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As infrastructure (from Latin inf (e) ra , below 'and latin structura , assembled') refers to all systems , institutions , structures , systems and non-material realities that the general interest and the economic structure of a country or its regions serve.


The term appeared for the first time in the first half of the 18th century and in French initially referred to a substructure ( French infrastructure ), all earthworks to reclaim the soil and leveling in railway construction. In English described infrastructureespecially the immobile buildings and facilities that served to mobilize and keep the armies ready. According to an official definition, the NATO common infrastructure also referred to in 1961 the "real estate and facilities of the armed forces that were used to carry out NATO's military operation plans". This meant various facilities for military communication, logistics and deterrence: the air bases, ports, pipelines, rocket ramps, etc.

Even with the formulation of the NATO Security Investment Program in December 1951, infrastructure was also used as a synonym for the fixed costs in the defense budget - an abstraction and expansion of meaning that economics and economics gratefully took up. In addition to the personal infrastructure, human capital , infrastructure includes all long-lasting facilities of a material or institutional nature that promote the functioning of an economy based on the division of labor . A distinction is made between material and institutional infrastructures: the former are created by private hands, the latter are planned, maintained or designed by the state ( economic system , state-owned companies and state investments in infrastructure).


"Infrastructure is the entirety of the material and human facilities and conditions that are available to the economy based on the division of labor and contribute to the fact that the same factor payments for the same factor services (complete integration) are counted with appropriate resource allocation ". The infrastructure planning , creation and maintenance of various infrastructures is in part seen as a task of the state or bodies associated with it ( public institutions , public companies ) within the framework of services of general interest. The creation of a public infrastructure is usually financed by taxpayers ' money. The material infrastructure , also known as social capital , comprises the entirety of all systems, equipment and operating resources in an overall economy , which are used for energy supply , transport , telecommunications and the maintenance of natural resources and transport routes. In the course of the privatization of public / state enterprises and state tasks, the creation and maintenance of infrastructure in particular are increasingly being entrusted to private companies or companies organized under private law. Planning and regulation remains with the state.

The term infrastructure is now also used analogously to identify basic technical facilities in the private sector, for example in companies. Managed roads, buildings and basic technical services, such as electricity or communication in industrial parks or office facilities, can also be understood as infrastructure, for example. B. with " (On-) Site -" or " Facility Management ". The term IT infrastructure has also established itself in companies in recent years .

In connection with the system relevance , especially in times of disasters and crises, the consideration of critical infrastructures is increasingly coming to the fore.

Types of public infrastructure

technical infrastructure

Social infrastructure

Green-blue infrastructure

Infrastructure law

Infrastructure law is the law that deals with state and municipal infrastructure and the guarantee of comprehensive services of general interest (water, sewage, energy, transport, telecommunications , post). This is a cross-sectional right . That means there is no legal text in which infrastructure law is regulated centrally. Provisions of infrastructure law can therefore be found in:

The following aspects are particularly important in infrastructure law:

  • Obligation to tender ,
  • Authorization to collect tolls and fees (loan),
  • Transmission charges,
  • Collection of development fees / development fees,
  • Fee amount, toll amount,
  • Joint use (possibly financing) of infrastructure facilities,
  • Open and non-discriminatory network access,
  • Abuse of a dominant position,
  • Private financing of state and municipal infrastructure,
  • Avoidance of double burdens for users / citizens.

The outstanding importance of infrastructure law is based on the great importance of state and municipal infrastructure.

Non-governmental infrastructure investment

Infrastructure investments are capital investments in companies that own or operate the networks and facilities that provide basic services to households and businesses. Some of these are also carried out through specialized infrastructure funds. Investments in infrastructure are often collaborations between the public and private sector within the framework of a public-private partnership (PPP). Non-governmental investors acquire ownership of an infrastructure facility such as B. a toll road or a pipeline network. This takes place in the context of privatizations, sales by privately held companies or through the establishment and subsequent operation. In a PPP, the assets tied up in the infrastructure are usually no longer owned by the state, but by non-state investors. Depending on the individual structure, the state continues to provide the infrastructural service or assigns it - temporarily or permanently - to non-state investors.

The economic infrastructure is characterized by the fact that the recipient is willing to pay for the newly created services. The service is typically made available to the general public for a fee.

The social infrastructure consists of services and facilities with strong positive external effects that are made available to the general public as free or subsidized goods.

Characteristic features of infrastructure investments

As an investor, it is difficult to get direct access to investment objects because the barriers to entry are high. A high capital requirement arises before the investments generate cash flows. Infrastructure investors also operate in a highly regulated environment, which requires specialist expertise from the managers. The high space requirement is a further barrier to entry, as this is often scarce, especially in urban areas. In the infrastructure sector, non-market decision-making mechanisms are on the agenda, as the market environment is often monopolistic or oligopolistic. The consumer often has no influence on pricing, as no substitute goods are available. Infrastructure systems represent an indispensable basic service for a society. Infrastructure investments seem to be particularly interesting because of the performance characteristics. With a relatively low portfolio risk (measured in terms of volatility ), an investment can generate a long-term, regular and easily calculable cash flow. The income is easy to calculate, since very long concessions are often concluded with very solvent debtors (tenants), often the state. These concessions are often agreed for between 25 and 99 years. A low and inelastic demand for the services is also assumed, since the consumers are dependent on the facilities. Therefore, business cycles only play a subordinate role in an investment decision. Infrastructure investments correlate only to a small extent with other asset classes and are less volatile. The problem with an investment in the infrastructure is that it can only meet an interesting return expectation if a high proportion of borrowed capital is brought into the financing.

