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Completed Research Projects (Selection)



Production Research 2020


On behalf of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Chair of Economic and Industrial Sociology - in co-operation with approx 20 research institutions and enterprises as well as  the VDMA (German Engineering Federation) - is working on a study entitled “Production Research 2020“. The consortium is co-ordinated by the Institute for Production Management, Technology and Machine Tools (PTW) of the Technische Universität Darmstadt. The objective of the research study is to develop a new framework concept for the production oriented research programmes of German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Six study groups are endeavouring to identify crucial issues and topics for further research activities. The Chair of Economic and Industrial Sociology, along with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering (IAO Stuttgart) is responsible for the work package “Qualification and Knowledge“.



February 2009 until December 2009


German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Contact person:

Dr. Jörg Abel




Pragmatic Introduction of Integrated Business Models into Enterprises with Simple Standard Methods of Production - LEAN


The public debate on the future of the German industry frequently focuses on research-intensive high-tech sectors and industries that manufacture complex products such as capital goods and automobiles. In doing so, the large contribution of industrial sectors with standardised and traditional products to the creation of value and employment is often overlooked. Examples of such enterprises are manufacturers of furniture, simple sheet metal components, building materials or simple elements for electrical appliances.

In order to be able to meet the rising demands of a globalised economy, such companies have to pursue strategies of a market-oriented flexibilisation as well as of a cost-minimising standardisation. These small and medium-sized enterprises are faced with the challenges of generating new knowledge and implementing new technologies, of adopting external knowledge by making use of network and co-operation relations and of dealing with the increasing internationalisation of production locations. The application-oriented research project  "Lean Implementation" endeavours to open up opportunities for companies with simple standard production to keep their production sites in Germany. For this purpose, a systematic and pragamatic implementation concept for the realisation of integrated business models will be developed in the context of the LEAN-project.

In addition to the Chair for Economic and Industrial Sociology, two other research institutions, a consulting firm and five manufacturing companies are partners in this project. The project is co-ordinated by the Chair for Economic and Industrial Sociology.



February 2005 until January 2008


German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Framework programme “Research for the Production of Tomorrow“

Project Co-ordination and Contact Persons:

Dr. Jörg Abel, Dipl. Kfm. Sebastian Campagna



Project Homepage




PILOT: Policy and Innovation in Low Tech - Knowledge Formation, Employment & Growth Contributions of the "Old Economy" Industries in Europe


The starting point of the theoretical and empirical project is the socio-scientific debate on the current societal change, that is frequently characterised as a development towards a knowledge society. In this debate, growth opportunities and the creation of new jobs as well as competitive advantages for companies on the global market are generally only ascribed to the high-tech sector, which is also regarded as a knowledge-intensive branch of industry. In this perspective, industries that manufacture old, conventional and standardised products  have few development opportunities in developed countries. Such sectors and enterprises, which can also be referred to as  “low-tech“, are believed to have increasingly unfavourable site conditions in the developed countries. On the other hand, it cannot be overlooked that there are a number of such enterprises that produce very successfully in developed countries. Furthermore, there are convincing examples of prospering regions whose industrial basis  comprises old and traditional technologies. The research project takes up these empirical findings. In a first step, it examines the value of the concepts for the definition and analysis of the knowledge intensity of economic sectors and of the thus derived data series from a macroeconomic perspective. The project proceeds on the assumption that the conventional concepts and the available aggregated data constitute an unreliable basis for understanding innovation processes. The core of the project, however, are empirical case studies at different levels: 

  • Firstly, the complex process of the genesis and utilisation of knowledge at the level of low-tech companies is examined.
  • Secondly, the strategies of low-tech companies within the context of business-to-business value chains are analysed in order to assess the significance of low-tech producers for the innovation processes of other, possibly high-tech, enterprises. 
  • Finally, the prospects of political support for low-tech producers at at  local, regional and national level are explored.

 Basically the project rests upon the international comparison of the different company case studies in a number of West-European and Central European countries.

The overall objective of the project is to gain a deeper theoretical and empirical understanding of processes of knowledge generation and utilisation in economic sectors that can be characterised as low-tech and of their contribution to employment, growth and the innovation ability of national economies and the European Union as a whole. Moreover, policy recommendations for the political bodies of the EU will be developed. 

The project consortium comprises eleven scientific partners from nine European countries. The project is co-ordinated by the Chair of Economic and Industrial Sociology.



December 2002 until November 2005


EC, 5th Framework Programme, Key Action  "Improving the Socio-economic Knowledge Base"

Project Co-ordination and Contact Persons:

Prof. Dr. H. Hirsch-Kreinsen, PD Dr. G. Bender


Project Homepage




Technology Development and Change in Organisational and Institutional Structures


The project examines processes of the development of new technologies that transcend disciplinary boundaries and established organisational and institutional constellations. Theoretically it links up with the sociological thesis that a new mode of knowledge and technology production is emerging characterised by transdisciplinarity, networking, international orientation and a strong focus on application. The project is guided by conceptual questions and empirical problems associated with this thesis. The basic assumption is that technology development projects do not only generate new knowledge and innovative technical problem solutions but that they transform social contexts at the same time.

The empirical object of investigation are development projects in the field of microsystems technology which can be regarded as exemplary for new modes of innovation processes. Case studies on national and international joint projects of microsystems technology are the methodological base of he project. Conceptually, the project endeavours to make a contribution towards resolving open questions in the current debate of industrial sociology and sociology of technology on the growing importance of innovation networks. Furthermore, the project is expected to shed light on the conditions of innovation ability on a societal scale, these findings will also be useful for formuzating practical technology policy goals. Co-operation partner in this project is the VDI/VDE Technologiezentrum Informationstechnik (Technology Centre Information Technology) GmbH, Berlin.



October 1998 until September 2001


German Research Foundation (DFG)

Project Management:

Dr. G. Bender, Prof. Dr. H. Hirsch-Kreinsen

Project Team:

Dr. M. Jonas, Dipl. Volksw. H. Steg



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Prof. Dr. Hartmut Hirsch-Kreinsen
Tel.: 0231 755-3718