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65 years of scientific research on Mittelstand enterprises

In the 1950s, the research activities of university institutes in the fields of economics and business administration did not pay much attention to the specifics of Mittelstand enterprises. Therefore, economic policymakers around Dr. Ludwig Erhard saw the need to establish a specialised research institute - the Institut für Mittelstandsforschung (IfM) Bonn.

The following timeline presents cornerstones of the development of the IfM Bonn since the end of the 1950s. At the same time, it provides an overview of the challenges which Mittelstand enterprises have faced over the past 65 years.

Gröschl, J. (2018): 65 Jahre IfM Bonn. 65 Jahre wissenschaftliche Forschung rund um den Mittelstand, IfM Bonn.

Timeline "65 Jahre IfM Bonn" (in German)


Federal Minister of Economic Affairs Dr. Ludwig Erhard: "It is not a political, but an economic necessity to have a specialised institute that analyses the particularities of the Mittelstand."


Start of interdisciplinary research activities at five different locations:


University of Cologne: Business Administration Department, Sociological Department and Public Finance Department


University of Bonn: Economics Department and Business Cycle Department

End of the 1950s

One of the key research areas of the IfM Bonn: Definition and classification of Mittelstand enterprises, development of initial databases.


Federal Minister of Economics Kurt Schmücker: "An ambitious Mittelstand (SME) policy must not be seen in isolation, but has to be integrated effectively into the overall framework of general economic policy. An important tool for this is the close contact with academic research, which can generate mutual benefits".


One of the key research areas: Business population and competitive dynamics.


Merger of the five research departments into two, located at the universities of Cologne (Business Administration Department) and Bonn (Economics Department).


One of the key research areas: Positioning of Mittelstand enterprises in the face of increasing internationalisation.


Merger of the two research departments into one single unit, located in Bonn: the IfM Bonn.


One of the key research areas: Challenges for Mittelstand enterprises posed by the European Single Market.


One of the key research areas: Scientific support for the creation of Mittelstand structures in the new Federal States in Eastern Germany.

2007Parliamentary State Secretary Hartmut Schauerte: "The IfM Bonn has a unique position due to its ability to provide sound, empirically-based information on almost every aspect concerning the Mittelstand."

One of the key research areas: Competitiveness of Mittelstand enterprises and support for start-ups.

Since 2013

One of the key research areas: Development of policy recommendations in view of a changing Mittelstand economy.

Since 2020

In addition to the economic consequences of the Covid-19-pandemic for SMEs, the researchers are also observing, among other things, how the Mittelstand  companies are dealing with the task of operating more sustainably and with the challenges arising from the war of aggression on Ukraine.

Parliamentary State Secretary at the Federal Ministry for Eco-nomic Affairs and Climate Action and Mittelstand Commissioner of the Federal Government Michael Kellner: "At 65, the IfM is still young enough to reposition itself thematically and to accompany the transformation of the Mittelstand into climate neutrality.

 Deputy Premier and Minister for Economic Affairs, Industry, Climate Action and Energy of the State of North Rhine Westphalia Mona Neubaur: "In times of overlapping crises, the climate-neutral and digital transformation is a great challenge for small and medium-sized enterprises. It also represents great entrepreneurial opportunities. The researchers at the institute will accompany these developments reliably, well-founded, and forward-looking. Hence, they will continue to be an important contact and impetus for politics and administration in the future."