Quality infrastructure drives innovation


Quality infrastructure (QI) is an important component of innovation policy. With standards, rules and procedures, the QI system accompanies new discoveries and innovations into the market. QI integrates participants and knowledge. Spreading digitalisation and emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) highlight the need for modern and well-functioning QI.

The QI system is an important basis for technical innovations, f.e. in renewable energies. © metamorworks / Shutterstock

When potential customers believe in an idea, it soon becomes a bestseller. Only then success on the market is achieved. QI, consisting of standardisation, accreditation, conformity assessment, metrology, and market surveillance, creates trust and acceptance for these ideas. Thus, the QI system is an important basis for technical innovations and development. Standardisation in particular plays a major role in innovation processes.


OECD - Innovation needs QI

QI plays an essential role in German innovation policy. This is the conclusion reached by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its 2022 released report "Building Agility for Successful Transitions". It suggests that QI should be used strategically in German innovation policy in the future: "The government should digitise and modernise its quality infrastructure – such as standards and norms (...). A quality infrastructure should be used more strategically."


QI-Digital accompanies innovations

Long-term quality assurance and innovation go hand in hand. Products, processes, and services are digitalised. Smart standards, e-certificates, and the QI cloud become increasingly important. Cross-institutional digitalisation must be pushed further for QI to develop progressively. In Germany stakeholders take action.


At the QI Digital Forum 2022, experts from politics, business and science argued how QI can be modernised to strategically contribute to a sustainable digital transformation. This is the only way to meet new requirements - such as the use of cutting-edge technology in the field of AI.

During the event, the advisory board of the QI-Digital initiative was founded. It sets impulses and ensures the market connection of the activities of the QI-Digital initiative. QI-Digital is an initiative of the central players in the German quality infrastructure - German Institute for Standardization (Deutsches Institut für Normung - DIN), German Commission for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies of DIN and VDE (Deutsche Kommission Elektrotechnik Elektronik Informationstechnik - DKE), National Accreditation Body for the Federal Republic of Germany (Deutsche Akkreditierungsstelle – DAkkS), National Metrology Institute of Germany (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt – PTB) and Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und -prüfung – BAM). The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz – BMWK) supports QI-Digital as an essential contribution to the success of innovative technologies, products, and processes.


Standardisation - a prerequisite for the market success of innovations

Standards specify requirements for products, services, or processes. Thus, they contribute to quality assurance and facilitate the free movement of goods. Standardisation is a key prerequisite for market success of innovations, as it discloses know-how and fosters the dissemination of innovative technologies.


© Marek Studzinski / Unsplash

An example from the field of demonstrates this. A charging plug producer succeeded in creating its sales market because he consulted with energy supply companies and car manufacturers on the key features for the plug. Only through the standardisation of the charging plug this innovation could be disseminated and its market success progressed. Standardisation thus serves as the basis for efficient and targeted innovation processes.


An innovation promoting effect already exists in the standardisation documents themselves: Standards contain knowledge that describes the current state of the art. This knowledge is accessible for a fee of 50 euro on average – the cost of a standard. It can be essential for the development of a new product.


Greater acceptance among users and investors

DIN and DKE are responsible actors for standardisation in Germany. As partners of industry, research, and society, they support the marketability of innovative solutions - whether in topics related to digitisation or within the framework of research projects. With DIN-Connect, DIN and DKE promote innovative projects in the development of standards and specifications. The innovation is thereby aligned with the current state of the art. Through standardisation, innovations gain acceptance among potential users and investors.


Standardisation accelerates research and development

Standardisation operations that occur during the research and development phase may enhance and expedite the market maturity process of innovative technologies. For example, BMWK supports the programme “Knowledge and technology transfer through patents and standards” (Wissens- und Technologietransfer durch Patente und Normen – WIPANO). WIPANO supports the transfer of research results to industry. To this end, research results are prepared for standardisation and the knowledge becomes quickly available to companies. Particularly, this supports the creative potential of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Standards also help to accelerate the market entry of new technologies, for example through testing and inspection standards. This promotes the economic utilisation of innovative ideas and public research inventions.


Accreditation and conformity assessment – new procedures

Digitalisation has become a central issue in the field of conformity assessment and accreditation. New technologies and a rising number of digitalised and networked items pushed this development. Modern conformity assessment techniques are essential for innovation. Conformity assessment must reinvent itself for certain digital applications. Simultaneously, digital technologies like as blockchain and AI are opening new approaches for conformity assessment. In recent months, the COVID-19 epidemic has also highlighted the importance of greater digitisation in conformity assessment and accreditation, bringing procedures like remote testing and inspection and remote assessment to the forefront.


The more digital the products to be assessed and the conformity assessment itself become, the more important accreditation also becomes as the examination of the assessors in a digital QI. At the same time, the verification of the conformity assessment bodies' competence is gaining in complexity. DAkkS is therefore involved in the QI Digital Initiative with projects on the digital, forgery-proof provision of declarations of conformity, as well as with projects on artificial intelligence and the handling of digital testing methods in conformity assessment bodies.


Metrology as the basis for new technologies

A highly developed and reliable metrology system serves as the foundation for new technologies. Future innovations rely on massive volumes of complex linked measurement data: smart energy grids, smart homes, self-driving vehicles, automated manufacturing, and AI-based personalised medicine. Metrology aids in the comprehension and characterisation of complex systems of measuring procedures and sensors. It also fosters trust, reliability, and safety. If new technologies are to be deployed, the quality of networked measurement data, and of reference and test data sets, must be ensured, as must confidence in AI-based decisions.


The PTB’s Innovation Centre for Systemic Metrology (Innovationszentrum für Systemische Metrologie - IZSM) is establishing the groundwork for Metrology 4.0 and intelligent measuring instruments. As a competence centre for cross-application research and development, the IZSM establishes the research field of systemic metrology.  It assures the quality of future technologies by assisting industry at all stages of concrete development projects, from research to market.



BMWK - Schlaglichter der Wirtschaftspolitik - März 2022

BMWK - Innovationspolitik

Normung und Innovation sind keine Gegensätze: 10-40-3.pdf (diw.de)

Go back