Research infrastructure

Research infrastructures are those facilities, resources and services that are specifically set up for scientific purposes, made available in the medium or long term and which require specific skills for their proper construction, operation and use.


  • Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (ed.): Infrastructure and services of general interest in the area . Information on spatial development 1/2, 2008, ISSN 0303-2493.
  • Stefan Brem, Federal Department of Defense, Civil Protection and Sport : Critical Infrastructures and their Vulnerabilities . Lecture as part of the public lecture series “Complex Technical Systems”, ETH Zurich, June 13, 2007 (PDF, 26 p., 1,575 kB).
  • Reimut Jochimsen : Theory of Infrastructure. Basics of market economy development . Tubingen 1966.
  • German Institute for Urban Studies (ed.) (2009): The future of urban infrastructures . German Journal for Communal Sciences, Volume 47 (2008) II.
  • Dirk van Laak : The term “infrastructure” and what it said before it was invented. In: Archive for the history of concepts. No. 41 (1999), pp. 280-299.
  • Thomas Kluge , Jens Libbe (ed.): Transformation of network- bound infrastructure. Strategies for municipalities using the example of water . Berlin 2006 ([Difu contributions] on urban research, vol. 45).
  • Jens Libbe, Hadia Köhler and Klaus J. Beckmann : Infrastructure and Urban Development. Technical and social infrastructures - challenges and options for action for infrastructure and urban planning . Published by the German Institute for Urban Studies and the Wüstenrot Foundation, Berlin 2010
  • Christian Koenig, Jürgen Kühling, Christian Theobald (Hrsg.): Law of the infrastructure promotion . Sellier, Munich / Heidelberg 2004
  • Georg Hermes : State responsibility for infrastructure .
  • Manfred Heid: Infrastructure investments - profile of a new asset class in theory and practice . Peter Lang Verlag, European University Writings - Series V 3342, 2009.
  • J. Schäufele: Article on the term infrastructure 1996 (with table of infrastructure areas using the example of PR China)
  • Walter Buhr : What is infrastructure? (PDF; 381 kB)
  • Hans-Jürgen Zechlin: State infrastructure planning in the market economy , Marburg dissertation, 1965
  • Christopher Zeiss: Private Financing of State Infrastructure. 2000
  • RREEF Research: Performance Characteristics of Infrastructure Investments
  • Thiago Marrara: Planning law conflicts in federal states. A comparative law study using the example of spatial planning in Germany and Brazil . Publishing house Dr. Kovac, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-8300-4685-1 .
  • Martin Altrock, "Subsidizing" Price Regulations - The Promotion of Renewable Energy Sources by the EEG , CH Beck, 2002, ISBN 3-406-49624-5 .
  • Gabriele Braband, Electricity Prices Between Private Autonomy and State Control , CH Beck, 2003, ISBN 3-406-51207-0 .
  • Wolfgang Danner, Christian Theobald (Eds.), Energy Law , Lose-Leaf Commentary, CH Beck
  • Jens-Peter Schneider , Christin Theobald (ed.), Law of the Energy Industry - Practical Handbook , 4th Edition 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-63412-3
  • Arne Glöckner, Municipal Infrastructure Responsibility and Concession Models, Series “Energy and Infrastructure Law”, Beck, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-406-58220-2 .
  • Dirk van Laak : Everything in flux. The lifelines of our society - history and future of infrastructure. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2018, ISBN 978-3-103-97352-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Infrastructure  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Martin Schwind / Erich Obst, Allgemeine Staatsgeographie , 1972, p. 303
  2. Dirk van Laak: Everything in the flow. The lifelines of our society . 1st edition. S. Fischer Verlag, Frankfurt 2018, p. 15 .
  3. ^ Martin Schwind : General State Geography. In: Textbook of General Geography . tape VIII . De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1972, p. 303 .
  4. a b Charlotte P. Lee, Kjeld Schmidt: A Bridge too Far? Critical Remarks on the Concept of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Information Systems . In: Volker Wulf, Volkmar Pipek, David Randall, Markus Rohde, Kjeld Schmidt, Gunnar Stevens (eds.): Socio-Informatics. A Practice-based Perspective on the Design and Use of IT Artefacts . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2018, pp. 178 f .
  5. Reimut Jochimsen / Knut Gastafsson, Infrastructure , in: Jänencke-Verlag (ed.), Concise Dictionary of Spatial Research and Spatial Planning, Volume III, 1970, Sp. 1318 ff.
  6. Martin Schwind / Erich Obst, Allgemeine Staatsgeographie , 1972, p. 303