Action 21: Equal living conditions – Strengthening prosperity, participation and democracy

We want to create viable and sustainable scientific and economic structures in Germany and are committed to democratic participation.

Where do we stand?

To stimulate sustainable economic dynamics and strengthen social cohesion, existing opportunities must be identified and seized locally. The aim is to create sustainable jobs and make them more attractive for skilled workers and companies. This requires long-term economic and science-based structural formation – in other words, sustainable structural change that builds on the region’s existing competencies and mobilises a broad spectrum of actors is needed. At present, participation, democracy and our open society are under massive pressure from various social processes such as globalisation, climate change, digitalisation and populism. We want to counter this with sustainable structural change and participatory approaches to sustainability-driven solutions, while at the same time promoting prosperity.

What are the research needs?

Research and innovation are success factors for achieving structural change because they make a major contribution to boosting the competitiveness of companies in the long term and opening up new opportunities for growth – especially in environmentally relevant sectors. Research also offers the opportunity to develop new forms of civic participation and involvement. There is a need for research, for example, on the question of how suitable opportunities for participation can increase the legitimacy of measures that are geared towards sustainability or promote structural change while at the same time actively bringing the expertise of citizens into the research process. This contributes to both strengthening democracy as a whole, which is under pressure in many places in Europe, and rapidly transferring knowledge between society and science. Against this background, there is also a need for research on how the rise of populism affects environmental research and the political goal of sustainability.

Implementation steps and milestones

  • We are supporting the implementation of thefindings of the Commission on Equal Living Conditions with tailor-made funding measures, also withthe involvement of civil society and other regionalactors. For example, the suites of programme on ‘Innovation & Structural Change’ and ‘EntrepreneurialRegions’, the funding priority for ‘Innovative Communities’ (Kommunen innovativ), and the fundingof inter-company vocational training facilities areall being incorporated into the ‘Nationwide fundingsystem for structurally weak regions’, which waslaunched in 2020.
  • We have designed the suite of programmes for ‘Innovation & Structural Change’ as multi-year, open-topic innovation funding measures that build on thestrengths of structurally weak regions. The aim is tofurther develop the scientific, economic and socialinnovation potential of the regions with the intention of achieving sustainable structural change.
  • We will fund strategic partnerships for differentregional contexts and actors (e.g. urban–rural partnerships, actors from politics, administration, localgovernments, the science and research community, business and the public) in the development of jointstrategies and concepts. We will present the initialfindings of the Stadt-Land-Plus (urban-rural-plus) funding activity from 2022.
  • Based on a systematic review of political processesthat can lead to the rejection of climate protectionand sustainable development goals, we will furtheradvance research from 2022 on the sustainability ofdemocracy, new forms of democratic participation, and the challenges of the legitimation and implementation of sustainability policies.

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