the competition commissioners Karel van Miert and Mario Monti ; since then the primacy of competition policy has prevailed.

However, as early as 2003, the European Council of Heads of State and Government called on the EU Council of Ministers and the EU Commission to respond more closely to the needs of individual branches of industry, especially the manufacturing industry, with the aim of increasing their competitiveness. In 2004 the three member states Germany , France and Great Britain called for a “proactive European industrial policy”. This should also meet the goals of the Lisbon Strategy .

The concept of European champions played an increasingly important role in this strategy . This refers to multinational companies with a global market leadership position (for example the aerospace company EADS ). European industrial policy should support, promote and, if necessary, also help to build such champions. In this context, politicians are often criticized for the too strict interpretation of European merger control by the European Competition Commission, because this would prevent powerful mergers between companies (example: the ban on the merger of Scania and Volvo ). Critics, on the other hand, note that the support of European champions is often misused for the purposes of national location and employment policy (example: the takeover fight between the Franco-German Aventis and the French Sanofi-Synthélabo ).

Real interest rates have been very low since the 2009/10 crisis (in which a banking crisis , a sovereign debt crisis , real estate crisis and the euro crisis came together), which favors investments in the real economy. It is questionable whether a “green” industrial policy can promote economic growth and sustainability . For example, in some European countries and at the level of the European Union, the promotion of electric mobility was considered or pursued for a time; however (as of mid-2014) this is far from a breakthrough in the markets.

The German federal election campaign in 2009 was clearly shaped by industrial policy. The big parties argued less about whether, but rather about how "cutting-edge technologies" should be supported by the state.

In view of the slowdown in growth in 2019 and increasing technology competition from China, the need for industrial policy support for key sectors and technologies is increasingly being discussed again. In particular, the issue of creating or supporting European champions based on the Airbus model was taken up again (e.g. through merger plans between the rail divisions of Siemens and Alstom ). However, it is also controversial whether industrial policy should set technological specifications (e.g. by defining technologies that are to be given priority, such as artificial intelligence or battery technology, as is demanded by the German Minister for Economic Affairs, Peter Altmaier ).

Economic patriotism

This term has recently been associated with France (known there under the term patriotisme économique ). It is expressed in the manifest national protectionism of individual countries, especially in the takeover of national companies that are considered important by foreign investors. The French government successfully prevented the takeover of the Suez energy company by the Italian ENEL by means of an intra-French blockade merger between Suez and Gaz de France .

In 2006 and 2007, the Spanish government spoke out against a takeover of the energy company Endesa by the German E.ON (details here: ENDESA # takeover offer from E.ON ).

Different ratings

In its 2009 report on Germany in the international economic context , the Council of Economic Experts formulated its view of state-run "industrial policy" as follows:

“As part of industrial policy, it is important to refrain from measures to preserve the structure as much as from an attempt by the state to identify and promote promising products or sectors (Chapter Six in JG 2009). A comprehensive innovation policy approach, on the other hand, includes the central role of the state in education and basic research as well as the promotion of private research activities and the creation of suitable framework conditions. From an economic point of view, it can still not be a question of the state overriding competition as a discovery process through its own planning of priorities. "

Sociologists like Gerhard Bosch, on the other hand, saw no political alternatives to some state interventions; In 2009, Bosch called for empirical investigations into the interventions actually carried out contrary to the prevailing doctrine.

The extension of the short-time work allowance in the crisis of 2009/10 (from 24 to 36 months) is considered an industrial policy measure aimed at certain sectors.

The SVR (consisting of Christoph M. Schmidt , Lars P. Feld , Isabel Schnabel , Achim Truger and Volker Wieland ) devoted an entire chapter to the topic of industrial policy in its annual report 2019/2020. Above all, you are in favor of improving the “framework conditions for entrepreneurial activity”. However, if the circumstances so require, they consider “vertical interventions in the economic structure tailored to individual sectors or technologies” to be justified.


  • Martin Allespach, Astrid Ziegler (Hrsg.): Future of Germany as an industrial location 2020 . Frankfurt 2012, ISBN 978-3-89472-233-3 .
  • Ulrich Bröse: Industrial Policy . Oldenbourg R. Verlag, 1996, ISBN 978-3486236934 .
  • René Leboutte: La politique industrial . In: Histoire économique et sociale de la construction européenne. PIE Peter Lang SA Brussels 2008. ISBN 978-90-5201-371-8 . P. 308ff.
  • Michael Vassiliadis: Industrial Policy for Progress . Challenges and perspectives using the example of central sectors of IG BCE, Hanover 2013.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Wolfram Elsner: Global Industrial Policies  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  2. Aditya Chakrabortty: Why doesn't Britain make things any more? , The Guardian, Nov. 16, 2011.
  3. Joachim Starbaty, Uwe Vetterlein: European technology and industrial policy after Maastricht. In: From Politics and Contemporary History, Vol. 10-11, 1992, p. 17.
  4. Phedon Nicolaides, Phedon (Ed.): Industrial Policy in the European Community: A necessary response to economic integration? Dordrecht 1993.
  5. European Industry Roadmap Electrification.
  6. Industrial policy as an election campaign topic. , Wirtschaftswoche, August 28, 2009.
  7. Altmaier wants to fund battery cell factory with one billion euros , in: Die Zeit, November 13, 2018.
  8. ^ Germany in the international economic context. ( Memento of the original from November 22, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Expert Council - Expertise 2009, p. 11. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  9. ^ Gerhard Bosch: Perspectives of a sustainable industrial policy. , Faceplate, December 8, 2009.
  10. See also IAQ statement (April 2010): Dismissing hours and non-employees - extending short-time work
  11. Press release , short version , full text (pdf)